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Hanan v. Crete Carrier Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

January 3, 2020

SUSAN HANAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CRETE CARRIER CORPORATION and DORN KNAPP, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JANE J. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants Crete Carrier Corporation and Dorn Knapp's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 42) against Plaintiff Susan Hanan. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 18, 2018, Susan Hanan was traveling on Interstate 45 in Navarro County, Texas, when her vehicle was hit by Crete Carrier Corporation's tractor trailer. Doc. 4, Supp. Doc. (“Original Pet.”), ¶ 6. Hanan alleges that the vehicle was being driven by Knapp, who was an employee of Crete at the time. Id. Hanan further alleges that she was hit when “Knapp changed lanes unsafely in the lane into which [Hanan] was lawfully driving, crashing into [Hanan's] vehicle at a high rate of speed.” Id.

         Hanan brings this lawsuit against both Crete and Knapp. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. Hanan alleges that she suffered severe injuries to her head, neck, back, and other body parts as a result of the accident. Id. ¶ 6.

         Hanan brings six causes of action: (1) negligence and gross negligence against both Defendants; (2) negligence per se against both Defendants;[1] (3) negligent hiring against Crete; (4) negligent training against Crete; (5) negligent supervision, retention, and monitoring against Crete; and (6) negligent entrustment against Crete. Id. at 3-8.

         Defendants subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims (Doc. 42). With all briefing filed, the motion is now ripe for review.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “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). The substantive law governing a matter determines which facts are material to a case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The summary-judgment movant bears the burden of proving that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Latimer v. Smithkline & French Labs., 919 F.2d 301, 303 (5th Cir.1990). Usually, this requires the movant to identify “those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quotation marks omitted). But if the non-movant ultimately bears the burden of proof at trial, the summary-judgment movant may satisfy its burden by pointing to the mere absence of evidence supporting an essential element of the non-movant's claim. See Austin v. Kroger Tex., L.P., 864 F.3d 326, 335 n.10 (5th Cir. 2017).

         Once the summary judgment movant has met this burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant to “go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts” showing that a genuine issue exists. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir.1994) (per curiam) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325). “This burden is not satisfied with ‘some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,' by ‘conclusory allegations,' by ‘unsubstantiated assertions,' or by only a ‘scintilla' of evidence.” Id. (citations omitted). Instead, the non-moving party must “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quotation marks omitted). “[C]ourts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment motion.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (alterations incorporated and quotations marks omitted). But the court need not “sift through the record in search of evidence to support a party's opposition to summary judgment.” Ragas v. Tenn. Gas Pipeline Co., 136 F.3d 455, 458 (5th Cir.1998) (citation and quotation marks omitted). If the non-movant is unable to make the required showing, the court must grant summary judgment. Little, 37 F.3d at 1076.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Whether Defendants Bring a Proper Summary-Judgment Motion

         Hanan contends that the conclusory nature of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment makes it a “no-evidence” summary judgment motion that does not satisfy Defendants' initial burden as the moving party. Doc. 50, Pl.'s Resp., 11-12. Hanan believes that Defendants' motion is based “solely [on] conclusory statements that [Hanan] had ‘no evidence' to support each of her claims.” Id. at 12. Such motions, Hanan argues, are “pleading[s] that may be filed in state court, but not federal court.” Id. at 12 (quotation marks omitted) (quoting BB Energy LP v. Devon Energy Prod. Co., 2008 WL 2164583, at *12 (N.D. Tex. May 23, 2008) (citing Casteneda v. Flores, 2007 WL 1671742, at *2-3 (S.D. Tex. June 8, 2007))).

         In response, Defendants believe that they met their initial burden when they “pointed . . . to the specific elements of the causes of action pled by Plaintiff in her complaint . . . on which Plaintiff cannot produce evidence sufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact.” Doc. 59, Defs.' Reply, 3-4 (citing Austin, 864 F.3d at 335). Thus, to Defendants, Austin forecloses Hanan's argument that Defendants' summary-judgment motion was improper. Id. at 4.

         For all claims but the negligence per se and ratification claims, the Court need not decide whether Defendants met their initial burden on their motion, as Hanan has pointed to genuine disputes of material fact as to each of those claims. Thus, the motion will be considered, but Defendants are admonished that they should read the law on bear-bones motions like theirs..[2]

         B. Negligence Claim Against Knapp

         The three elements of a negligence cause of action are duty, breach of the duty, and damages proximately caused by the breach. Lee Lewis Constr., Inc. v. Harrison, 70 S.W.3d 778, 782 (Tex. 2001) (citing Praesel v. Johnson, 967 S.W.2d 391, 394 (Tex. 1998)).

         In their motion, Defendants argue that Hanan “has no evidence that any negligent act or omission by Knapp was the proximate cause of her alleged injuries.” Doc. 43, Defs.' Br., 7. Defendants believe that Hanan “has no evidence to show that a reasonable person would foresee that such an accident would result in the extensive bodily injury and damage [Hanan] claims in this case.” Id. at 8.

         Hanan responds by pointing to the deposition of Greg Brown, a witness to the accident, who agreed with the assertion that Knapp made an “illegal or improper lane change, ” which then “cause[d] an accident.” Doc. 51, Pl.'s App., Ex. B, Dep. of Greg Brown, 25:19-25. Proximate cause has two elements: cause-in-fact and foreseeability. Ginn v. Pierce, 2019 WL 4511328, at *2 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Sept. 19, 2019). Defendants argue only lack of foreseeability in their motion. See Doc. 43, Defs.' Br., 8. “Foreseeability requires that a person of ordinary intelligence should have anticipated the danger created by a negligent act or omission.” Tobin v. AMR Corp., 637 F.Supp.2d 406, 413 (N.D. Tex. 2009). Specifically, “[t]he danger of injury is foreseeable if its ‘general character . . . might reasonably have been anticipated.'” Id. (emphasis added) (quoting Nixonv. Mr. Prop. Mgmt. Co., 690 S.W.2d 546, 551 (Tex. 1980) (citation omitted)). The Court believes that a reasonable juror ...


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