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Bell v. Coleman

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

June 25, 2018

JEFFERY BELL PLAINTIFF
v.
ANTONIO COLEMAN, and WHOLESALE GLASS DISTRIBUTORS, INC. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case arises out of a vehicular accident on U.S. Highway 61 in Bolivar County, Mississippi on April 6, 2017. The accident involved three vehicles driven in turn by Jeffery Bell, Raymond Huerta, and Antonio Coleman. Wholesale Glass Distributors is Coleman's employer and the lessee of the vehicle he was driving. Jeffery Bell filed this case seeking damages for injuries he sustained in the accident, premising federal jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship.

         Now before the Court are three summary judgment motions. First, Plaintiff Bell requests partial summary judgment in his favor as to the liability of Coleman and Wholesale Glass. See Motion [73]. Second, the Defendants request summary judgment in their favor as to punitive damages. See Motion [75]. Finally, the Defendants request summary judgment in their favor as to the negligence per se of Bell and Huerta. See Motion [77].

         Preliminary Matters - Timeliness of Filings

         The Plaintiff failed to file a timely response to either of the Defendants' motions for summary judgment, and wholly failed to file a reply in support of his own motion for summary judgment. See L. U. Civ. R. 7(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 6. The Plaintiff also failed to request any extensions of time or leave to file his responses out of time. See id. For these reasons, and because the Plaintiff has not brought forth any evidence or argument as to his “excusable neglect” or “good cause” for missing the deadlines, the Court strikes the Plaintiff's responses [80, 81] as untimely and they will not be considered by the Court. See Rashid v. Delta State Univ., 306 F.R.D. 530, 533 (N.D. Miss. 2015) (citing Adams v. Travelers Indem. Co. of Connecticut, 465 F.3d 156, 161 n. 8 (5th Cir. 2006)).

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Just before noon on April 6, 2017 Bell was driving south on U.S. Highway 61 in Bolivar County Mississippi. In this area, Highway 61 is a four-lane road with a grass median and two lanes in each direction. Bell was driving a SkyTrak construction vehicle in the right lane.[1] Huerta was following Bell in a Ram 3500 pickup truck as an escort. Huerta estimates that the pair of vehicles was traveling at approximately 10-15 miles per hour. The Parties dispute whether Huerta had his hazard flashing lights illuminated, and whether the SkyTrak had a reflective, slow-moving vehicle sign. At the same time, Coleman, further north, was driving in the same southbound direction in a 2013 International truck leased by his employer Wholesale Glass.

         Huerta noticed Coleman approaching from behind in his rearview mirror and veered off the road to the right. Coleman's vehicle clipped the rear of Huerta's vehicle, and the impact forced Huerta's vehicle from the road. Coleman's vehicle continued southbound and struck the rear of the SkyTrak driven by Bell. Bell was ejected from the SkyTrak and injured.

         According to Coleman, he only saw Huerta's Ram truck when he was within about 50 feet. Also according to Coleman, he could not see the SkyTrak until Huerta veered off to the right. The uniform crash report completed by the Mississippi Highway patrol states that Coleman was traveling at approximately 45 miles per hour at the time of the crash. In his deposition Coleman estimated that he was traveling between 55 and 60 miles per hour. The speed limit in this area is 55 miles per hour.

         Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010). “Where the burden of production at trial ultimately rests on the nonmovant, the movant must merely demonstrate an absence of evidentiary support in the record for the nonmovant's case.” Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir. 2010) (punctuation omitted). The nonmovant “must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (punctuation omitted). “An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.” Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. “An issue is ‘genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Cuadra, 626 F.3d at 812.

         The Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009). When deciding whether a genuine fact issue exists, “the court must view the facts and the inference to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. However, “[c]onclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.” Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002).

         Mississippi substantive law applies in this diversity case. See Cox v. Wal-Mart Stores E., L.P., 755 F.3d 231, 233 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Wood v. RIH Acquisitions MS II, LLC, 556 F.3d 274, 275 (5th Cir. 2009)).

         Liability and ...


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