Kabba v. Williams et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION OF THE COURT. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jeffery S. Frensley on 11/15/2017. (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(mg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
RAYMOND WILLIAMS, JR. AND
Case No. 3:16-2718
Magistrate Judge Frensley
Pending before the court is the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No.
30) with supporting memorandum (Docket No. 31). Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition
(Docket No. 34) and Defendants have filed a reply (Docket No. 43). For the reasons stated
herein, the Defendants’ motion is DENIED.
This action arises out of a motor vehicle collision that occurred on Interstate 24 in
Rutherford County, Tennessee on March 4, 2015. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant Williams
failed to maintain proper control of his vehicle and caused the collision by entering her lane of
travel and striking her vehicle from the side. Defendants dispute that Williams is responsible for
the collision and assert that the Plaintiff negligently drove her vehicle into his lane of traffic and
as a result of the Plaintiff’s sudden actions Williams was unable to avoid sideswiping her
vehicle. Plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of the collision and was taken to a local hospital
where she was treated for those injuries. It was noted in the medical records that while she was
awake, her mental status was altered and she was unable to provide reliable medical history due
to the trauma of the accident.
A state trooper with the Tennessee Highway Patrol responded to the site of the collision
and prepared a report wherein he indicated that the Plaintiff made an abrupt maneuver to turn
back onto Interstate 24 from an exit lane and that the Defendant was unable to avoid Plaintiff’s
vehicle resulting in the collision. The trooper did not witness the collision and the factual basis
upon which he reached his conclusion in the accident report is unclear. However, it does not
appear that he spoke with Plaintiff regarding the incident.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate only Aif the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if
any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.@ A dispute is Agenuine@ only if Athe 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, 2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986).
In order to prevail on a Motion for summary judgment, the moving party must meet the
burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue as to material fact concerning an essential
element of the opposing party=s claim. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548,
2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986); Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir.
1989). In determining whether the moving party has met its burden, the Court must view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986).
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 provides that the nonmoving party may not rest upon the mere
allegations or denials of his or her pleading, but his or her response, by affidavits or otherwise,
must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If a nonmoving party,
however, 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, there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact because a complete failure of proof concerning an essential
element of the nonmoving party=s case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. Celotex,
477 U.S. at 322-23, 106 S. Ct. at 2552, 91 L. Ed. 2d at 273. When this occurs, the moving party
is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 322-23, 106 S. Ct. at 2552; Williams v.
Ford Motor Co., 187 F.3d 533, 537-38 (6th Cir. 1999).
Under Rule 56, persons moving for summary judgment are held to the strict standard of
making a showing that excludes any real doubt as to the existence of any genuine issue of
material fact, and thus their papers are viewed with great strictness while the opposing party’s
proof is viewed with more indulgence. Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Company, 398 U. S. 144, 158-59
(1970). While summary judgment can be granted in negligence cases when the requirements of
Rule 56 have been satisfied, the Tennessee Supreme Court is cautioned that as a general matter,
summary judgment should be granted only hesitantly in negligence cases because the ultimate
determinative issues should be decided by a trier of fact after an opportunity to view witnesses’
demeanor and to evaluate their credibility. Bowman v. Henard, 547 S. W. 2d 527, 530 (Tenn.
1977). Courts construing Rule 56 consistently hold that summary judgments should not be
granted in cases where the outcome hinges squarely on the state of mind, intent, or credibility of
the witnesses. Hoover v. Switlik Parachute Company, 663 F. 2d 964, 968 (9th Cir. 1981). In other
words, doubt as the credibility of material witnesses will create a genuine issue of material fact
sufficient to render granting summary judgment improper. Transway Finance Company, Inc. v.
Gershon, 92 F. R. D. 777, 778-79 (E. D. N. Y. 1982).
This case presents a clear situation where summary judgment is not proper because the
outcome of the case rests solely on the credibility of the witnesses who can be considered
competent to testify from personal knowledge about the vehicle collision.
Plaintiff asserts that the Defendant failed to use due care in the operation of his vehicle
and that by turning into her vehicle caused the accident in question. Defendant counters that he
did not turn into her vehicle but rather that she made an abrupt attempt to change lanes leaving
him with no option but to sideswipe her vehicle. Defendants assert that it is the Plaintiff’s failure
to maintain proper control of her vehicle that caused the collision.
In support of Defendants’ motion they cite the report of the Tennessee State Trooper
which corroborates William’s version of the events. However, the trooper was not a witness to
the collision and therefore bases his opinion only upon his observations of the scene upon his
arrival after the collision and any information provided to him by the parties. In this case, it does
not appear that the trooper spoke with the Plaintiff or received any information about the
collision from her. Therefore, the only source of information regarding what happened would
have come from the Defendant. Further, the state trooper is not offered as an expert on accident
reconstruction and has provided no information regarding the factual basis for the information
contained in the accident report. Thus, the report is not dispositive.
Defendants further argue that due to the Plaintiff’s altered mental state following the
collision she is not a reliable witness. They contend she has failed to and cannot state that the
Defendant caused the collision. As a result, Defendants contend, that Plaintiff is unable to
establish causation and summary judgment is appropriate.
Plaintiff however stated in response to interrogatories from the Defendant under oath “I
was driving to work and the big truck came over into my lane and hit my car in the side.”
Whether Plaintiff’s version of the events or Defendant’s version of the events is accurate
depends upon the credibility of the witnesses in this case. Each of the arguments advanced by the
Defendants in support of their motion for summary judgment attack the credibility of this
statement by the Plaintiff. While a jury may ultimately conclude that the Plaintiff’s version of the
events is not credible based in whole, in part, or for some totally unrelated reason than what is
advanced by the Defendants; that is a question properly left for the jury.
For the reasons set forth herein the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket
No. 30) is DENIED.
JEFFERY S. FRENSLEY
U. S. Magistrate Judge
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