United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
M. Moody Jr. United States District Judge.
is Separate Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
(Docket #70). Plaintiffs have filed response and Defendants
have filed a reply. For the reasons set forth herein, the
motion is GRANTED. The remaining motions, docket entries, 68,
73, 76, 78 and 80 are denied as moot.
Nathan Hoggard and Jerry Williams allege that due to actions
or inactions of Defendants Arabi Cattle Company
(“ACC”), Roger Page (“Page”) and Jim
Franklin (“Franklin”), Plaintiffs were injured
after being struck by hay bales which had been loaded onto
and Williams were injured on March 7, 2015 while they were
using two farm tractors to load 4x5 round hay bales onto a
drop deck trailer owned by ACC. Page, the owner of ACC, had
made arrangements to purchase a load of hay from Travis
Lipsey. Franklin, an employee of ACC, and ACC's driver,
was to haul the hay from St. Francis, Arkansas to ACC's
location in Newbern, Tennessee. It is customary for the
seller to load the hay purchased onto the customer's
trailer. On March 7, 2015, Franklin arrived in the early
morning to pick up the hay in a 53-foot drop-deck hay
trailer. Lipsey and Williams used Williams' tractor to
load approximately twenty-two hay bales in two rows onto the
floor of the trailer and a portion of the top rows. There is
a dispute as to whether a ratchet strap was placed on the
last two bottom bales before the plaintiffs were injured.
Because Williams' tractor was too small to completely
load the top rows of hay, Lipsey called Hoggard to ask him to
bring a larger tractor to help finish loading the trailer.
When Hoggard arrived there were approximately eight of the
forty-two bales left to be loaded. Hoggard did not see any of
the bales leaning when he arrived. Before finishing the load,
Hoggard got off of the tractor to check the load; there were
several top bales in the middle to the front of the trailer
on the passenger side that were leaning. Because there were
two or three rows leaning, Hoggard was going to use his
tractor to straighten the leaning bales by pushing the bales
toward the center of the trailer.
and Williams were standing on the passenger side rear of the
trailer when they were struck by two bales of hay that fell
from the trailer. It is undisputed that at the time of the
accident, the trailer was stationary. The bales that fell
came from the passenger side rear of the trailer and were two
of the bales loaded by Hoggard. Franklin did not use a
tractor or load any of the hay before the accident, however,
Plaintiffs allege that Franklin orchestrated the loading of
the hay and it was done in the manner in which he directed.
It is undisputed that Franklin did not tell Hoggard or
Williams that they had to load the hay; Hoggard and Williams
could have refused to load the hay if they thought the
situation was unsafe; Franklin never told Hoggard or Williams
that they had to stay while the hay was being loaded; Hoggard
and Williams could have left the location if they thought the
situation was unsafe.
argue that Plaintiffs have failed to establish a prima facie
case of negligence. Defendants assert that they did not owe a
duty to the plaintiffs; did not breach a duty, if such duty
was owed; and, there is no proof that Defendants' actions
were a proximate cause of any injury.
Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has cautioned that summary
judgment should be invoked carefully so that no person will
be improperly deprived of a trial of disputed factual issues.
Inland Oil & Transport Co. v. United States, 600
F.2d 725 (8th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 991
(1979). The Eighth Circuit set out the burden of the parties
in connection with a summary judgment motion in Counts v.
M.K. Ferguson Co., 862 F.2d 1338 (8th Cir. 1988):
[T]he burden on the moving party for summary judgment is only
to demonstrate, i.e., [to] point out to the District
Court, that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on
a material fact. It is enough for the movant to bring up the
fact that the record does not contain such an issue and to
identify that part of the record which bears out his
assertion. Once this is done, his burden is discharged, and,
if the record in fact bears out the claim that no genuine
dispute exists on any material fact, it is then the
respondent's burden to set forth affirmative evidence,
specific facts, showing that there is a genuine dispute on
that issue. If the respondent fails to carry that burden,
summary judgment should be granted.
Id. at 1339 (quoting City of Mt. Pleasant v.
Associated Elec. Coop., 838 F.2d 268, 273-274 (8th Cir.
1988)) (citations omitted). Only disputes over facts that may
affect the outcome of the suit under governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
diversity case, the Court applies Arkansas substantive law.
Murray v. Greenwich Ins. Co., 533 F.3d 644,
648 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins,
304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)). “Under Arkansas law, in order
to prevail on a claim of negligence, the plaintiff must prove
that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, that the
defendant breached the duty, and that the breach was the
proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries.”
Fordyce Bank & Trust Co. v. Bean Timberland,
Inc., 251 S.W.3d 267, 270-71 (Ark. 2007). “The
burden of proof is always on the party asserting negligence,
as negligence is never presumed.” AutoZone v.
Horton, 192 S.W.3d 291, 295 (Ark. App. 2004). “The
issue of whether a duty [of care] exists is always a question
of law, not to be decided by a trier of fact.”
Crenshaw v. Arkansas Warehouse, Inc., 379 S.W.3d
515, 516 (Ark. App. 2010) (citation omitted). If no duty of
care is owed, summary judgment is appropriate. Smith v.
Hansen, 914 S.W.2d 285, 289 (1996).
allege that the Defendants' duty of care arose from the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and Ark. Code Ann.
§27-35-110. Additionally, Plaintiffs argue that because