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Wiedeman v. Canal Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

June 20, 2017

GREGORY WIEDEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CANAL INSURANCE COMPANY, H&F TRANSFER, INC., AUTO-OWNERS INSURANCE COMPANY, WALTER PATRICK DORN, IV, WESCO INSURANCE COMPANY, and SALEM LEASING CORPORATION, d/b/a Salem Nationalease, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants H&F Transfer, Inc. (“H&F”) and Walter Patrick Dorn, IV's (“Dorn”) (together, “Defendants”) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [180].

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         This action arises from an August 8, 2014, collision (the “Collision”) between Plaintiff Gregory Wiedeman (“Plaintiff”) and Dorn, an employee of H&F. (See Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [201.1] (“DSUMF”) ¶¶ 1-3; Pl.'s Resp. [204.1] (“R-DSUMF”) ¶¶ 1-3). Plaintiff was riding his motorcycle northbound on Lawrenceville Highway in DeKalb County, Georgia at 9:55 p.m. on the day of the Collision. (DSUMF ¶ 1; R-DSUMF ¶ 1). Dorn was driving his box truck southbound on Lawrenceville Highway. (DSUMF ¶ 2, R-DSUMF ¶ 1). Dorn was making a left turn onto Montreal East Road when Plaintiff struck the truck. (DSUMF ¶ 3; R-DSUMF ¶ 3).

         Dorn and both his passengers, Matthew Smarr and Tommy Frye, testified that, at the time of the Collision, Dorn had a green arrow. (DSUMF ¶ 4; R-DSUMF ¶ 4). Plaintiff testified that he had a green light. (DSUMF ¶ 5; R-DSUMF ¶ 5).[1]

         A police officer quickly arrived on the scene of the Collision. (DSUMF ¶ 9; R-DSUMF ¶ 9). The police report narrative states: “Driver 1 [Plaintiff] failed to yield for a red light and struck vehicle #2. Driver #1 stated to me that he did not know what he was thinking when he ran the light.”[2] ([169.1] at 2).

         At the time of the Collision, Dorn was employed by H&F, and was acting within the course and scope of his employment. (DSUMF ¶ 12; R-DSUMF ¶ 12). Plaintiff contends that H&F failed to qualify Dorn under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSRs”), including because H&F failed to provide an application that complied with the requirements of the FMCSRs. H&F failed to include certain information on its FMCSR application, including carrier information, date of birth, prior address, equipment experience, and prior traffic violations. (See DSUMF ¶ 19; R-DSUMF ¶ 19). Plaintiff contends that a driver who is not qualified cannot operate a commercial motor vehicle. (See R-DSUMF ¶ 16).

         Plaintiff's ten-year driving record shows that, on January 28, 2012, he received a ticket for “Disobeying an official traffic device”-that is, running a red light, stop sign, or the like. (See [204.135] at 2). His record also shows three speeding tickets between 2010 and 2014. (Id.). Before he was hired by H&F, Dorn had been arrested for public drunkenness, possession of marijuana, and possession or consumption of alcohol on public property.

         In 2016, H&F obtained a report showing that Dorn did not have any violations that would have disqualified him from driving the truck. (DSUMF ¶17). Plaintiff's expert, Whitney Morgan, agrees that nothing in Dorn's file, including his driving record, disqualified him from driving the truck. (DSUMF ¶ 18).[3]

         B. Procedural History

         On February 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint [33]. In it, Plaintiff asserts the following claims against H&F: (1) respondeat superior liability for Dorn's allegedly negligent actions; (2) negligent hiring, retention, entrustment and supervision of Dorn; (3) failure to comply with federal and state motor carrier safety regulations and trucking industry standards of care; and (4) punitive damages pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. Plaintiff asserts the following claims against Dorn: (1) negligence; (2) reckless driving; and (3) punitive damages pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1.

         On September 30, 2016, Defendants filed their Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Defendants seek summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages and on Plaintiff's claims for negligent hiring, retention, entrustment and supervision against H&F. Defendants argue that, because there is no evidence that Dorn acted with malice or evil motive or that he exhibited a pattern or policy of dangerous driving, Plaintiff cannot recover punitive damages from him. H&F argues that Plaintiff's negligent hiring, training, supervision, retention, and entrustment claims should be dismissed because H&F admits it may be liable for Dorn's actions under a respondeat superior theory of liability. H&F argues it is not subject to punitive damages for any alleged negligent hiring, training, entrustment, supervision, or retention because there is no evidence that Dorn had any driving violations, that he was not qualified to drive the truck, or that he was incompetent or reckless.

         II. ...


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