United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION ON THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge
Missionaries of Mary move for summary judgment on the basis
that, as a matter of law, they are not responsible for the
actions of the co-defendant, Albin Golla. (Docket Entry No.
22). Based on a careful review of the motion, the response,
and the reply, the record evidence, and the applicable law,
the motion for summary judgment is granted, for the reasons
case arises out of an October 2015 car accident. The
plaintiff, Krystal Berry, was driving on October 9, 2015, a
Friday evening, in Houston, Texas. The defendant, Albin
Golla, failed to yield the right of way, drove through a stop
sign, and hit Berry's car.
was 87 in October 2015. He was a member of the Missionaries
of Mary, a Catholic missionary order. “The missionary
work done by its members, among other things, consists of
devotion to and promoting the Catholic faith and
participating in charitable causes.” (Docket Entry No.
22-1). Members of the Missionaries of Mary do not receive an
income. Any income from their charitable work or any money
they receive-including Social Security benefits-is paid
directly to the Missionaries of Mary, which in turn covers
its members' living expenses as they arise. Golla lived
in New York. He volunteered once a week as a hospital
chaplain. His only income was through Social Security, paid
to the Missionaries of Mary bank account.
October 2015, Golla was on a personal trip to Houston to
visit his sister, who was ill. The Missionaries of Mary paid
for Golla's rental car, as they paid all his living
expenses. But he was not in Houston to perform work on behalf
of the Missionaries, but only to see his sister. (Docket
Entry No. 22-1). Berry testified that, immediately after the
accident, Golla got out of his car and apologized to her,
telling her that he was on his way to give a sermon at the
St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Houston. Golla was wearing
traditional priest garb. (Docket Entry No. 23-1).
sued both Golla and the Missionaries of Mary in Texas state
court in August 2017, alleging negligence as to Golla and
vicarious liability as to the Missionaries of Mary. The
Missionaries timely removed, and the court denied Berry's
motion to remand. (Docket Entry No. 7).
January 2018, shortly after the court held a Rule 16
scheduling conference and the parties began discovery, Golla
died. (Docket Entry No. 20). The court ordered Berry to
substitute a representative for Golla's estate within 90
days or the case would be dismissed. (Docket Entry No. 21).
The 90-day period has not yet expired.
The Legal Standard
judgment is required 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.'”
Trent v. Wade, 776 F.3d 368, 376 (5th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). “A genuine dispute of
material fact exists when the ‘evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.'” Nola Spice Designs, LLC v. Haydel
Enters., Inc., 783 F.3d 527, 536 (5th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242,
248 (1986)). “The moving party ‘bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.'” Id.
(quoting EEOC v. LHC Grp., Inc., 773 F.3d 688, 694
(5th Cir. 2014)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
burden of proof at trial lies with the nonmoving party, the
movant may satisfy its initial burden by showing an absence
of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.
Fret v. Melton Truck Lines, Inc., No. 17-50031, 2017
U.S. App. LEXIS 16912, at *5-6 (5th Cir. Sept. 1, 2017)
(quoting Lindsey v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 16 F.3d
616, 618 (5th Cir. 1994)). While the party moving for summary
judgment must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact, it does not need to negate the elements of the
nonmovant's case. Coastal Agric. Supply, Inc. v. JP
Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 759 F.3d 498, 505 (5th Cir.
2014) (citing Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402
F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005)). A fact is material if
“its resolution could affect the outcome of the
actions.” Aly v. City of Lake Jackson, 605
Fed. App'x 260, 262 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing Burrell
v. Dr. Pepper/Seven UP Bottling Grp., Inc., 482 F.3d
408, 411 (5th Cir. 2007)). “If the moving party fails
to meet [its] initial burden, the motion [for summary
judgment] must be denied, regardless of the nonmovant's
response.” Pioneer Exploration, LLC v. Steadfast
Ins. Co., 767 F.3d 503 (5th Cir. 2014).
the moving party has met its Rule 56(c) burden, the nonmoving
party cannot survive a summary judgment motion by resting on
the mere allegations of its pleadings.” Bailey v.
E. Baton Rouge Parish Prison, 663 Fed. App'x 328,
331 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Duffie v. United
States, 600 F.3d 362, 371 (5th Cir. 2010)). The
nonmovant must identify specific evidence in the record and
articulate how that evidence supports that party's claim.
Willis v. Cleco Corp., 749 F.3d 314, 317 (5th Cir.
2014). “This burden will not be satisfied by
‘some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by
conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by
only a scintilla of evidence.'” Jurach v.
Safety Vision, LLC, 642 Fed. App'x 313, 317 (5th
Cir. 2016) (quoting Boudreaux, 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir.
2005)). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court
draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party. Darden v. City of Fort
Worth, 866 F.3d 698, 702 (5th Cir. 2017).
Missionaries of Mary argue that because Golla was not acting
in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the
accident, the Missionaries cannot be vicariously liable for
his actions. Berry argues that there is a genuine factual
dispute material to determining whether Golla was acting
within the course and scope of his employment with the
Missionaries of Mary at the time of the accident. The
Missionaries also argue that Berry has no evidence to prove
her respondeat superior claim. Berry objects ...