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Felton v. Logistics

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

November 5, 2019

TIMOTHY FELTON, Plaintiff,
v.
SAFRON LOGISTICS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Safron Logistics and Michael Mathenge (referred to collectively as "Defendants") (ECF No. 43) and the Motion for Sanctions Against Defendants for Failure to Pay Sanctions filed by Plaintiff Timothy Felton (ECF No. 46). The motions are fully briefed. After careful consideration, the Court denies both motions.

         BACKGROUND

         On September 11, 2017, Plaintiff Timothy Felton was traveling eastbound on Dunn Road approaching the intersection with Lilac Avenue located in northern St. Louis County. (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute ("DSMF") ¶ 1, ECF No. 45) At approximately the same time, Defendant Michael Mathenge was driving a tractor-trailer and traveling westbound on Dunn Road approaching the same intersection with Lilac Avenue. (Id. at ¶ 2) Mathenge is employed by Defendant Safron Logistics, a Canadian trucking company. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 9, ECF No. 1) According to Defendants, Mathenge activated his left turn signal to indicate he intended to turn left onto southbound Lilac Avenue, stopped at the stop sign for his direction of travel on Dunn Road, then entered the intersection before Plaintiff. (DSMF at ¶¶ 3-5) Plaintiff, on the other hand, maintains that he entered the intersection before Mathenge and that Mathenge did not utilize his left turn signal before turning left onto southbound Lilac Avenue. (Pl./Countercl. Def.'s Resp. to Defs.'/Counterclaimants' Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute ("PSMF") ¶¶ 3, 5-7, ECF No. 55)[1] Plaintiffs vehicle and Mathenge's tractor-trailer collided, causing physical injuries and damage to both vehicles. (DSMF at ¶ 7)

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit asserting separate claims for negligence and negligence per se pursuant to Missouri Revised Statutes § 304.351.4[2] against Safron Logistics (Counts I and II) and Mathenge (Counts III and IV). (Compl., ECF No. 1) In response, Defendants assert counterclaims against Plaintiff for negligence (Count I) and negligence per se pursuant to § 304.351.4 (Count II). (Defs.' Answers, Affirmative Defense and Counter Claim to Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 8) Defendants now move for the Court to enter summary judgment in their favor on Plaintiffs claims against them and their counterclaim against Plaintiff. Plaintiff is opposed to the motion and contends there are genuine issues of material fact that prevent summary judgment from being entered in this case prior to trial.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Court may grant a motion for summary judgment if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Citrate, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011). The substantive law determines which facts are critical and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome will properly preclude summary judgment. Id. Summary judgment is not proper if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         A moving party always bears the burden of informing the Court of the basis of its motion. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts demonstrating that there is a dispute as to a genuine issue of material fact, not the "mere existence of some alleged factual dispute." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of his pleading. Id.

         In passing on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 331. The Court's function is not to weigh the evidence but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge." Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (quoting Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants argue they are entitled to partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs claims based on a failure-to-yield theory because the relevant state statute provides the driver of the second vehicle to enter an intersection owes the duty to yield right-of-way to the driver of the first vehicle. Pursuant to Missouri Revised Statutes § 304.351.4(2)(a):

Except when directed to proceed by a police officer or traffic-control signal, every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection, indicated by a stop sign, shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic in the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection. After having stopped, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle which has entered the intersection from another highway or which is approaching so closely on the highway as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when such driver is moving across or within the intersection.

(Emphasis added). According to Defendants, Mathenge entered the intersection before Plaintiff and, thus, was owed the duty to yield right-of-way.

         Plaintiff disputes that assertion. In addition to claiming he entered the intersection before Mathenge and, therefore, was entitled to the right-of-way pursuant to Missouri Revised Statute § 304.351.4(2)(a), Plaintiff also argues subsection 3 of that same statue requires "[t]he driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard." Mo. Rev. Stat. § 304.351.3. Because Mathenge intended to make a left turn and Plaintiff was in the intersection first, [3] Plaintiff concludes Mathenge should have yielded the right-of-way.

         Defendants argue Plaintiff has conceded that Mathenge entered the intersection first. During his deposition, Plaintiff testified to the following ...


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