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Driver v. D. Mosley Trucking, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

April 8, 2015

LOIS DRIVER et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
D. MOSLEY TRUCKING, INC. et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Pending now before the Court is Defendant New Millennium Building Systems, LLC's ("NMBS") Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. ECF No. 167. NMBS filed this Motion on January 26, 2015. Id. On February 10, 2015, Plaintiffs responded.[1] ECF No. 170. NMBS filed a reply on March 18, 2015. ECF No. 185. This Motion is now ripe for consideration.

Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey referred this Motion to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, this Court recommends NMBS's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 167) be GRANTED.

1. Background:

On August 5, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. Subsequently, on June 30, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint; and on July 18, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint. ECF Nos. 94, 119. In their Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege they were injured as the result of an accident with an 18 wheeler tractor trailer. ECF No. 119 ¶ 14. This tractor trailer was driven by Defendant Ramon Colon. Id. Plaintiffs also allege that "[p]rior to the incident made the basis of this lawsuit, Defendant Ramon Colon had stopped at the Hope, Arkansas location of Defendant New Millennium Building Systems whereupon his trailer was loaded with steel construction beams [joists] by employees or agents of New Millennium Building Systems." Id. Plaintiffs allege NMBS is liable for this accident due to its negligence in loading these joists. ECF No. 119 ¶¶ 16-19. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs specifically request punitive damages. Id. ¶ 17. On August 4, 2014, NMBS filed its answer to Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint. ECF No. 125. In this answer, NMBS denies Plaintiffs' claim to punitive damages. Id. ¶ 17.

Currently before the Court is NMBS's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. ECF No. 167. With this Motion, NMBS requests summary judgment only on the issue of punitive damages. Id. NMBS claims Plaintiffs have not provided sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment on this issue. Id. Plaintiffs have responded to this Motion. ECF No. 170. In their response, Plaintiffs claim there is a triable fact issue as to whether they are entitled to punitive damages. Id. On March 18, 2015, after being granted leave, NMBS replied to Plaintiffs' response. ECF No. 185. The Court has considered all of the submitted briefing and will now consider NMBS's Motion.

2. Applicable Law:

Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a federal court is authorized to grant summary judgment in a case when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56. A genuine issue of material fact exists only 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 moving party bears the initial burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to show through specific evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on an issue where the nonmovant bears the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 324. A mere scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmovant's position is insufficient. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

To survive a motion for summary judgment, "a nonmovant must present more than a scintilla of evidence and must advance specific facts to create a genuine issue of material fact for trial." Parks v. City of Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas, 480 F.3d 837, 839 (8th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). As stated in this rule, "[w]hen a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, an opposing party may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response must-by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule-set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Id.

3. Discussion:

After reviewing the briefing in this matter, and as outlined below, the Court finds Plaintiffs have not submitted sufficient summary judgment evidence to support their claim to punitive damages. Thus, the Court finds NMBS is entitled to summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages.

As an initial matter, to recover punitive damages in Arkansas[2], Plaintiffs must present evidence "that either or both of the following aggravating factors were present and related to the injury for which compensatory damages were awarded:

(1) The defendant knew or ought to have known, in light of the surrounding circumstances, that his or her conduct would naturally and probably result in injury or damage and that he or she continued the conduct with malice or in reckless ...

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