Roberson v. McDonald Transit Associates, Inc.
ORDER denying 56 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Michael P. Mills on 9/15/2017. (lpm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CARROL D. ROBERSON
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-cv-00162-MPM-RP
MCDONALD TRANSIT ASSOCIATES, INC.;
OXFORD TRANSIT MANAGEMENT,
INC.; & RONALD BIGGS
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants McDonald Transit Authority, Inc.,
Oxford Transit Management, Inc., and Ronald Biggs’ Motion for Summary Judgment  and
Plaintiff Roberson’s Response. This Court has considered the submissions of the parties, along
with relevant case law and evidence, and is now prepared to rule.
Factual and Procedural History
The Oxford University Transit System (“OUT”) operates multiple shuttle buses that
travel throughout Oxford, Mississippi, providing transportation services to the public.
McDonald Transit Associates, Inc. is under contract with the City of Oxford and the University
of Mississippi to provide management and oversight of OUT. Plaintiff Roberson is a frequent
rider of the OUT bus system, and the event at issue occurred while Roberson was aboard an
OUT bus on March 26, 2015.
While he “was riding as a passenger aboard an OUT bus,” Plaintiff “was tripped and
kicked several times by an intoxicated passenger who then got off the bus and ran away.” The
offender was subsequently apprehended and convicted of public intoxication and assault.
Roberson avers that he suffered spinal trauma, cuts, and bruises, and was required to undergo
two spinal surgeries as a result of the incident.
In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that the Defendants are vicariously liable for
the injuries cause by the incident, and that Defendants’ failure to act was gross negligence.
Roberson claims that the Defendants “each and collectively” owed a legal duty to him, that the
Defendants breached their duty, and that he suffered damages as a direct and proximate result of
the “negligence acts or omissions” of the Defendants [Docket #30, Page 7].
Summary judgment is proper “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). A genuine dispute of material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). At the summary judgment stage, the Court must
“draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133,
150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000).
Once the moving party shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, the
nonmoving party “must come forward with specific facts showing a genuine factual issue for
trial.” Harris ex rel. Harris v. Pontotoc Cty. Sch. Dist., 635 F.3d 685, 690 (5th Cir. 2011). “[A]
party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions,
or ‘only a scintilla of evidence.’” Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343
(5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)). “If the
nonmoving party fails to meet this burden, the motion for summary judgment must be granted.”
Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. In addition, as the Plaintiff in this cause is a pro se litigant, this Court
will “liberally construe briefs of [the Plaintiff] and apply less stringent standards to parties
proceeding pro se than to parties represented by counsel[.]” Owens v. Secretary of Army, 354 F.
App’x 156, 158 (5th Cir. 2009).
Returning to the motion at hand, Defendants argue that Roberson has not met the
elements for gross negligence, as claimed by the Plaintiff in his Amended Complaint. As this
cause involves diversity jurisdiction, Mississippi substantive law will be applied. Under
Mississippi law, gross negligence is defined as “the intentional failure to perform a manifest duty
in reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another.” Doe v.
Salvation Army, 835 So. 2d 76, 77 (Miss. Jan. 23, 2003). In order for a plaintiff to prevail on a
negligence claim, he must “establish by a preponderance of the evidence each of the elements of
negligence: duty, breach, causation and injury.” Miss. Dep't of Mental Health v. Hall, 936 So. 2d
917, 922 (Miss. Aug. 24, 2006) (citing Miss. Dep't of Transp. v. Cargile, 847 So.2d 258, 262
(Miss. 2003)). In order to prevail on summary judgment, the Defendants must demonstrate that
there are no disputed material facts, and, as such, that the Plaintiff could not meet the following
elements of gross negligence: that the Plaintiff was owed a duty by the Defendants; that the duty
owed to the Plaintiff was intentionally breached; that an injury to the Plaintiff resulted from that
breach; and, finally, that a causal relationship exists between the breach of duty and the injuries
The Defendants first argue that the Plaintiff cannot prove that any of the Defendants
breached a duty of care owed to the Plaintiff. In order to support the assertion that the driver did
not act negligently, Defense counsel points towards the surveillance footage of the incident on
the bus as proof that “the bus driver took all the actions he could reasonably undertake to remedy
the situation.” The second argument of the Defendants is that the Plaintiff cannot prove that the
acts of any of the Defendants proximately caused his injuries. For this argument, Defendants
assert that the incident was not foreseeable to any of the Defendants. They do not, however,
address whether the incident could have been foreseeable to the bus driver. The third argument
presented by the Defendants in their motion for summary judgment is that the Plaintiff cannot
demonstrate a course of conduct amounting to negligence, much less gross negligence.
Plaintiff Roberson responded to these arguments by claiming that the surveillance
footage is not complete, and is only clips of the total footage of what occurred that day. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court finds that genuine issues of material fact still remain, and that
the Defendants have failed to meet their burden as movants.
In his Affidavit, Defendant Biggs testifies that the “surveillance footage” of the March
26, 2015, incident depicts the “complete series of events witnessed in the video.” That
“surveillance footage” consists of three separate clips which have previously been entered into
the record. The Court finds that the parties do not agree on when, specifically, the incident in
question began. For the Plaintiff, the incident began with the intoxicated male harassing two
women on the bus, and then subsequently being asked to move to the back of the bus by the bus
driver. However, the surveillance footage presented by the Defendants, to which Biggs has
testified represents “the complete series of events,” does not begin until the intoxicated male is
already walking towards the back of the bus. That difference demonstrates a genuine dispute as
to a material fact. If multiple passengers complained of the intoxicated man as the Plaintiff
claims, then it could be determined by a reasonable jury that the driver knew or should have
known of the foreseeable danger of having the intoxicated man on the bus.
Further, it appears to the Court that the surveillance footage is not actually complete. The
first of the clips (“Clip #1”) shows six other individuals – aside from the Plaintiff, bus driver, and
intoxicated male—on the bus. The second clip (“Clip #2”), however, only shows five other
individuals. It appears to the Court that there is a missing segment of the surveillance footage,
occurring between Clip #1 and Clip #2, which would presumably at least show the sixth
individual leaving the bus. As such, the Court sees no practical way that the footage presented is
the “complete series of events.” Assuming the bus stopped to let that sixth passenger off the bus,
it is possible that a jury could find that the OUT bus was not “moving when the incident
occurred,” as the Defendants have alleged.
Even in the footage actually presented in the video clips, there is a genuine dispute as to
whether the driver did take “all of the actions he could reasonably undertake.” In Clip #1, the
Plaintiff can be heard loudly asking the intoxicated man to stop putting his hands on the Plaintiff.
In response, the bus driver asks the intoxicated man to move back a few seats, to which the
intoxicated man does not comply. In Clip #2, the Plaintiff can be heard telling the bus driver that
the intoxicated man “was threatening [him]” and calling him “white boy.” Plaintiff also loudly
asks the intoxicated man to “let [him] off the bus” when the intoxicated man is blocking the aisle
of the bus while the bus is stopped. Whether the bus driver could have done more to prevent the
assault or if the bus driver could have foreseen the assault is a question for a jury.
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment
 is DENIED.
SO ORDERED, this the 15th day of September, 2017.
/s/ MICHAEL P. MILLS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
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