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Amoateng v. Nickerson

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

November 27, 2017

JOSEPHINE AMOATENG and EHUI AMONIN, Plaintiffs,
v.
DEXTER NICKERSON, BUEL, INC., and CHEROKEE INSURANCE CO., Defendants.

          ORDER

          RICHARD W. STORY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on Punitive Damages and Direct Negligence Claims [48]. After reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.

         Background

         This case arises out of a collision on June 6, 2014, between Defendant Dexter Nickerson (“Defendant Nickerson”) and Plaintiff Josephine Amoateng (“Plaintiff Amoateng”). (Defs.' LR 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“Defs.' SUMF”), Dkt. [48-9] ¶ 1.) At the time, Defendant Nickerson was driving a tractor-trailer as the employee of Defendant Buel, Inc. (“Defendant Buel”). (Id. ¶ 2.) Defendant Buel is a named insured under a policy covering the vehicle at issue with Defendant Cherokee Insurance Company. (Id. ¶ 8.)

         On June 6, 2014, the tractor-trailer driven by Defendant Nickerson overturned and collided with a vehicle driven by Plaintiff Amoateng. (Answer, Dkt. [5] ¶ 14.) As a result, Defendant Nickerson was cited for unsecured load. (Defs.' SUMF, Dkt. [48-9] ¶ 11.)

         On April 4, 2016, Plaintiff Amoateng filed this suit seeking to recover for her resulting injuries. She has brought claims for negligence against Defendant Nickerson (Count I), for respondeat superior against Defendant Buel (Count II), for negligence against Defendant Buel (Count III), and punitive damages (Count IV). Plaintiff Ehui Amonin, her husband, has also brought a claim for loss of consortium (Count V). Together they bring a claim against Defendant Cherokee Insurance Company (Count VI). On August 16, 2017, Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment on Punitive Damages and Direct Negligence [48], which the court will now address.

         Discussion

         I. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires that summary judgment be granted “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.” “The moving party bears ‘the initial responsibility of informing the . . . court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'” Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Where the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must go beyond the pleadings and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact does exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986).

         The applicable substantive law identifies which facts are material. Id. at 248. A fact is not material if a dispute over that fact will not affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 249-50.

         Additionally, “the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). No genuine issue of material fact exists “since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323. Thus, if a party who has the burden of proof fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of any essential element to a claim, summary judgment may be properly granted against him.

         Finally, in resolving a motion for summary judgment, the court must view all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Patton v. Triad Guar. Ins. Corp., 277 F.3d 1294, 1296 (11th Cir. 2002). But, the court is bound only to draw those inferences that are reasonable. “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (once the moving party has met its burden under Rule 56(a), the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”).

         II. Analysis

         Defendants seek summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages against Defendants (Count IV) and direct negligence against Defendant Buel (Count III). They first argue that Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden as to a claim for punitive damages. As a result, they argue, the claims for direct negligence against Defendant Buel must also be dismissed since Defendant ...


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