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Melton v. Stephens

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 22, 2014

JAMES K. MELTON, PERDUE FOODS, LLC f/k/a PERDUE FARMS INCORPORATED and FPP BUSINESS SERVICES, INC. f/k/a PERDUE BUSINESS SERVICES, INC., Appellants-Defendants,
v.
CHAD STEPHENS, Guardian of the Person and Estate of STACY S. STEPHENS and CHAD STEPHENS, Appellees-Plaintiffs. JAMES K. MELTON, PERDUE FOODS, LLC f/k/a PERDUE FARMS INCORPORATED and FPP BUSINESS SERVICES, INC. f/k/a PERDUE BUSINESS SERVICES, INC., Third Party Plaintiffs,
v.
KNOX COUNTY EMS, INC., Third Party Defendant

APPEAL FROM THE DAVIESS CIRCUIT COURT. The Honorable William E. Weikert, Special Judge. Cause No. 14C01-1106-CT-259.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: ROSS E. RUDOLPH, MAX E. FIESTER, KYLE R. RUDOLPH, Rudolph Fine Porter & Johnson, LLP, Evansville, Indiana; KEVIN C. SCHIFERL, LUCY R. DOLLENS, TIMOTHY L. KARNS, Frost Brown Todd, LLC, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: MATT PARMENTER, DAVID G. HATFIELD, MONICA C. GILMORE, Parmenter Hatfield & Gilmore, LLP, Vincennes, Indiana.

RILEY, Judge. NAJAM, J. and ROBB, J. concur.

OPINION

Page 534

RILEY, Judge.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Appellants-Defendants, James K. Melton (Melton), Perdue Foods, LLC f/k/a/ Perdue Farms Incorporated (Perdue), and FPP Business Services, Inc. f/k/a/ Perdue Business Services, Inc. (FPP Business) (collectively, Appellants), appeal the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions thereon determining that the substantive laws of the State of Illinois apply to a motor vehicle collision which occurred in the State of Illinois between residents of the State of Indiana.[1]

We affirm.

ISSUE

Appellants raise one issue on interlocutory appeal, which we restate as: Whether the trial court properly held that Illinois substantive law is applicable to a collision which occurred in Illinois between two Indiana residents after considering the choice of law factors delineated in

Page 535

Hubbard Manufacturing Co., Inc. v. Greeson, 515 N.E.2d 1071 (Ind. 1987).

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The underlying lawsuit arose out of a motor vehicle collision between Appellees-Plaintiffs, Stacy S. Stephens (Stacy) and Chad Stephens (Chad) (collectively, Stephens)[2] and Melton at the intersection of U.S. 50 and County Road 900 East in Lawrence County, Illinois. Stacy, a resident of the State of Indiana, was within the course and scope of her employment with Knox County EMS of Vincennes, Indiana, and Melton, also a resident of the State of Indiana, was within the course and scope of his employment with Perdue. Perdue, a Maryland corporation and registered to do business in Illinois, is a wholly owned subsidiary of FPP Business.

At the time of the accident, Melton had been employed by Perdue for approximately 14 years as a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver and had made deliveries to Perdue's poultry farms in Illinois at least once or twice a week for each of the past 14 years. Both individuals were making roundtrips that originated in Indiana and which were designed to return them to their respective places of employment when their vehicles collided in Illinois. Although Melton made regular deliveries from Perdue's feed mill in Washington, Indiana to its operations in Illinois, this was the first time Stacy had travelled to Bridgeport, Illinois at the direction of her employer to transport an Illinois patient to an appointment in Indiana.

Melton, in a semi tractor-trailer, travelled west on U.S. 50, which has a posted speed limit of 50 mph, at a speed of 58 mph. He was behind the 2006 Ford Fusion, driven by Stacy, when Stacy began to slow the car several hundred feet from the intersection in anticipation of making her turn. She had nearly completed her left turn onto County Road 900 East when Melton collided into her vehicle. Melton contends that he was attempting to pass Stacy at the time of impact and claims that Stacy failed to signal her turn as she approached the intersection. He was issued a citation for passing within 100 feet of an intersection, which was adjudicated in the Lawrence Circuit Court, Lawrence County, Illinois.

On June 9, 2011, the Stephens filed a Complaint against Melton and Perdue, alleging negligence by Melton in the operation of the tractor-trailer. Specifically, they contend that:

a) [Melton] drove his vehicle to the left side of the center of the roadway in an attempt to overtake and pass the vehicle being operated by [Stacy] when approaching within 100 feet of and while traversing the intersection of U.S. 50 and County Road 900 East in the County of Lawrence, State of Illinois in direct violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-706;
b) [Melton] drove his vehicle to the left of center of the roadway while attempting to overtake and pass the vehicle being driven by [Stacy] and in doing so interfered with the safe operation of the vehicle being operated by [Stacy] in direct violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-705;
c) [Melton] failed to reduce the speed of his vehicle so as to avoid colliding with the vehicle being driven by [Stacy] in direct violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-601;

Page 536

d) [Melton] drove his vehicle at a speed which was in excess of that which was reasonable and prudent under the conditions in direct violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-601;
e) [Melton] negligently failed to keep his vehicle under control at all times;
f) [Melton] negligently failed to keep a reasonable lookout for the vehicle being operated by [Stacy].

(Appellant's App. p. 45). In addition, the Stephens claimed that, as a result of Melton's negligence, Chad suffered a loss of consortium.

On February 23, 2012, the Stephens filed an Amended Complaint, reasserting the negligence claims and adding a new claim against Perdue, which specified:

a) [Perdue] negligently failed to train [Melton] in the proper use and operation of a commercial motor vehicle;
b) [Perdue] negligently failed to supervise [Melton] while operating the commercial motor vehicle they provided to him;
c) [Perdue] promulgated policies which encouraged its employees who operated motor vehicles to ...

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