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Granger v. MST Transp., LLC

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 15, 2014

GRANGER et al.
v.
MST TRANSPORTATION, LLC et al

Negligence. DeKalb State Court. Before Judge Purdom.

Howell & Johnson, Evan H. Howell, for appellants.

Hall Booth Smith, Steven D. Prelutsky, Robert J. McCune, for appellees.

ANDREWS, Presiding Judge. McFadden and Ray, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 873

Andrews, Presiding Judge.

Melanie Granger and Roderick Cody, individually and on behalf of their son, filed an action against MST Transportation, LLC (" MST" ) and Eric A. Skrine, asserting claims of negligence and negligence per se arising out of injuries they and their son suffered in a collision between a vehicle Granger was driving and a tractor Skrine left on the roadway when it ran out of fuel.[1] The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of MST and Skrine, concluding that Granger and Cody could not establish the proximate causation element of their claims. Granger and Cody now appeal, arguing that the trial court misapplied the intervening act doctrine and failed to consider that there may be more than one proximate cause of an injury. We conclude that proximate cause is an issue for the jury in this case and therefore reverse.

On appeal from a grant of a motion for summary judgment, we review the evidence de novo to determine whether a genuine issue of fact remains and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. As it determines whether a genuine issue of material fact remains, [329 Ga.App. 269] a court is bound to view the evidence, and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.

(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Hayes v. Crawford, 317 Ga.App. 75, 76 (730 S.E.2d 26) (2012). So viewed, the evidence shows that Skrine was an interstate truck driver for MST. On February 23, 2010, Skrine returned from a trip to Florida and dropped his trailer at the MST depot in McDonough, Georgia and then drove his Century Class ST tractor toward the truck stop in Atlanta where he stored it. Skrine was driving down Moreland Avenue in DeKalb County when his tractor ran out of fuel at approximately 5:30 p.m. Skrine testified that he had probably last refueled in Florida. He stated that he knew he was low on fuel but that he thought he had enough to make it home. The tractor stopped in the right-hand lane along a portion of Moreland Avenue with three lanes of traffic moving in the direction in which Skrine had been traveling. The tractor blocked the lane to within approximately two feet of the line between the right lane and middle lane. Skrine testified that when his vehicle stopped, he put on his flashers and put out three reflective warning triangles.

After running out of gas, Skrine called MST and informed the daughter of MST's owner about the situation. Skrine decided to walk to a small truck stop he had passed about 200 yards before he ran out of fuel, where he filled up a five-gallon fuel cannister. When he returned to his vehicle, he poured the fuel into the fuel tank, but the tractor would not start. Skrine returned to the truck stop, refilled the cannister, and added five more gallons of fuel to the tractor's fuel tank, but he was still unable to start the tractor. Skrine then returned to the truck stop for a third time.

Granger's mother had been babysitting Granger and Cody's ten-month-old son that day, and Granger and Cody went to pick him up in the afternoon. According to Granger, they left Granger's mother's house that evening at approximately 7:20 p.m. Granger was driving, Cody was in the front passenger seat, and their son was in a child seat in the back. Granger was driving on Moreland Avenue in the left lane in the same direction Skrine had been traveling. After she crossed over Interstate 285, Granger changed lanes from the left lane to the middle lane. As soon as Granger moved into the middle lane, another car struck her vehicle from behind, hitting the back driver's side of her car. The impact pushed Granger's vehicle

Page 874

from the middle lane into the right lane, where she collided " head on" with the rear of Skrine's tractor. Granger stated that she was about 30 or 40 feet from Skrine's tractor when her vehicle was pushed over and that by the time she saw the tractor, " it was too late." She applied the [329 Ga.App. 270] brakes but could not stop in time to avoid the collision. She stated that she did not notice any triangles or flashers. By the time of the collision, it was dark outside. Granger, Cody, and their son were injured in the collision.

1. " Before any negligence, even if proven, can be actionable, that negligence must be the proximate cause of the injuries sued upon." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Grinold v. Farist, 284 Ga.App. 120, 121 (1) (643 S.E.2d 253) (2007).[2] " In the tort context, proximate causation includes all of the natural and probable consequences of the tortfeasor's negligence, unless there is a sufficient and independent intervening ...


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