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Purdy v. Topac Express

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 21, 2017

TOPAC EXPRESS, a corporation And GURWINDER SINGH BAINS, an individual, Defendants.



         This lawsuit stems from a tractor-trailer/motorcycle accident that occurred in Ann Arbor on July 5, 2013. The accident occurred between Plaintiff Shelly Elizabeth Purdy (“Plaintiff”) and Defendant Gurwinder Singh Bains (“Defendant Bains”) who drove a truck as an employee of Defendant Topac Express (collectively “Defendants”). Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 33.) Finding the facts and legal arguments sufficiently presented in the parties' briefs, the Court dispensed with oral argument pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f). For the reasons that follow, the Court is denying Defendants' motion.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 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). The central inquiry is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). After adequate time for discovery and upon motion, Rule 56 mandates summary judgment against a party who fails to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party bears the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The movant has the initial burden of showing “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. Once the movant meets this burden, the “nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To demonstrate a genuine issue, the nonmoving party must present sufficient evidence upon which a jury could reasonably find for that party; a “scintilla of evidence” is insufficient. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252.

         “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed” must designate specifically the materials in the record supporting the assertion, “including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The court must accept as true the non-movant's evidence and draw “all justifiable inferences” in the non-movant's favor. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         On July 5, 2013, Plaintiff was involved in a motorcycle/automobile accident with Defendant Bains. (Compl. ¶ 4.) The accident occurred at approximately 5:28 PM when Plaintiff was entering I-94 from the Jackson Road exit. (Id.) Plaintiff became unconscious after the collision. (ECF No. 38 at Pg ID 848.) Another driver, Steven James Lawrence, witnessed the accident and pulled over immediately after. (ECF No. 33 at Pg ID 608.) Only one investigator arrived to the location of the accident: Michigan State Trooper John Robe. As the only investigator for the accident, Trooper Robe was responsible for creating a traffic crash report. Trooper Robe interviewed Lawrence and Defendant Bains at the scene and Plaintiff at the hospital a short time later. (ECF No. 38 at Pg ID 849.)

         Plaintiff alleges the collision occurred due to Defendant Bains' negligence. According to Plaintiff, she was driving her motorcycle 20 miles per hour on the ramp “and then trying to speed up out of the curve to get to highway speed safely.” (Purdy Dep. 51:11-13, May 11, 2016.) As she was merging, Defendant Bains crossed the solid line dividing the right lane of the highway from the ramp. (ECF No. 38 at Pg ID 848.) Plaintiff attempted to prevent an accident by placing her left hand on the side of the tractor-trailer, right above the wheel. (Id. at Pg ID 847-48.) As a result of this first point of contact Plaintiff was “bumped [] approximately two feet, or an [arm's] length, towards the middle of the ramp.” (Id. at Pg ID 848.) Unaware of Plaintiff, Defendant Bains allegedly continued to cross over the merging lane, hitting Plaintiff a second time. (Id.) This second hit caused Plaintiff to lose consciousness. (Id.)

         Lawrence witnessed the collision between Plaintiff and Defendant Bains. During his deposition, Lawrence testified that Plaintiff's bike was “wobbly” coming up the ramp and “there was no control” over the motorcycle. (Lawrence Dep. 8:23-9:2, Aug. 19, 2016.) According to Lawrence, the first and only point of contact between the vehicles was when Plaintiff hit the back of the trailer-tractor's rear bumper and “flew” in the air before falling back and hitting the ground. (Lawrence Dep. 21:23, 10:2-14.) He was unsure if Plaintiff crossed the solid line dividing the right lane from the ramp. (Id. at 13:10-13.)

         The traffic crash report created by Trooper Robe includes summaries of his interviews with Plaintiff and Lawrence. Trooper Robe described his interview with Lawrence as follows:

[Lawrence] said the Tractor-Trailer was in the right lane and the motorcyclist came off the ramp too fast, and was losing control of the motorcycle. The motorcyclist hit the Trailer just in front of the Trailer's Tires and she went under the tires before rolling across the ground.

         (ECF No. 33-5 at Pg ID 717.) Trooper Robe also provided Plaintiff's account of the facts when he interviewed her at the hospital:

[Plaintiff] told me that she was entering onto eastbound I-94 from Jackson Road and was going to [sic] fast on the ramp, which caused her to lose control of her bike then she struck a patch of loose gravel. She placed her right leg to try and gain control of her bike but was not able to do so, and struck the Semi's Trailer [sic]. She could not remember anything past this point because she told me that she blacked out. When asked, she ...

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