Taylor v. Walmart Transportation, LLC et al
ORDER denying 96 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; granting 100 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Kristi H. Johnson on 10/5/2021. (ANT)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:20-CV-162-KHJ-LGI
WALMART TRANSPORTATION, LLC;
TERRY HERNDON; and JOHN DOES 1-10
Before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment  filed by
Walmart Transportation, LLC (“Walmart”) and Terry Herndon (collectively,
“Defendants”) and a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment  filed by Plaintiff
Vickie Taylor. For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendants’ motion and
grants Taylor’s motion.
Facts and Procedural History
Most facts are uncontested. This case arises out of a motor vehicle accident
that occurred on August 29, 2017.  at 1. Taylor was driving her vehicle north on
Interstate 55 in Jackson, Mississippi. Compl. [2-2] at 2. She alleges that Terry
Herndon, an employee of Walmart, was driving a 2015 Freightliner Cascadia
tractor-trailer directly behind her in heavy traffic. Id. She contends that Herndon
negligently caused a collision between his vehicle and hers. Id. at 3. In its Answer,
Walmart admitted that Herndon was acting within the scope of his employment
during the accident, and Walmart would be vicariously liable if Herndon was
negligent.  at 2 ¶ 4. Walmart later admitted that Herndon was negligent for not
securing the cowling, i.e., the removable covering of the vehicle’s engine, that
Defendants allege later hit Taylor’s vehicle, causing damage. Mot. for Summ. J. 
at 2. See also Herndon Answer [2-15]; Walmart Answer [2-16].
In their motion, Defendants dispute Taylor’s use of the word “collision” to
describe the accident. They insist that no “bumper-to-bumper ‘collision’ occurred,”
and Herndon did not rear end Taylor’s vehicle.  at 2. Rather, they admit that
the cowling rotated forward onto Taylor’s vehicle, causing contact between the
vehicles. Id. Defendants ask the Court to find that “[n]o set of facts makes [the
collision] version plausible, despite [Taylor’s] testimony to the contrary.” Id. Taylor,
on the other hand, asserts that how the crash occurred is “not an issue on which the
Court may grant summary judgment.” Mem. in Opp.  at 1.
Taylor also moves for partial summary judgment on liability. . She
argues Defendants already admitted liability by their admission of Herndon’s
negligence and their version of events. She therefore moves for summary judgment
against Defendants on liability. .
Summary judgment is appropriate when “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 fact issue is ‘material’ if its resolution could
affect the outcome of the action.” Levy Gardens Partners 2007, L.P. v.
Commonwealth Land Title Ins. Co., 706 F.3d 622, 628 (5th Cir. 2013) (citation
omitted). A party seeking to avoid summary judgment must set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A dispute is
genuine “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 (1986). The
Court views the evidence and draws reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the nonmovant. Duval v. N. Assur. Co. of Am., 722 F.3d 300, 303 (5th
Defendants’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment 
“One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and
dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. . . .” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Defendants do not ask the Court to rule that there is
no genuine dispute of a material fact in support of a legal claim or defense. Instead,
Defendants seek summary judgment on a fact about the nature of the accident. As
stated by the Supreme Court of Mississippi, “[m]otions for summary judgment may
not be used to determine or decide issues of fact, only to decide whether there are
any material fact issues to be tried.” Simmons v. Thompson Mach. of Miss., Inc., 631
So. 2d 798, 802 (Miss. 1994). The same holds true here. Whether the accident was a
bumper-to-bumper collision or the result of an unsecured cowling falling onto
Taylor’s car is an issue of fact. Defendants have admitted Herndon’s negligence, and
therefore the precise nature of the accident is a factual issue relevant only to
causation and the extent of Taylor’s damages. The Court denies Defendants’ motion.
Taylor’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment 
Taylor asks the Court to find Defendants liable for the accident in her Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment. . The elements of negligence are well-settled
under Mississippi law: duty, breach, causation, and damages. Sanderson Farms,
Inc. v. McCullough, 212 So. 3d 69, 76 (Miss. 2017).
Defendants contend that “the issues of causation and damages are still
disputed.” Resp. in Opp.  at 2. Defendants, however, admit “that they are liable
for the vertical impact between Herndon’s hood and Plaintiff’s rear trunk lid.” Id. at
4 ¶ 9. Defendants also “have accepted responsibility for the property damages” but
contest “that [Taylor] suffered any bodily injuries from the accident.” Id. at 2 ¶ 3.
Defendants ask the Court to refrain from granting Taylor’s motion if there are
“disputed versions of the point of impact of the vehicles.” Id.
A plaintiff need not prove the exact point of impact or method of contact to
establish a defendant’s liability. The vehicles’ point of impact is a fact question on
which the parties may disagree. But the Court finds that this factual dispute holds
no relevance to liability. Defendants admit Herndon, an on-duty Walmart employee,
was negligent and that his negligence caused at least some of Taylor’s damages. 
at 2 ¶ 4;  at 2 ¶ 3. No record facts dispute this conclusion. There is no genuine
issue of material fact about Defendants’ liability for Herndon’s negligence. But the
nature and extent of damages his negligence caused is a fact issue for the jury to
resolve at trial. The Court grants Taylor’s motion.
This Court has considered all arguments. Arguments not addressed in this
Order would not have changed the outcome. For reasons stated, the Court DENIES
Defendants’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment  and GRANTS Taylor’s
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment .
SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED this the 5th day of October, 2021.
s/ Kristi H. Johnson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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