Harper v. Blakeney et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting 103 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 106 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 107 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Honorable Mary Geiger Lewis on 1/4/2017.(cbru, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
ROCK HILL DIVISION
ALLIE J. HARPER, III,
§ CIVIL ACTION NO. 0:15-01830-MGL
CEDRICK BLAKENEY; JOHN R. NEAL;
NEAL MCCOY ENTERPRISES, LLC;
BUDGET TRUCK RENTAL, LLC;
MCCALLUM GROUP ENTERPRISES, INC.; §
and ATLANTIC CASUALTY INSURANCE §
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND
GRANTING DEFENDANTS MCCALLUM GROUP ENTERPRISES, INC.’S AND
BUDGET TRUCK RENTAL, LLC’S MOTIONS FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Plaintiff filed this case as a negligence and declaratory judgment action. The Court has
jurisdiction over the matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Pending before the Court are Plaintiff’s motion
for partial summary judgment, ECF No. 106, Defendant McCallum Group Enterprises, Inc.
(McCallum)’s motion for partial summary judgment, ECF No. 103, and Defendant Budget Truck
Rental, LLC (Budget)’s motion for partial summary judgment, ECF No. 107.* Having carefully
Although the parties refer to their motions as motions for summary judgment, the Court will refer to them
as motions for partial summary judgment because, even if the Court granted them in full, that would nevertheless fail
to dispose of the entire case.
considered the motions, the responses, the replies, the record, and the applicable law, the Court will
deny Plaintiff’s motion and grant McCallum’s and Budget’s motions.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The relevant facts for purposes of this Order are largely undisputed. This action arises out
of a motor vehicle accident that occurred at approximately 3:00 a.m. on July 19, 2014, on
northbound Interstate Highway 77 in South Carolina when Defendant Cedrick Blakeney
(Blakeney)’s truck (the truck) allegedly struck Plaintiff’s car (the accident).
Defendants propound Blakeney is an independent contractor who drives for Defendant Neal
McCoy Enterprises, LLC (McCoy). McCoy is a delivery company that delivers automobile parts,
including tires and wheels. McCallum is a logistics company and has a contractual delivery
agreement with McCoy (the agreement). The terms of the agreement are detailed below. Defendant
John R. Neal (Neal), on behalf of McCoy, leased the truck from Budget, a national truck rental
company. According to the Oklahoma registration, the unladen weight of the truck is 12,000
The accident occurred as Blakeney drove the truck from one of McCallum’s facilities in
Columbia, South Carolina, to one of its facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina. Under the agreement,
five nights a week, Blakeney, on behalf of McCoy, picks up a truck at Dealer Tire in Charlotte,
travels to McCallum’s warehouse in Charlotte, then to its warehouse in Columbia, and then back
to its warehouse in Charlotte. The agreement specifically provides McCallum “does not control or
direct the means or manner in which [McCoy] performs the services (e.g. which streets to take from
a pick-up site to a deliver[y] site, the make and model of the delivery vehicle, the order in which
services are rendered, etc.).” ECF No. 103-6 at 1.
Further, the agreement states McCoy shall: (a) “provide a safe vehicle and all other
equipment (whether by ownership, lease, or otherwise) that, in [McCoy’s] sole judgment, is
necessary and suitable for the rendition of the delivery services,” (b) “be solely responsible for the
operation of all equipment used in rendering the delivery services,” (c) “obtain and maintain all
necessary permits, licenses, and registrations to render the delivery services,” and (d) “obtain all
necessary and appropriate training as [McCallum] does not provide any formal or informal training
or instruction regarding rendition of the delivery services.” Id. at 5-6. The agreement also requires
McCoy to satisfy the following insurance requirement:
(c) for trucks with a gross weight of more than 10,000 pounds, [McCoy] shall carry
and keep in full force and effect commercial auto liability insurance covering bodily
injury and property damage, with a liability limit of not less than $1,000,000
combined single limit and a deductible of no greater than $1,000, including an
additional insured endorsement naming [McCallum] as additional insured as well as
its officers and directors and any subsidiaries and affiliated corporations.
(d) provide [McCallum] with a copy of an insurance policy that evidences the
foregoing insurance coverages and amounts. If the scope of this Agreement involves
more than one vehicle, [McCoy] shall carry and keep in full force and effect the
appropriate level of coverage must be provided [sic] for all other vehicles, whether
owned or not.
