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Davis v. Bryson

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

November 7, 2017

ROBERT DALE DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSHUA DAVID BRYSON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge.

         This case is about a car wreck involving a pickup truck and an ambulance. Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss filed by defendants Joshua Bryson, Gore Volunteer Fire Company, and Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. ECF Nos. 3, 21.[1] The court addressed the motion to dismiss at a hearing on October 18, 2017. For the reasons below, the motion will be denied as it relates to the negligence and gross negligence claims and granted as regards the negligent training and malicious prosecution claims.

         I.

         The complaint alleges the following facts. On June 16, 2015, Plaintiff Robert Davis drove his truck westbound on Route 50 in Frederick County, Virginia. Davis was in the right lane as he approached Gore Volunteer Fire Company's station, which is located on the right side of the highway. Bryson was driving an ambulance as he exited the Fire Company's garage and moved toward Route 50. Bryson, a volunteer with the Fire Company, was accompanied by two others in the ambulance, named as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 in the complaint. The ambulance's lights and siren were not activated as it neared the highway.

         As Davis drove closer to the fire station, Bryson "suddenly, without warning, and at the last moment; accelerated directly into [Davis'] lane of travel." Compl. ¶ 13. "With no time to react, [Davis] slammed on the brakes in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid hitting the ambulance." Compl. ¶ 14. Davis' vehicle struck the left side of the ambulance, injuring Davis and damaging his pickup. According to the complaint, Bryson could see Davis approaching for at least 500 feet prior to the accident. One of several witnesses stated that the wreck "happened so fast [Davis'] truck had nowhere to go." Compl. ¶ 20.

         The complaint further alleges that Bryson was not responding to a fire emergency at the time of the accident. The complaint, however, leaves open the possibility that Bryson was responding to a medical emergency, rather than a fire emergency. See Compl. ¶ 16. Nevertheless, Davis unequivocally alleges that Bryson's ambulance did not have its lights or siren activated at any time prior to impact.

         A moment after the wreck, a Fire Company Captain or Lieutenant (John Doe 3), came out of the fire station yelling, "Turn the lights on! Turn the lights on!" Compl. ¶ 25. Bryson complied and activated the ambulance's warning signals. A Virginia State Police officer arrived at the scene to investigate the wreck and asked Bryson, "You had your lights on, didn't you?, " to which Bryson responded, "Yeah." Compl. ¶ 28. As Davis puts it, Bryson recognized he was at fault, so he "maliciously lied to the State Police in a feeble attempt to escape blame." Compl. ¶ 29. Based on Bryson's false statement, the officer charged Davis with reckless driving in violation of Virginia Code § 46.2-853.

         Davis proceeded to trial in Frederick County District Court on the reckless driving charge. During the trial, Bryson testified that the ambulance had its lights and siren on before entering the road. The Frederick County District Court acquitted Davis of reckless driving but found him guilty of improper driving in violation of Virginia Code § 46.2-869. Davis appealed for de novo review before the Frederick County Circuit Court. At that trial, Bryson repeated his testimony that the ambulance's lights and siren were on prior to the accident. Other witnesses, however, offered testimony contradictory to Bryson's. The Frederick County Circuit Court found Davis not guilty of improper driving, leaving Davis with no conviction related to the accident.

         On June 13, 2017, Davis filed this lawsuit. He names Bryson, Gore Volunteer Fire Company (the "Fire Company"), the Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (the "Fire & Rescue Association"), John Does 1-3, and Hartford Casualty Insurance Company as defendants. The complaint includes seven counts:

1. Gross Negligence - Bryson
2. Negligence - Bryson
3. Negligent Training - the Fire Company and the Fire & Rescue Association
4. Gross Negligence (respondeat superior) - the Fire Company
5. Negligence (respondeat superior) - the Fire Company
6. Malicious Prosecution - Bryson, Does 1-3, and the Fire Company
7. Malicious Prosecution (respondeat superior) - the Fire Company

         Bryson, the Fire Company, and the Fire & Rescue Association move to dismiss on grounds of sovereign immunity and failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule ...


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