Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lester v. SMC Transport, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

December 22, 2016

BRANDON LESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
SMC TRANSPORT, LLC, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad, Chief United States District Judge

         This diversity action, filed by plaintiff Brandon Lester ("Lester") against defendants SMC Transport, LLC ("SMC"), Israel Martinez, Jr. ("Martinez"), and Salinas Express, LLC ("Salinas Express"), arises out of a motor vehicle accident on Interstate 81 ("I-81"). The case is now before the court on SMC's motion for summary judgment and Martinez's motion for partial summary judgment. For the following reasons, the court will grant Martinez's motion and deny SMC's motion.

         Background

         The court previously discussed the facts of this case in its earlier memorandum opinion, Lester v. SMC Transport, LLC. No. 7:15CV00665, 2016 WL 4595696 (W.D. Va. Sept. 2, 2016). The following brief recitation of the relevant facts are presented in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588 (19, 86).

         This case arises out of a tractor-trailer accident occurring on southbound I-81 in the early morning hours of October 26, 2015. Roy Salinas ("Roy"), an agent of defendant Salinas Express, was delivering goods from Maryland to Texas when his tractor broke down near a rest stop at exit 158 in Botetourt County, Virginia. Edward Lozano ("Lozano"), another driver for Salinas Express, was several miles behind Roy, and picked up Roy while en route back to Texas. The two left the tractor Roy was driving at the rest stop (the "Salinas Tractor"). Upon arriving in Texas, Rudy Salinas, the owner of Salinas Express, instructed Lozano to return to Virginia to pick up the disabled Salinas Tractor. Roy joined Lozano, as did defendant Martinez and Art Gutierrez ("Gutierrez").

         In order to tow the Salinas Tractor back to Texas, Lozano, Roy, Gutierrez, and Martinez borrowed a tractor owned by defendant SMC. Sergio Cuellar, the owner of SMC, had purchased this particular tractor in July of 2015 and had made several mechanical repairs. The October ride to Virginia was the SMC Tractor's first long-haul drive.

         Before Martinez, Roy, Lozano, and Gutierrez left for Virginia, Cuellar met with them and showed them how to operate the towing equipment on the SMC Tractor. Prior to this interaction, Cuellar had not met Martinez. However, Cuellar was aware that Martinez, along with a number of other individuals, was interested in purchasing the SMC Tractor. During the entire trip, the SMC Tractor had SMC placards on it.

         Upon arriving at the Botetourt rest stop, the Salinas Tractor was hooked up to the SMC Tractor. Just before 6:00 a.m. on October 26, 2015, Martinez attempted to exit the rest stop by driving the SMC Tractor, which was towing the Salinas Tractor, north up the entrance ramp. This maneuver would have allowed Martinez to make a U-turn onto southbound I-81.

         Prior to attempting to make a U-turn onto southbound I-81, Martinez turned on the hazard lights for at least one of the two trucks and turned on the headlights for both trucks. Martinez had not attempted to place flares on the road, nor was he aware of whether the vehicle had flares that he could have utilized. Because of a hill just before the entrance ramp, Martinez could not see any oncoming traffic. While undertaking this maneuver, Martinez caused the SMC Tractor, towing the Salinas Tractor, to block at least the right lane of traffic. At this time, Lester was cresting the hill immediately before the entrance ramp. Lester was unable to stop or maneuver his vehicle in time to avoid striking the SMC Tractor. Subsequently, a second vehicle struck Lester's vehicle. After the accident, Martinez again attempted to exit onto southbound I-81 by making the same illegal U-turn. Several hours later, phone records indicate that Cuellar called Martinez.

         Procedural History

         Lester filed his amended complaint against Salinas Express, SMC, and Martinez on June 6, 2016, alleging nine claims of negligence, willful and wanton negligence giving rise to punitive damages, common-law vicarious liability, negligence per se, negligent entrustment and hiring, placard liability, and constructive fraud. On June 24, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment and defendant SMC filed a motion to dismiss several of Lester's claims. On June 27, 2016, Salinas also filed a motion to dismiss. The court granted in part and denied in part each motion, finding that Salinas Express was, as a matter of law, vicariously liable for the ordinary negligence of both Roy and Martinez and that Lester did not establish as a matter of law that SMC was vicariously liable for the ordinary negligence of Roy and Martinez. Additionally, the court dismissed Lester's claims of negligence per se, negligent entrustment and hiring, placard liability, constructive fraud, and vicarious liability against Salinas Express and SMC for the willful and wanton negligence of Roy and Martinez.

         In early November, defendant Martinez filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss Lester's claims of punitive damages against him. Defendant SMC also filed a motion for summary judgment, urging the court to find that SMC cannot, as a matter of law, be held vicariously liable for Roy and Martinez's actions. The motions have been fully briefed and argued, and they are ripe for decision.

         Standard of Review

         An award of summary 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists, the court must "view the facts and all justifiable inferences arising therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013). To withstand a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party must produce sufficient ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.