Id. at 6-7. Therefore, according to these terms, because the truck is 12,000 pounds, McCoy was
required to carry a $1,000,000 policy and present a copy of the policy to McCallum.
Although McCoy possesses a Commercial Automobile Policy issued by Defendant Atlantic
Casualty Insurance Company (Atlantic) for the period when the accident occurred, Policy
#BA3013585-0, the maximum amount of bodily injury liability coverage under that policy is
$100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Because the truck is neither a “Covered Auto” nor
a “Temporary Substitute” for a “Covered Auto” under the terms of the Atlantic policy, however, this
Court granted Atlantic’s motion for summary judgment on November 3, 2016, and declared
Atlantic’s policy provides no coverage for the parties at hand in connection with the accident. ECF
McCoy leased the truck from Budget pursuant to a rental agreement on a commercial account
for a fourteen-day period at a rate of $600.00 per week. The rental agreement contains the following
provisions regarding insurance:
If the Truck is used for commercial (non-personal use) purposes, you will be
required to purchase one of our liability coverages or provide a certificate of
If you accept Supplemental Liability Insurance (“SLI”) at the start of your
rental and pay the SLI fee stated on the Rental Document, then the higher limits of
liability protection provided by SLI will apply to your rental. The protection
provided by SLI will be primary and the combined limits of liability protection will
be $2,000,000 for each person for bodily injury, death or property damage, but not
more than $2,000,000 for each accident[.]
If you are a commercial customer you may elect to provide liability insurance
instead of purchasing our liability coverages and damage waivers. If you do as
indicated on the Rental Document, you agree to insure the Truck under a standard
form automobile liability insurance policy, with Budget Truck Rental, LLC and
Budget Rent A Car System, Inc., named as an additional insured, covering all risks
of loss or damage to persons or property arising out of the ownership, maintenance,
use, or operation of the Truck during the rental, regardless of fault. The limits of this
insurance will not be less than a combined single limit of $750,000 for all bodily
injury and property damage arising from anyone accident or such higher limits as we
may require. You agree to provide us with a certificate of insurance, evidencing the
required coverage and limits of liability before using the Truck. You agree that
optional SLI will not be available to you after you have elected to provide your own
ECF No. 106-2 at 8-9. Here, when Neal leased the truck from Budget for commercial purposes on
behalf of McCoy, he failed to purchase liability insurance from Budget and specifically indicated
McCoy would provide its own liability coverage.
Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on April 29, 2015, and filed a Fourth Amended Complaint
(FAC) on April 5, 2016, seeking recovery under negligence and declaratory judgment theories. The
parties subsequently filed their motions for partial summary judgment. The Court, having been fully
briefed on the relevant issues, is now prepared to discuss the merits of the motions.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment should be granted when “the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine issue 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 (1986). A fact is material if it might
“affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id.
On a motion for summary judgment, all evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party. Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123-24 (4th Cir. 1990);
see also Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987) (holding the court
views all facts, and all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, “in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party”). When multiple parties file motions for summary judgment, as is the case
here, the court applies the same standard of review to each motion, and considers “each motion
separately on its own merits to determine whether either [side] deserves judgment as a matter of
law.” Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003).
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
The Court first turns to Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment, wherein Plaintiff
seeks a determination of McCallum’s liability to Plaintiff for damages arising from the accident.
Construing Plaintiff’s motion liberally, he also requests a declaration on whether McCallum’s
insurance liability coverage applies to Plaintiff’s damages. Plaintiff further desires a declaration
Budget is obligated to provide Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) in the amount of $2,000,000
as offered in the rental agreement. Interpreted liberally, Plaintiff’s motion appears to alternatively
seek a ruling Budget must provide a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance coverage that would
be applicable to Plaintiff’s damages arising from the accident.
Plaintiff’s Declaratory Judgment Claim Against McCallum and Its Insurance
As noted above, Plaintiff seeks a declaration McCallum is liable to Plaintiff for damages
arising from the accident. To be liable, Plaintiff and McCallum appear to agree the Court must find
McCallum is a motor carrier. See 49 U.S.C. § 14102(a)(4) (providing a “motor carrier” using
“motor vehicles not owned by it to transport property under an arrangement with another party
[shall] . . . have control of and be responsible for operating those motor vehicles in compliance with
the requirements prescribed by the Secretary on safety of operations and equipment, and with other
applicable law as if the motor vehicles were owned by the motor carrier”).
