United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division
JOYCE G. SLOAN, Plaintiff,
JULIE AYERS NORMAN, Defendant.
Jackson L. Kiser Senior United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant Julie Ayers
Norman's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 8]. The law
and issues were fully briefed by the parties, and I heard
oral arguments on the motion on May 2. Following that
hearing, I informed the parties that the Motion would be
denied. (Order, May 3, 2019 [ECF No. 19].) This Memorandum
Opinion serves to supplement that ruling.
STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL
ruling on a Motion for Summary Judgment, the facts are taken
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
Accordingly, the facts are recounted in the light most
favorable to Plaintiff Joyce Sloan (“Plaintiff”).
approximately 5:30 p.m. on June 9, 2017, Plaintiff was
driving down Highway 220 Business near Ridgeway, Virginia.
Traffic was heavy, and she states she was in the left lane
after passing a tractor trailer. While driving, Plaintiff was
struck by something on the right rear quarter panel of her
car, which caused the rear of her car to be forced to the
left. As a result, her car veered to the right, onto the
gravel shoulder on the side of the road. Although she does
not recall what happened next, the evidence shows that, in
attempting to regain control of her automobile, she returned
to the road and struck the passenger side of Defendant Julie
Norman's (“Defendant”) car as she traveled in
the left lane of traffic. Both cars flipped, Plaintiff lost
consciousness, and both cars came to rest in the median.
(See generally Dep. of Joyce Sloan, Feb. 26, 2019
[ECF No. 9-1].)
filed suit against Defendant in the Circuit Court for Henry
County on or about June 27, 2018. [ECF No. 1-1.] The case was
removed to this Court on August 7, 2018 [ECF No. 1.]
Defendant filed her Motion for Summary Judgment on April 1
[ECF No. 8], Plaintiff responded [ECF No. 13], and Defendant
replied [ECF No. 16]. I heard oral argument on the motion on
May 2, and entered an Order denying the motion on May 3 [ECF
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine dispute of
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); George & Co. LLC
v. Imagination Entm't Ltd., 575 F.3d 383, 392 (4th
Cir. 2009). A genuine dispute of material fact exists
“[w]here the record taken as a whole could…lead
a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving
party.” Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586
(2009) (internal quotation marks and citing reference
omitted); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute cannot be created
where there is only a scintilla of evidence favoring the
nonmovant; rather, the Court must look to the quantum of
proof applicable to the claim to determine whether a genuine
dispute exists. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380
(2007); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50, 254. Not every
factual dispute will defeat a summary judgment motion; there
must be a genuine dispute over a material
fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. A fact is
material where it might affect the outcome of the case in
light of the controlling law. Id. at 248. On a
motion for summary judgment, the facts are taken in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party insofar as there is a
genuine dispute about those facts. Scott, 550 U.S.
at 380. At this stage, however, the Court's role is not
to weigh the evidence, but simply to determine whether a
genuine dispute exists making it appropriate for the case to
proceed to trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
is little that can be done, at this stage, to square the
wildly different facts presented by the parties. Plaintiff
contends she was in front of Defendant on the highway;
Defendant claims she was in front of Plaintiff. Plaintiff
contends Defendant struck her car; Defendant claims Plaintiff
struck hers. It is the jury's role to sort out those
conundrums. At this stage, the only question is whether a
jury is needed to decide which factual scenario is correct. I
conclude that this case will require a jury's steady
the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, she
contends she was driving down the highway when she was struck
by something: she is not sure what hit her car. Nevertheless,
evidence before the Court suggests that no other car was near
her, save for Defendants. She was struck by something strong
enough to alter her course of travel. She contends she was
struck in the right rear of her car, which caused her car to
veer from the left lane, across the right lane of travel, and
onto the shoulder. While attempting to correct her course,
she veered back into the lanes of travel and struck
Carol Wotring's most recent declaration supports, to some
degree, Plaintiff's proffered version of events. Ms.
Wotring stated, under oath, that Plaintiff's white Jeep
Cherokee was in front of Defendant's Saturn Outlook.
(Decl. of Carol Wotring ¶ 4, April 30, 2019 [ECF No.
17-1].) This statement is directly at odds with
Defendant's testimony, which placed Defendant in
front of Plaintiff on the road prior to the
accident. (See Dep. of Julie Norman 8:10-19, Feb.
26, 2019 [ECF No. 9-2].)
only issue to be resolved at this stage, then, is whether
there is sufficient evidence to submit to a jury the question
of whether it was Defendant who struck Plaintiff's
automobile and caused the accident. Plaintiff admits that she
did not see who or what hit her, but she does testify that
Defendant's vehicle was not in front of her. (Sloan Dep.
25:1-2.) Plaintiff's evidence, taken as true at this
stage, would establish that Defendant must have been beside
or behind her; Ms. Wotring's testimony confirms this.
Because Plaintiff eventually struck Defendant's car when
she returned to the roadway, clearly Defendant was close to
Plaintiff at the time Plaintiff was hit. That evidence, taken
as true, creates a question of fact as to whether Defendant
was the “who or what” that struck Plaintiff, and
therefore summary judgment is not warranted. See Preston
v. Morton, No. 4:09cv00030, 2010 WL 2036112, at *2 (W.D.
Va. May 24, 2010) (“Whether the named defendants
actually committed the acts complained of is the sine qua
non of virtually all civil actions. Simply
because Defendants disagree with Plaintiff's evidence
does not give me the right to take the issue of fact away
from the trier of fact.”).