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Jones v. Duane Livingston Trucking, Inc.

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

June 27, 2017

JONATHAN JONES and CHRISTOPHER MAXWELL PLAINTIFFS
v.
DUANE LIVINGSTON TRUCKING, INC. DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Susan O. Hickey United States District Judge

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant. ECF No. 16. Plaintiffs have responded. ECF. No. 23. The Court finds that this matter is ripe for the Court's consideration.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs were part of a group of hunters who were hunting wild hogs at approximately 1:00 a.m. as part of a hog hunting competition. As the hunt was coming to an end, the hunters attempted to round up their hunting dogs near a two-lane road and load them into their crates. The hunters were yelling at the dogs to come to them. Plaintiff Jonathan Jones was the owner of a dog named Tyrone, and Plaintiff Christopher Maxwell was the owner of a dog named Venom. The dogs were on the opposite side of the road when the hunters realized that a tractor-trailer was traveling on the road. The driver of the tractor-trailer, Billy Young, was an employee of Defendant Duane Livingston Trucking, Inc., and he had just departed an animal food manufacturing facility.

         The hunters first spotted the tractor-trailer when it was approximately a half mile away. As the tractor-trailer approached, the hunters flashed their coon lights and spotlights in an attempt to get the tractor-trailer to stop because the dogs were near the road. Plaintiff Maxwell testified that “[the dogs] were all over and everything.” ECF No. 16-1, p. 8, line 13. He further testified that “[w]e were hollering and dogs were coming back to us, and were trying to get 'em caught and flash [the driver] and everything at the same time.” ECF No. 16-1, p. 8, lines 13-16. Two dogs crossed the road, followed by Tyrone and Venom. Both Tyrone and Venom were struck by the tractor-trailer as they crossed the road.

         The speed limit on the road is 55 miles per hour. The parties disagree as to exactly how fast the tractor-trailer was traveling when it hit the dogs. Billy Young testified that he was traveling approximately 45 miles per hour; however, Plaintiffs theorize that Young was traveling at an “excessive rate of speed” ECF No. 23-2, p. 19, lines 10-17. There were no streetlights near the road and it was dark at the time of the incident. Plaintiff Jones testified that it was drizzling or sprinkling rain at the time of the incident. ECF No. 16-2, p. 4, line 8. Young testified that he saw something black in the road approximately twelve to fifteen feet before he hit the dogs. Young further testified that he “saw lights later on after [he] got down the road . . . saw somebody come out in the road with a light bar on.” ECF No. 23-3, p. 4, lines 7-8. Young thought this could have been hunters that were drinking and had guns, so he did not stop. ECF No. 23-3, p. 4, lines 9-10; ECF No. 23-3, p. 5, lines 10-15.

         Some minutes later, a second truck approached the scene and stopped upon being flagged down by the hunters. The driver of the second truck was Ray Squires. Squires testified that he saw lights in the road and thought some people were having vehicle problems. ECF No. 23-4, p. 2, lines 21-22. After he stopped, Plaintiff Jones climbed on the side of Squires' truck and demanded that Squires get on his radio and call the driver of the first truck. Squires, however, had no way of contacting Young. Squires testified that he could see two dead animals in the road, and that he accidentally stopped his truck on one of them.

         After the encounter with Squires, Plaintiffs dragged what was left of the dogs to the ditch, left them there, slept for a couple of hours, and then returned to hunting with other dogs. Plaintiff Maxwell testified that he has trouble sleeping and has lost weight as a result of the incident. Plaintiff Jones testified that he cannot get the scene of the incident out of his mind.

         Under a theory of vicarious liability, Plaintiffs allege claims of negligence, destruction of property, [1] and outrage. Plaintiffs also seek punitive damages against Defendant. Plaintiffs jointly pray for judgment against Defendant in the amount of $3, 015, 000.00. Defendant asserts that it is entitled to summary judgment on all Plaintiffs' claims.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that when a party moves for summary judgment:

The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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); Krenik v. Cnty. of LeSueur, 47 F.3d 953 (8th Cir. 1995). The Supreme Court has issued the following guidelines for trial courts to determine whether this standard has been satisfied:

The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for trial-whether, in other words, there are genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they ...

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