United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
O. Hickey, United States District Judge.
the Court is Marqchello Jordan's
(“Plaintiff”) Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment. (ECF No. 69). Separate Defendant Central Transport,
LLC, (“Central Transport”) has filed a response
in opposition. (ECF No. 76). Plaintiff has filed a reply.
(ECF No. 79).
pending before the Court is Central Transport's Motion
for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 81). Plaintiff has filed a
response in opposition. (ECF No. 91). Central Transport has
filed a reply. (ECF No. 96).
Court finds these matters fully briefed and ripe for
consideration. For the reasons set out below, Central
Transport's motion is granted. Accordingly,
Plaintiff's motion is denied, and his claims against
Central Transport are dismissed with prejudice.
a negligence action arising out of a May 6, 2015, automobile
accident involving three tractor-trailers on Interstate 30.
(ECF No. 1, p. 3). Plaintiff has alleged claims of ordinary
negligence against both Separate Defendant Elmer Enrique
Ventura (“Ventura”) and Separate Defendant
Central Transport under theories of respondeat
superior and agency. Id. at 5. Further,
Plaintiff has alleged negligent hiring, negligent training,
negligent supervision, and negligent retention claims against
Separate Defendant Central Transport. Id. at 6-8.
Transport is an international long-haul trucking company with
customer service centers and facilities in forty-five states
and in Canada. Id. at 3. Ventura is a truck driver
who was operating under an “Independent Contractor
Agreement” for Central Transport at the time of the
accident giving rise to this action. Under the Independent
Contractor Agreement, Ventura was responsible for providing
drivers and trucks to pull Central Transport trailers and
equipment to specified destinations.
facts surrounding the accident do not appear to be in
dispute. At approximately 7:00 a.m. on May 6, 2015, Ventura
was dispatched to assist another Central Transport
tractor-trailer which had broken down on the shoulder of the
eastbound lane of Interstate 30 near Prescott, Arkansas.
Ventura approached the incapacitated tractor-trailer in the
left lane of Interstate 30. As Ventura neared the broken-down
rig, he attempted to merge into the right lane. However,
Ventura allegedly failed to maintain a proper lookout when he
attempted to merge into the right lane. Plaintiff, who was
driving a third tractor-trailer in the right lane, was
sandwiched between Ventura and the broken-down
tractor-trailer and sustained injuries as a result of the
parties contest whether Ventura's alleged negligence can
be imputed to Central Transport. Consequently, on November 6,
2018, Plaintiff filed his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
on vicarious liability, arguing that the undisputed facts
show Ventura was a Central Transport employee acting within
the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. On
December 20, 2018, Central Transport filed its Motion for
Summary Judgment, arguing that it is entitled to summary
judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims against it because
Ventura was an independent contractor and not an employee.
judgment is appropriate 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.” Hess v.
Union Pac. R.R. Co., 898 F.3d 852, 856 (8th Cir. 2018)
(citation omitted). Summary judgment is a “threshold
inquiry of . . . 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 reasonably may be resolved in favor of either
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A fact is material only when its
resolution affects the outcome of the case. Id. at
248. A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it
could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either
party. Id. at 252.
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must
consider all the evidence and all reasonable inferences that
arise from the evidence in a light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Nitsche v. CEO of Osage Valley Elec.
Co-Op, 446 F.3d 841, 845 (8th Cir. 2006). The moving
party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine
issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. See Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank, 92
F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The nonmoving party must then
demonstrate the existence of specific facts in the record
that create a genuine issue for trial. Krenik v. Cnty. of
LeSueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995). However, a
party opposing a properly supported summary judgment motion
“may not rest upon mere allegations or denials . . .
but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 256. When, as here, cross-motions for summary judgment are
filed, each motion should be reviewed in its own right, with
each side “entitled to the benefit of all inferences
favorable to them which might reasonably be drawn from the
record.” Wermager v. Cormorant Twp. Bd., 716
F.2d 1211, 1214 (8th Cir. 1983).
Court will first address whether Central Transport is
vicariously liable for Ventura's alleged negligence. Then
the Court will turn to Plaintiff's claims against Central
Transport argues that it cannot be held liable for
Ventura's alleged negligence because Ventura was acting
as an independent contractor at the time Plaintiff was
injured. Plaintiff, however, contends that the undisputed
facts show that Central Transport exercised control over
Ventura, and thus, Ventura was a Central Transport employee.
Plaintiff also argues that Ventura was a Central Transport
employee as a matter of law under the special employee
doctrine. If Central Transport was Ventura's employer at
the time of Plaintiff's injury, any liability for
Ventura's alleged negligence could be imputed to Central
Transport. Stoltze v. Ark. Valley Elec. Coop Corp.,
127 S.W.3d 466, 470 (Ark. 2003). Consequently, the Court must
decide whether Ventura was a Central Transport employee or an
independent contractor. If Ventura was an independent
contractor, the Court must further address whether any of the
exceptions to independent contractor liability apply in this
Independent Contractor Relationship
a diversity action governed by Arkansas state substantive
law. Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 645 (1938).
Under Arkansas law, in order to prevail on a claim of
negligence, the plaintiff must prove the following: (1) that
the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff; (2) that the
defendant breached that duty; and (3) that the breach was the
proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries.
Branscomb v. Freeman, 200 S.W.3d 411, 416 (Ark.
2004). The general rule in Arkansas is that an employer is
not responsible for the negligence of its contractor.
Stoltze, 127 S.W.3d at 470. When the employer,
however, goes beyond certain limits in directing,
supervising, or controlling the performance of the
contractor's work, the relationship changes to that of
employer-employee, and the employer is liable for the
employee's negligence. Draper v. ConAgra Foods,
Inc., 212 S.W.3d 61, 67 (Ark. 2005). The nature of an
agency relationship is ordinarily a question of fact to be
determined by a jury; however, where the facts are undisputed
and only one reasonable inference can be drawn from them, the
nature of an agency relationship becomes a matter of law for
the court to determine. Id.
Transport argues that it cannot be held liable because
Ventura was an independent contractor hired by Central
Transport and not a Central Transport employee. No. fixed
formula exists under Arkansas law for determining whether a
person is an employee or an independent contractor; thus, the
determination must be made on the particular facts of each
case. Ark. Transit Homes, Inc. V. Aetna Life &
Cas., 16 S.W.3d 545, 547 (2000). An independent
contractor is “one who contracts to do a job according
to his own method and without being subject to the control of
the other party, except as to the result of the work.”
Kistner v. Cupples, 372 S.W.3d 339, 343 (Ark. 2010).
A written contract creates the relation of employer and
independent contractor; however, such relation may be
destroyed by conduct of the employer through direction of
means and methods of producing physical results. ConAgra
Foods, Inc. v. Draper, 276 S.W.3d 244, 249 (2008).
Arkansas Supreme Court has adopted the Restatement (Second)
of Agency § 220(2) (1958), which outlines several
factors to consider when determining whether an