To that end, Plaintiff claims in his FAC that McCallum is a motor carrier under federal law.
But, in his motion, he argues McCallum constitutes a motor carrier under state law, specifically the
terms of S.C. Code Ann. § 58-23-20. Assuming, without deciding, that in Plaintiff’s motion he
seeks to constructively amend his FAC on this issue, the Court will apply the state statute in its
adjudication of this claim here. It will consider whether McCallum is a motor carrier under federal
law later in this opinion.
South Carolina law defines a “motor carrier” as
every corporation or person, their lessees, trustees, or receivers, owning, controlling,
operating, or managing any motor propelled vehicle used in transporting persons or
property over any improved public highway in this state, whether or not for
compensation, as defined by Section 58-23-30 and includes, but is not limited to,
motor vehicle carriers as defined in Section 58-23-10 and private carriers.
S.C. Code Ann. § 58-23-1110(5). The term “motor vehicle carrier” refers to “every corporation or
person, their lessees, trustees or receivers, owning, controlling, operating or managing any motor
propelled vehicle, not usually operated on or over rails, used in the business of transporting persons
or property for compensation over any improved public highway in this State.” Id. § 58-23-10(4).
In determining whether a party is a motor carrier under South Carolina law, it is appropriate
to examine the specific nature of the transaction at issue, as the Court would under federal law. See
13 Am. Jur. 2d Carriers § 5 (2000) (“The nature of a carrier is determined by its method of
operation. Thus, it has been said that a carrier’s status is determined by what it does rather than by
what it says it does.” (footnote omitted)), cited with approval in Bovain v. Canal Ins., 678 S.E.2d
422, 427 (S.C. 2009); see also Harris v. FedEx Nat’l LTL, Inc., 760 F.3d 780, 785 (8th Cir. 2014)
(stating when determining whether a party constitutes a motor carrier, the essential inquiry is
whether it is a motor carrier with respect to the “specific transaction at issue” (internal quotation
marks omitted)); Camp v. TNT Logistics Corp., 553 F.3d 502, 507 (7th Cir. 2009) (holding “the
crucial inquiry” in determining whether a logistics provider constitutes a motor carrier “is in what
capacity [the logistics provider] was acting during the transaction”).
Accordingly, this Court will examine the specific transaction at issue to determine whether
McCallum was a motor carrier under South Carolina law for purposes of the transport at issue.
Plaintiff insists McCallum is a regional motor carrier, pointing to McCallum’s description of the
services it offers on its website. However, Plaintiff’s argument is without merit, as it neglects to
consider the specific transaction at issue.
As noted above: McCallum contracted with McCoy to transport goods between McCallum’s
warehouses in Columbia and Charlotte. Blakeney drove the truck transporting the goods for
McCoy, and the accident occurred during transportation between McCallum’s warehouses.
Furthermore, McCoy leased the truck at issue from Budget. McCallum’s agreement with
McCoy provides McCallum would “not control or direct the means or manner in which [McCoy]
performs the services (e.g. which streets to take from a pick-up site to a deliver site, the make and
model of the delivery vehicle, the order in which services are rendered, etc.).” ECF No. 103-6 at
1. Moreover, the agreement sets forth McCoy’s covenant to acquire and maintain all necessary
licenses, permits, and registrations, obtain all necessary training, and be solely responsible for the
operation of all equipment used in delivering goods for McCallum. Id. at 5-6.
Consequently, the Court holds as a matter of law McCallum fails to constitute a motor carrier
under South Carolina law for the specific transaction at issue in this case, namely the transport of
goods between McCallum’s warehouses in Columbia and Charlotte. Thus, it follows McCallum is
not liable for Plaintiff’s damages under the theory it is a motor carrier under state law. As such, the
Court denies the portion of Plaintiff’s motion seeking a declaration McCallum is liable to Plaintiff
for damages arising from the accident.
