HANSON v. RUSKIN et al
ORDER granting 93 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. on 1/9/2018. (ls)
United States District Court
Southern District of Florida
Gary Hanson, Plaintiff,
Thomas Ruskin, and PV Holding
Corp. d/b/a Avis Rent A Car
System, LLC, Defendants.
) Civil Action No. 16-24836-Civ-Scola
Order on Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
This matter is before the Court upon the Plaintiff Gary Hanson’s motion
for partial summary judgment (ECF No. 93), asking the Court to grant
summary judgment on the discrete issue of whether the Defendant Thomas
Ruskin violated Florida Statutes section 316.194. Ruskin filed an untimely
response (ECF No. 96), to which Hanson replied (ECF No. 98). The Court has
considered the motion, the response and reply, the applicable law and the
record in this case, and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court grants Hanson’s motion for partial summary judgment.
The essential facts involved in this case are undisputed. On the morning
of March 5, 2016, Hanson, a passenger in a vehicle on Interstate 95, collided
with Ruskin’s vehicle, which was stopped in a moving lane on the highway.
Ruskin was traveling northbound on Interstate 95, when he stopped his vehicle
in the left-most general purpose lane of I-95, to render aid after he witnessed a
single-car motor vehicle accident. (Pl.’s Statement of Material Facts, ECF No.
92 ¶ 2.) While Ruskin was providing assistance with the first accident, the
vehicle in which Hanson was a passenger collided with the rear end of Ruskin’s
stopped vehicle on I-95, resulting in significant injuries to Hanson. Ruskin
voluntarily parked his car in the left-most general purpose travel lane, and his
vehicle was not disabled or otherwise in disrepair before the vehicle in which
Hanson was traveling collided with it. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) Furthermore, the section of
I-95 where Hanson’s accident occurred has a right shoulder and is located in
unincorporated Dade County. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.)
Summary judgment is proper if following discovery, the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, affidavits and admissions on file show
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. “An issue of fact is ‘material’ if, under the
applicable substantive law, it might affect the outcome of the case.” Hickson
Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259-60 (11th Cir. 2004). “An issue of
fact is ‘genuine’ if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact
to find for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 1260.
Hanson argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on the issue of
Ruskin’s violation of Florida Statutes section § 316.194, and therefore a
corresponding jury instruction on violation of a statute as evidence of
negligence. The statute states, in pertinent part, as follows:
Upon any highway outside of a municipality, no
person shall stop, park, or leave standing any vehicle,
whether attended or unattended, upon the paved or
main-traveled part of the highway when it is
practicable to stop, park, or so leave the vehicle off
such part of the highway; but in every event an
unobstructed width of the highway opposite a standing
vehicle shall be left for the free passage of other
vehicles, and a clear view of the stopped vehicle shall
be available from a distance of 200 feet in each
direction upon the highway.
Fla. Stat. § 316.194(1). Ruskin argues that Hanson is not entitled to a finding
that Ruskin violated the statute because he did not receive a citation, it was
not practicable for him to stop or park his vehicle anywhere else on the
roadway, and that in any event, his vehicle was sufficiently visible and he left
an unobstructed width of highway for other vehicles to pass by. However,
Ruskin provides no citations to authority to support his contention that these
factors are relevant in evaluating a statutory violation, or how the Court is to
determine what is “practicable.” Generally, a “litigant who fails to press a point
by supporting it with pertinent authority, or by showing why it is sound despite
a lack of supporting authority or in the face of contrary authority, forfeits the
point. The court will not do his research for him.” Phillips v. Hillcrest Medical
Center, 244 F.3d 790, 800 n.10 (10th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation omitted);
McPherson v. Kelsey, 125 F.3d 989, 995-96 (6th Cir. 1997) (“Issues adverted to
in a perfunctory manner, unaccompanied by some effort at developed
argumentation, are deemed waived. It is not sufficient for a party to mention a
possible argument in the most skeletal way, leaving the court to put flesh on its
bones.”) (internal quotation omitted). In addition, Ruskin points to no
evidentiary support from the record to dispute that he did exactly what the
statute prohibits—parking an otherwise functional vehicle on the paved or
main-traveled part of a highway, when he admits that there was a right
shoulder, and no evidence that he was unable to stop his vehicle there, rather
than in the lane of travel.
Under Florida law, the violation of a traffic regulation is only evidence of
negligence, not a means of avoiding liability altogether. See Ridley v. Safety
Kleen Corp., 693 So. 2d 934, 937 (Fla. 1996) (“It is well established in Florida
that a violation of a traffic regulation ordinarily constitutes evidence of
negligence, and, when there is evidence of such a violation, the jury should be
instructed on the effect of such a violation on the issue of negligence.”) (internal
citations omitted).1 Hanson states explicitly in his motion that he seeks a
finding of a statutory violation entitling him to a jury instruction on evidence of
negligence. He does not seek a finding of liability. Therefore, the Court rejects
Ruskin’s argument that Hanson is not entitled to a finding that he violated the
statute because the statutory section at issue does not establish civil liability.
Accordingly, after considering the motion, the record, and the relevant
legal authorities, the Court grants the motion for partial summary judgment
(ECF No. 93), and finds that Ruskin violated Florida Statutes section 316.194,
entitling Hanson to an evidence of negligence instruction at trial.
Done and ordered at Miami, Florida, on January 9, 2018.
Robert N. Scola, Jr.
United States District Judge
Florida Standard Jury Instruction (Civil) 401.9 Violation of a Statute, Ordinance, or
Regulation as Evidence of Negligence, states that “Violation of this [statute] [ordinance]
[regulation] is evidence of negligence. It is not, however, conclusive evidence of
negligence. If you find that (defendant) violated this [statute] [ordinance] [regulation],
you may consider that fact, together with the other facts and circumstances, in
deciding whether such person was negligent.”
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