United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
WESLEY T. NEAL, Plaintiff,
WAYNE CURTIS PARADISE and UFP TRANSPORTATION INC., Defendants.
W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge
matter is before the court on defendant UFP Transportation
Inc.’s (“UFP Transportation”) motion for
summary judgment. (DE 18). The motion has been fully briefed,
and, in this posture, the issues raised are ripe for ruling.
For the reasons that follow, defendant’s motion for
summary judgment is granted.
February 8, 2013, plaintiff and defendant Wayne Curtis
Paradise (“Paradise”), each working as a
commercial truck driver, were involved in a traffic accident
in Pender County, North Carolina. Defendant UFP
Transportation owned the truck that Paradise was driving but
contends that, at all times, Paradise was not its employee.
UFP Transportation maintains that Paradise’s employer
was non-party UPF Mid-Atlantic, which is a separate corporate
initiated this action October 27, 2015, in the General Court
of Justice Superior Court Division for Robeson County, North
Carolina, seeking compensatory and punitive damages from both
defendants arising out of Paradise’s alleged
negligence, which plaintiff claims “is imputed to
defendant UFP Transportation . . .” (Compl. ¶ 10,
DE 1-1, at 7). Thereafter, defendants removed the case to
this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.
a period of discovery, UFP Transportation filed the instant
motion October 3, 2016, seeking summary judgment on the
ground that, where Paradise was not UFP
Transportation’s employee, UFP Transportation is not
liable for Paradise’s negligence. In support of the
motion, UFP Transportation relies on Paradise’s
statements at deposition to the effect that UFP Mid-Atlantic
was, in fact, his employer. Additionally, UFP Transportation
relies on the affidavit of Larry Ogg (“Ogg”),
director of logistics for UFP Transportation, in which Ogg
states that “UFP Mid-Atlantic, LLC is a separate and
independent corporate entity from UFP Transportation,
Inc.” (Ogg Aff. ¶ 7, DE 20-2, 2). Additionally,
Ogg states that, UFP Transportation never employed Paradise
and UFP Mid-Atlantic was Paradise’s employer when the
accident occurred. (Id. ¶¶ 4 & 6).
opposes the motion arguing that, under North Carolina law,
proof of ownership of a motor vehicle constitutes prima facie
evidence that the owner may be held responsible for a
driver’s negligence. Additionally, plaintiff directs
the court’s attention to defendants’ answer in
which UFP Transportation admits that it owned the truck
Paradise was driving at the time of the accident.
(Defs.’ Answer ¶ 6, DE 5, 2) Accordingly,
plaintiff maintains he is entitled to submit to a jury the
question whether UFP Transportation was Paradise’s
employer at the relevant time.
facts viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff may be
summarized as follows. On February 8, 2013, plaintiff and
defendant Paradise each worked as a commercial truck driver.
At approximately 1:06 P.M., plaintiff was driving a truck
southward along US 421. At the same time, Paradise was
driving east along NC 53 in a truck owned by UFP
Transportation. In Pender County, North Carolina, US 421 and
NC 53 intersect, and, at that intersection, drivers traveling
along NC 53 encounter stop signs, but drivers traveling along
US 421 do not. Paradise brought his truck to a stop at the
intersection, and, shortly thereafter, he attempted to cross
the intersection to continue traveling east along NC 53. As
Paradise’s truck was crossing the intersection,
plaintiff approached in his truck at a high rate of speed and
the two trucks collided. Before plaintiff’s truck came
to a stop, it rolled over on its side and stuck a telephone
pole. As a result of the crash, plaintiff suffered severe
injuries. This action followed.
Standard of Review
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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S.
242, 247 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the
initial burden of coming forward and demonstrating the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the
movant has met its burden, the non-movant then affirmatively
must demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact requiring
trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). There is no issue for
trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the
non-movant for a jury to return a verdict for that party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court construes
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant party
and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-movant’s
favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A party seeking
summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of the [record] which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323 (1986). Once the movant has met its burden, the
non-movant must then “set ...