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Sedam v. 2JR Pizza Enterprises, LLC

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 27, 2016

Dale Sedam, Kim Sedam, and Bryan Norris, as co-personal representatives of the Estate of David C. Hamblin, deceased, Appellants-Plaintiffs,
v.
2JR Pizza Enterprises, LLC doing business as Pizza Hut #013413, Amanda Parker, individually and as an employee of 2JR Pizza Enterprises, LLC, and Ralph Bliton, Appellees-Defendants

         Appeal from the Jefferson Circuit Court The Honorable Darrell M. Auxier, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 39C01-1209-CT-890

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS Scott A. Faultless Craig Kelley & Faultless, LLC Indianapolis, Indiana Merritt K. Alcorn Alcorn Sage Schwartz & Magrath, LLP Madison, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES Tricia Kirkby Hofmann Rebecca L. Didat Waters Tyler Hofmann & Scott, LLC New Albany, Indiana

          Mathias, Judge.

         [¶1] David C. Hamblin ("Hamblin") was killed in a car accident involving Ralph Bliton ("Bliton") and Amanda Parker ("Parker"), who was employed as a Pizza Hut delivery driver. Dale Sedam, Kim Sedam, and Bryan Norris, the co-personal representatives of Hamblin's Estate (collectively "the Estate"), filed a complaint against Parker and her employer, Pizza Hut, alleging that Parker, acting in the course and scope of her employment with Pizza Hut, negligently operated her vehicle and caused the accident that resulted in Hamblin's death.

         [¶2] The Estate also alleged Pizza Hut negligently hired, trained, supervised, and retained Parker. Pizza Hut filed a motion for summary judgment on that claim, and the Jefferson Circuit Court granted partial summary judgment in Pizza Hut's favor. The Estate appeals and argues that the trial court erred when it concluded that the Estate could only proceed with its negligence claim against Pizza Hut under a theory of respondeat superior in light of Pizza Hut's admission that Parker was acting with the scope of her employment.

         [¶3] Concluding that an employer's admission that its employee committed the alleged negligent act within the course and scope of her employment does not preclude an action for negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention, we reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶4] At approximately 8:57 p.m. on August 24, 2012, Parker, who was employed by Pizza Hut as a delivery driver, was operating her vehicle in the northbound lane of State Road 62 in Jefferson County, Indiana. Hamblin was operating a scooter in the same lane of travel. Parker collided with the rear of Hamblin's scooter, and Hamblin fell onto the roadway as a result of the impact. Tragically, a vehicle operated by Bliton ran over Hamblin. On September 1, 2012, Hamblin died from severe injuries he sustained in the accident.

         [¶5] Thereafter, the Estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Parker, Pizza Hut, and Bliton (collectively "the Appellees"). The Estate later amended its complaint and alleged that Pizza Hut negligently hired, trained, supervised, and retained Parker ("the negligent hiring claim").

         [¶6] On March 9, 2015, Pizza Hut and Parker filed a motion for partial summary judgment. They argued that the trial court should enter judgment in their favor on the negligent hiring claim because Pizza Hut had admitted that Parker was acting within the scope and course of her employment when the accident occurred, and therefore, Pizza Hut could only be held liable for Parker's alleged negligence under a theory of respondeat superior.

         [¶7] After a hearing, the trial court entered partial summary judgment in favor of Pizza Hut on the Estate's negligent hiring claim. On January 4, 2016, the trial court concluded that its order granting partial summary judgment was final and appealable pursuant to Trial Rule 54 (B). The Estate now appeals.

         Standard of Review

         [¶8] Pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 56(C), "[s]ummary judgment is appropriate only where the designated evidence shows there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Missler v. State Farm Ins. Co., 41 N.E.3d 297, 301 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015). A genuine issue of material fact exists where facts concerning an issue that would dispose of the litigation are in dispute or where the undisputed material facts are capable of supporting conflicting inferences on such an issue. Devereux v. Love, 30 N.E.3d 754, 762 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015), trans. denied. "If the material facts are not in dispute, our ...


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