Construing Plaintiff’s motion liberally, Plaintiff also requests a declaration McCallum’s
insurance policy with Princeton Excess and Surplus Lines Insurance Company (Princeton) applies
to the accident. In a subsequent filing, however, Plaintiff inexplicably states McCallum’s insurance
policy with Princeton appears inapplicable to the accident, but Plaintiff then later asserts the
Princeton policy applies to the accident and urges the Court to declare the same. ECF No. 113 at
4, 11. Suffice it to say Plaintiff’s argument is without merit. Hence, the Court also denies the
portion of Plaintiff’s motion seeking a declaration McCallum’s insurance liability coverage applies
to Plaintiff’s damages.
Plaintiff’s Declaratory Judgment Claim Against Budget
The Court now turns to Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on his declaratory
judgment claim against Budget that it is obligated to provide SLI in the amount of $2,000,000 as
offered in the rental agreement. Interpreted liberally, Plaintiff’s motion appears to alternatively seek
a ruling Budget must provide a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance coverage that would be
applicable to Plaintiff’s damages arising from the accident. The Court notes Plaintiff utterly fails
to provide a legal basis for his motion. In fact, the Court observes the motion is bereft of a single
case citation. Because Plaintiff has neglected to present a legal theory to permit the relief he seeks
against Budget, and it is outside the province of this Court to fashion one, the Court denies the
remaining portion of Plaintiff’s motion seeking a declaratory judgment against Budget.
MCCALLUM’S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
The Court next examines McCallum’s motion for partial summary judgment, which seeks
a determination McCallum lacks liability for Plaintiff’s injuries. As already noted, and Plaintiff and
McCallum appear to agree, the Court must hold McCallum is a motor carrier under the facts of this
case for it to be liable. McCallum argues it fails to meet the definition of a motor carrier under
federal law. McCallum’s motion addresses federal law because Plaintiff’s FAC references federal
law on this issue, whereas as noted above, Plaintiff’s motion analyzes South Carolina law.
Federal law provides a “motor carrier” is “a person providing motor vehicle transportation
for compensation.” 49 U.S.C. § 13102(14). Moreover,
[t]he term “transportation” includes-- (A) a motor vehicle, vessel, warehouse, wharf,
pier, dock, yard, property, facility, instrumentality, or equipment of any kind related
to the movement of passengers or property, or both, regardless of ownership or an
agreement concerning use; and (B) services related to that movement, including
arranging for, receipt, delivery, elevation, transfer in transit, refrigeration, icing,
ventilation, storage, handling, packing, unpacking, and interchange of passengers and
Id. § 13102(23).
Regardless of which motor carrier statute the Court applies in analyzing whether McCallum
fits the definition, state or federal, the result is the same: it is not. As explained above, the
undisputed facts of this case conclusively establish McCallum fails to constitute a motor carrier
under South Carolina law. The Court holds as a matter of law McCallum fails to constitute a motor
carrier under federal law for the same reasons.
Given the Court fully discussed this issue above, the Court need spill no further ink on this
issue. Consequently, the Court will grant McCallum’s motion for partial summary judgment.
BUDGET’S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Finally, the Court addresses Budget’s motion for partial summary judgment, which also
seeks a declaration it fails to meet the definition of a motor carrier for purposes of this lawsuit. In
Plaintiff’s response to Budget’s motion, “Plaintiff acknowledges . . . Budget was not acting as a
motor carrier in this case.” ECF No. 113 at 3. Hence, the Court holds as a matter of law Budget
fails to qualify as a motor carrier for purposes of this lawsuit. The Court thus likewise grants
Budget’s motion for partial summary judgment.
Given these holdings are dispositive of the issues properly before the Court in the parties’
motions, the Court need not address the parties’ remaining arguments. See Karsten v. Kaiser Found.
Health Plan of Mid-Atl. States, Inc., 36 F.3d 8, 11 (4th Cir. 1994) (“If the first reason given is
independently sufficient, then all those that follow are surplusage; thus, the strength of the first
makes all the rest dicta.”).
Wherefore, based on the foregoing discussion and analysis, it is the judgment of this Court
Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment is DENIED, whereas McCallum’s and Budget’s
motions for partial summary judgment are GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed this 4th day of January, 2017, in Columbia, South Carolina.
s/ Mary Geiger Lewis
MARY GEIGER LEWIS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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