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James v. Antarctic Mechanical Services, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

January 7, 2020

TRACEY JAMES PLAINTIFF
v.
ANTARCTIC MECHANICAL SERVICES, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Antarctic Mechanical Services, Inc.'s (AMS) Motion for Summary Judgment. AMS seeks summary judgment on all of Plaintiff Tracey James' claims against it. For the following reasons, AMS's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         On September 18, 2015, Tracey James was waiting in her vehicle at the intersection of Briarwood Drive and Interstate 55 Frontage Road in Jackson, Mississippi, when Defendant Phillip Bertellotti crashed his truck into the back of her car. Bertellotti has admitted to drinking multiple alcoholic drinks prior to driving that day.[1] He has also admitted to simple negligence in causing the crash.

         At the time of the accident, Bertellotti was driving a truck that AMS provided him; AMS's logo and contact information were visible on the side of the truck. He was on a travel assignment in Mississippi to work as a foreman for AMS on a refrigeration installation project. Bertellotti's personal boat and boat trailer were also attached to the truck, which he drove down with him from Illinois.

         On August 30, 2018, James filed this complaint in the County Court of Hinds County, Mississippi. She raised negligence-based claims against Bertellotti and AMS. James sought compensatory and punitive damages for injuries sustained as a result of the collision as well as for “continuing physical problems and symptoms.” On September 28, 2018, defendants removed the matter to this Court.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Federal Procedural Law

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “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). A dispute is genuine “if the evidence supporting its resolution in favor of the party opposing summary judgment, together with any inferences in such party's favor that the evidence allows, would be sufficient to support a verdict in favor of that party.” St. Amant v. Benoit, 806 F.2d 1294, 1297 (5th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted). A fact is material if it is one that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         A party seeking to avoid summary judgment must identify admissible evidence in the record showing a fact dispute. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). That evidence may include “depositions, . . . affidavits or declarations, . . . or other materials.” Id. When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a court refrains from making credibility determinations and does not weigh evidence or draw from the facts inferences for the movant. Strong v. Dep't of Army, 414 F.Supp.2d 625, 628 (S.D.Miss. 2005).

         In this case, James failed to respond to AMS's arguments regarding all claims except for her vicarious liability claim. “A motion for summary judgment cannot be granted simply because there is no opposition.” Day v. Wells Fargo Bank Nat. Ass'n, 768 F.3d 435, 435 (5th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). However, “a court may grant an unopposed summary judgment motion if the undisputed facts show that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Id. (citation omitted).

         B. State Substantive Law

         Because this case is proceeding in diversity, the applicable substantive law is that of the forum state, Mississippi. Capital City Ins. Co. v. Hurst, 632 F.3d 898, 902 (5th Cir. 2011). State law is determined by looking to the decisions of the state's highest court. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Convalescent Servs., Inc., 193 F.3d 340, 342 (5th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted).

         “If no such holdings exist, [the Court] predicts how that tribunal would rule.” CentennialIns. Co. v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., 149 F.3d 378, ...


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