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Boyle v. Infrasource Construction, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

December 3, 2014

MARK BOYLE and TERESA BOYLE, Plaintiffs,
v.
INFRASOURCE CONSTRUCTION, LLC, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

RUDY LOZANO, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on: (1) Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, filed by Defendants, InfraSource Construction, LLC f/k/a InfraSource Underground Construction, LLC and Peter L. Anthony, on June 30, 2014 (DE #19); and (2) Defendants' Motion to Strike, filed by Defendants, InfraSource Construction, LLC f/k/a InfraSource Underground Construction, LLC and Peter L. Anthony, on August 12, 2014 (DE #24). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (DE #19) is GRANTED. The Clerk is hereby ORDERED to DISMISS Count III of the complaint for punitive damages WITH PREJUDICE. The remaining claims in Plaintiffs' Complaint REMAIN PENDING. Additionally, Defendants' Motion to Strike (DE #24) is GRANTED. The Clerk is ORDERED to STRIKE the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's driving record for Anthony (attached to Plaintiffs' Appendix of Exhibits in Opposition to Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as DE #23-4) from the record.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, Mark and Teresa Boyle, filed a complaint on July 23, 2013 (DE #1). They allege Peter L. Anthony ("Anthony") was en employee of Quanta Services, Inc. (Compl., DE #1, ¶ 4.) While operating a pickup truck leased to InfraSource Construction, LLC ("InfraSource"), Plaintiffs allege Anthony ignored, disregarded or otherwise failed to completely obey a stop sign controlling the intersection at Rose Road and Old Lincoln Highway in Plymouth, Marshall County, Indiana, and collided with Teresa Boyle's vehicle, causing her significant injuries. ( Id., ¶¶ 17-19.)

Defendants, InfraSource Construction, LLC f/k/a InfraSource Underground Construction, LLC (hereinafter "InfraSource") and Peter L. Anthony, filed the instant Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on June 30, 2014. Defendants contend summary judgment is warranted on Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages in Count III because Plaintiffs have failed to provide evidence of grossly negligent conduct by Anthony that was not the result of a mistake, mere negligence, or other human failing. (DE #19, p. 1.) Plaintiffs filed a Brief in Opposition to the Motion for Partial Summary Judgement on July 29, 2014 (DE #22). Defendants then filed a Reply Brief on August 12, 2014 (DE #25). Consequently, this motion is fully briefed and ready for adjudication.

The Defendants also filed a Motion to Strike the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's driving record for Anthony attached to Plaintiffs' Appendix of Exhibits in Opposition to Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (DE #23-4), arguing that this is impermissible character evidence, which is barred by Rule 404(b). (DE #24).

Undisputed Facts

On August 5, 2011, Anthony arrived at InfraSource's Marshall County worksite in his assigned company vehicle. (Anthony Dep., pp. 20, 23, 28.) He later realized that his work required chestwaders that he left in his trailer, causing him to drive back to retrieve them. ( Id., p. 23.) Anthony's assigned truck was holding the tools necessary for other laborers to conduct their work, so Anthony received permission from his supervisor to use a different company-owned 2011 Ford F-250 pickup truck to leave and retrieve his chest-waders. ( Id., pp. 28-29.)

At around 7:20 a.m., Anthony was traveling northbound on Rose Road near the intersection with Lincoln Highway when he approached a stop sign. (Compl. ¶ 17.) At the same time, Teresa Boyle was operating a 2008 Chrysler Town & Country minivan westbound on the two-lane Lincoln Highway, also approaching the intersection. ( Id., ¶ 16.) According to Anthony, as he approached Lincoln Highway, he "stopped at the stop sign" and as a result of a tree impeding his view, he moved forward a few additional feet so he could see the road before coming to a second complete stop. (Anthony Dep., p. 29.) Then, at some point while they were both moving through the intersection, there was a collision that brought both vehicles to a complete stop. (Compl. ¶ 19.)

In contrast, according to Boyle, she watched Anthony and another truck "roll" the stop sign. (Boyle Dep., pp. 54, 58-9.) The first truck turned east on Lincoln Highway without incident, but the second truck, Anthony's vehicle, proceeded directly into her lane of travel and collided with her minivan. ( Id. ) Boyle claims Anthony was merely "slowing down approaching the intersection, and did not stop." (Boyle Dep., p. 58.) There is deposition testimony from Marshall County sheriff's officer Nicholas Laffoon, who investigated the incident, that Anthony's view of plaintiff's vehicle was not impeded by any environmental circumstances. (Laffoon Dep., pp. 38-39.) Anthony testified he was probably driving about twenty miles an hour across the road when he went through the intersection. (Anthony Dep., p. 74.)

InfraSource has certain company procedures with which employees must comply in order to operate a company-owned vehicle. (Samonie Dep., pp. 7, 15; DE #21-3, InfraSource's Disqualification and Probation Guidelines.) For example, drivers must notify InfraSource of convictions, and there are periods of disqualification and penalties for employees convicted of serious traffic offenses. (DE #21-3.) InfraSource also maintains motor vehicle records for employees, tracking citations and convictions for traffic-related offenses. (Samonie Dep., pp. 5, 7.) InfraSource conducts annual reviews, and if an employee reports a serious traffic violation during these reviews, their driving privileges for company-owned vehicles are disqualified for a period of one year and they are placed on probation. (DE #21-3.)

DISCUSSION

The standards that generally govern summary judgment motions are familiar. Pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper only if it is demonstrated 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 Nebraska v. Wyoming, 507 U.S. 584, 590 (1993); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In other words, the record must reveal that no reasonable jury could find for the nonmovant. Karazanos v. Navistar Int'l Transp. Corp., 948 F.2d 332, 335 (7th Cir. 1991); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, a court must view all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; NUCOR Corp. v. Aceros Y Maquilas De Occidente, 28 F.3d 572, 583 (7th Cir. 1994).

The burden is upon the movant to identify those portions of, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, " if any, that the movant believes, "demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the movant has met this burden, the nonmovant may not rest upon mere allegations, but must set forth specific fact showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Becker v. Tenenbaum-Hill Assocs., Inc., 914 F.2d 107, 110 (7th Cir. 1990); Schroeder v. Lufthansa German Airlines, 875 F.2d 613, 620 (7th Cir. 1989). "Whether a fact is material depends on the substantive law underlying a particular claim and only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the ...


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