United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
L. HOWELL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
(# 84) filed by Defendant Howard Baer, Inc. (“Defendant
Baer”). The issues have been fully briefed, and the
matter is now ripe for ruling. For the reasons addressed
below, Defendant Baer's Motion for Summary Judgment is
20, 2015, Plaintiff filed her Complaint (# 1-1) in the North
Carolina General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division of
Buncombe County, alleging negligence by Defendant Keith
Lovell Campbell (“Defendant Campbell”), and
further alleging that Defendant Baer was jointly and
severally liable as Defendant Campbell's employer at the
time of the collision.
August 24, 2015, Defendants removed this case to the United
States District Court for the Western District of North
Carolina, Asheville Division. There is complete diversity of
citizenship between Plaintiff and Defendants. The amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of costs and
August 26, 2015, Defendants filed their Answer (# 3), in
which they admitted that the April 1, 2013 accident occurred,
Defendant Campbell was the operator of Defendant Baer's
truck that struck Plaintiff, and Defendant Campbell was an
employee of Defendant Baer who was acting in the course and
scope of his employment. Defendants denied that Defendant
Campbell was negligent, and they affirmatively alleged
September 15, 2015, the parties consented to jurisdiction by
the undersigned U.S. Magistrate Judge. After obtaining leave
of court, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (# 41) on
November 8, 2016, in which she added a claim that Defendant
Campbell was incompetent as a truck driver, Defendant
Campbell's incompetence was the proximate cause of
Plaintiff's injury, Defendant Baer knew or should have
known that Defendant Campbell was incompetent, and Defendant
Baer committed negligence in the hiring, training, and
retention of Defendant Campbell as a truck driver.
their November 17, 2016, Answer (# 45), Defendants denied
that Defendant Campbell was negligent in the operation of a
motor vehicle, denied that Defendant Campbell was
incompetent, denied that Plaintiff was injured by Defendant
Campbell's negligence or incompetence, denied that
Defendant Baer was negligent in the hiring, training, or
retention of defendant Campbell, and affirmatively asserted
the defenses of sudden emergency and Plaintiff's
contributory negligence in causing any injury.
24, 2017, Plaintiff filed her Second Amended Complaint (#
75), in which she added the following allegations: Defendant
Baer was negligent as owner by entrusting possession and
operation of its vehicle to Defendant Campbell when Defendant
Baer knew or should have known that Defendant Campbell was
incompetent in the operation of such a vehicle, such conduct
by Defendant Baer was willful and wanton, and Plaintiff
sought recovery of punitive damages.
their June 6, 2017, Answer (# 77), Defendants admitted that
Defendant Baer owned and entrusted the commercial vehicle to
Defendant Campbell on April 1, 2013, but they denied that
Defendant Baer was negligent and willful and wanton in the
entrustment of a commercial motor vehicle to Defendant
Campbell to operate that day. Defendants affirmatively
alleged the defenses of sudden emergency and Plaintiff's
October 1, 2017, Defendant Baer filed the instant Motion for
Summary Judgment (# 84) and Memorandum in Support (# 86-1,
86-2). On October 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in
Opposition (# 88). Defendant Baer filed a Reply (# 89) on
October 23, 2017.
facts, viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff,
as follows: On April 1, 2013, around 9:07 a.m., in Asheville,
North Carolina, Plaintiff was operating a 2012 Chevrolet
traveling south on I-26 at or near mile marker 33. As
Plaintiff slowed down for the traffic ahead, Defendant
Campbell hit Plaintiff's rear end. The crash occurred
with Campbell's truck going approximately ten miles per
hour. Plaintiff's vehicle was pushed into the back of the
vehicle directly in front of her.
the accident, Officer P.J. Morgan, an officer with the North
Carolina State Highway Patrol, issued Defendant Campbell a
citation for failing to reduce speed. Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant Campbell was negligent and caused the accident.
Plaintiff further alleges that the accident caused her to
suffer personal injuries.
argues Defendant Campbell was an employee of Defendant Baer
and acting within the course and scope of his employment at
the time of the accident. Plaintiff further argues that
Defendant Baer's internal personnel file reflects a
pattern and practice of violating traffic and safety laws in
a manner that endangers the public and led to the accident on
April 1, 2013. Plaintiff seeks punitive damages, on the basis
that Defendant Baer's actions were malicious, willful,
and wanton and done with reckless and wanton disregard for
judgment should be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56 “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). A factual dispute is deemed genuine when “the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law. Id.
party moving for 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). If the moving party
has met that burden, the nonmoving party then must persuade
the court that a genuine issue remains for trial.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86 (1986). Disposition by
summary judgment is only appropriate when the record could
not lead a rational trier of fact to find in favor of the
nonmoving party. Monahan v. Cty. of Chesterfield, 95
F.3d 1263, 1265 (4th Cir. 1996).
There are no genuine issues of material fact on
Plaintiff's claim againstDefendant Baer