United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
SHANICE J. PARKER, Plaintiff,
ERIC M. MILLER, et al., Defendants.
Deavers Magistrate Judge.
OPINION AND ORDER
C. SMITH, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
matter is before the Court upon the Motion of Defendants Eric
Miller, Dakotaland Transportation, Inc., and Fowlds Brothers
Trucking, Inc. for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's
Claims against Fowlds Brothers, and Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment with Respect to Plaintiff's Punitive
Damages Claim (“Defendants' Motion”) (Doc.
21). The motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is
Shanice Parker was involved in a single-car accident on April
12, 2016, while traveling eastbound on I-70 in Licking
County, Ohio due to a malfunctioning tie rod in her vehicle.
(Doc. 8, Am. Compl. ¶ 14). Parker's vehicle was
disabled in the right-most lane of eastbound travel on I-70.
(Id. ¶ 15). Shortly after, Ohio State Highway
Patrol Trooper Rodney Hart arrived in his patrol car and
parked it in the right-most lane directly behind Parker's
disabled vehicle. (Id. ¶ 16). Hart activated
the emergency lights on his patrol car and placed road flares
to indicate that oncoming traffic should move over into the
middle or left-most lanes. (Id. ¶ 17). Hart
also asked Parker to be seated in the front passenger seat of
the patrol car so he could interview her regarding her
single-car accident. (Id. ¶ 18). Within
minutes, Parker was seriously injured when a tractor trailer
driven by Defendant Eric Miller crashed into the parked
patrol car in which Parker was seated. (Id.
time of the accident, Miller was a truck driver employed by
Defendant Dakotaland Transportation, Inc.
(“Dakotaland”) and was driving the truck as part
of his job duties. (Id. ¶ 31). The truck
involved in the accident was leased by Dakotaland from
Defendant Fowlds Brothers Trucking, Inc.
(“Fowlds”). (Id. ¶¶ 7-8; Doc.
21-1, PAGEID #309, Aff. of Jerald Fowlds, ¶ 5). Miller,
Dakotaland, and Fowlds are all citizens of South Dakota,
whereas Parker is a citizen of Ohio and/or Washington, D.C.
(Doc. 8, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 3-5).
Amended Complaint, Parker asserts claims for (1) negligence
in operating a motor vehicle (against Miller); (2) statutory
traffic violations establishing negligence per se (against
Miller); (3) vicarious liability for Miller's negligence
(against Dakotaland and Fowlds); (4) strict liability for
Miller's negligence (against Dakotaland); (5) negligence
in hiring, training, supervising, and retaining Miller
(against Dakotaland and Fowlds); (6) statutory violations
establishing negligence per se in the hiring, training,
supervising, and retaining Miller (against Dakotaland and
Fowlds); and (7) negligent entrustment of the tractor trailer
to Miller (against Dakotaland and Fowlds). (Doc. 8, Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 42-68).
previously moved to dismiss Parker's claims for punitive
damages against all three defendants. (Doc. 10). The Court
granted that motion as to the claims for punitive damages
against Dakotaland and Fowlds, but denied the motion as to
the punitive damages sought from Miller. (Doc. 26).
have now moved for summary judgment on all claims against
Fowlds as well as partial summary judgment on Parker's
claims for punitive damages against Miller. (Doc. 21).
Defendants do not at this time seek judgment on any claims
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. Summary judgment is appropriate
when “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); Berryman v. SuperValu
Holdings, Inc., 669 F.3d 714, 716-17 (6th Cir. 2012).
The Court's purpose in considering a summary judgment
motion is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the
truth of the matter” but to “determine whether
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). A genuine
issue for trial exists if the Court finds a jury could return
a verdict, based on “sufficient evidence, ” in
favor of the nonmoving party; evidence that is “merely
colorable” or “not significantly probative,
” however, is not enough to defeat summary judgment.
Id. at 249-50.
party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden
of presenting the court with law and argument in support of
its motion as well as identifying the relevant portions of
“‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). If this initial burden is
satisfied, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to
set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); see
also Cox v. Kentucky Dep't of Transp., 53 F.3d 146,
150 (6th Cir. 1995) (after burden shifts, nonmovant must
“produce evidence that results in a conflict of
material fact to be resolved by a jury”).
considering the factual allegations and evidence presented in
a motion for summary judgment, the Court “views factual
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party
and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's
favor.” Barrett v. Whirlpool Corp., 556 F.3d
502, 511 (6th Cir. 2009). But self-serving affidavits alone
are not enough to create an issue of fact sufficient to
survive summary judgment. Johnson v. Washington Cty.
Career Ctr., 982 F.Supp.2d 779, 788 (S.D. Ohio 2013)
(Marbley, J.). “The mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence to support [the non-moving party's] position
will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the
jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].”
Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476, 479 (6th Cir.
1995); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251.
have moved for summary judgment on all claims against Fowlds
as well as on the punitive damages claims against Miller. The
Court will discuss each of these claims in turn.
Claims against Fowlds
argue that Fowlds cannot be vicariously liable for
Miller's negligence in operating the truck, nor liable
for its own negligence in hiring Miller or entrusting him
with the truck, because Fowlds was merely the owner of the
truck and not Miller's employer. Defendants are correct
that each of the negligence claims against Fowlds require an
employment relationship between Miller and Fowlds or that
Fowlds itself entrusted the truck to Miller. Osborne v.
Lyles, 63 Ohio St.3d 326, 329, 587 N.E.2d 825, 828
(1992) (vicarious liability); Peterson v. Buckeye Steel
Casings, 133 Ohio App.3d 715, 729, 729 N.E.2d 813, 823
(10th Dist. 1999) (negligent hiring, supervision, training,
and retention); Gulla v. Straus, 154 Ohio St. 193,
198, 93 N.E.2d 662, 665 (1950).
counters that Dakotaland (whom the parties agree was
Miller's employer at the time of the accident) is so
related to Fowlds that they are essentially the same entity,
and therefore Miller was also employed by Fowlds and Fowlds
also entrusted the truck to Miller. Defendants do not
challenge the claims of vicarious or direct negligence
against Dakotaland in this motion; therefore, the only
question before the Court is whether there is a genuine issue
of material fact regarding the identity of Fowlds and
The Graves Amendment
parties argue for and against the close relationship between
Dakotaland and Fowlds with reference to whether the two
companies are “affiliates” as defined by the
Graves Amendment. 49 U.S.C. § 30106. The Graves
Amendment was enacted to limit vicarious liability for
companies in the business of renting or leasing vehicles and
who could not prevent a lessee from driving a vehicle to a
state which might hold a vehicle owner strictly liable for
the negligence of the driver. S ...