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Wolfe v. Bailey

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 13, 2017

BARBARA WOLFE, Plaintiff,
v.
RICARDO BAILEY II, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Petitioner Barbara Wolfe (“Plaintiff”) brings this negligence action against Co-Defendants Ricardo Bailey (“Bailey”), Saundra Lord (“Lord”), and Jacqueline Reed (“Reed”) for injuries sustained during a car crash involving all four parties. ECF No. 2. Pending before this Court is a Motion for Summary Judgement and a Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions by Defendant Bailey. ECF No. 33. The issues are fully briefed and the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons stated below, Defendant Bailey's Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions is DENIED and Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         A. The Incident [1]

         On April 16, 2015, Plaintiff was driving southbound on Branch Avenue at or near its intersection with Allentown Road, in Prince George's County, Maryland. ECF No. 38 at 3. A BMW was stopped directly in front of Plaintiff on the highway. Id. at 4. Plaintiff came to a stop without hitting the BMW. Id. Plaintiff, however, was rear ended when the three cars traveling in a line immediately behind her could not and did not stop. Id. The order of vehicles involved in this chain-reaction crash was Plaintiff, Bailey, Lord and Reed. See ECF No. 38. At bottom, therefore, the case turns on who among the three defendant drivers, if any, remains liable for Plaintiff's injuries.

         B. Procedural Background

         On April 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed her negligence action against all Defendants in Prince George's County Circuit Court seeking reimbursement for past and future medical expenses, damage to her vehicle, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. ECF No. 2 at 4. Defendant Bailey removed this action on April 26, 2016 to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. ECF No. 1 at 2. Defendants then answered and filed cross claims. ECF Nos. 12, 14, 22. Bailey's cross claim avers that the accident resulted from the negligence of the other drivers, and thus seeks contribution and/or indemnification for any judgment rendered. ECF No. 13 at 1-2. The crossclaims asserted by Lord and Reed similarly allege the accident was caused by the negligence of their counterparts, triggering rights to indemnity, subrogation, and/or contribution for any judgement rendered. ECF No. 17 at 1; ECF No. 23 at 1.

         On January 17, 2017, Bailey moved for summary judgement, contending that the evidence construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving parties cannot establish Bailey's negligence. ECF No. 33 at 1. Additionally, Bailey seeks sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure against Reed, contending that she lacked any good faith basis in pursuing the claims against him. ECF No. 33-1 at 5. Reed has opposed Bailey's summary judgment motion. ECF No. 36 at 1. Plaintiff does not oppose the motion for summary judgement, as long as the Court precludes any party from claiming at trial that Bailey caused or contributed to the accident.[2] ECF No. 39 at 1. Lord has not responded to Bailey's motion.

         II. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGEMENT

          A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may enter summary judgment only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). However, summary judgment is inappropriate if any material fact “may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); JKC Holding Co. LLC v. Washington Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001). The moving party bears the burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists, see Charbonnages de France v. Smith, 597 F.2d 406, 414 (4th Cir. 1979), or that Plaintiff has failed to marshal sufficient evidence proving the nonmoving party's claims. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, but rather must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (alteration in original). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, “the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

         B. Analysis

         Because this action is properly before the Court on diversity jurisdiction, Maryland choice-of-law rules apply. See Wells v. Liddy, 186 F.3d 505, 521 (4th Cir. 1999) (“A federal court sitting in diversity must apply the choice-of-law rules from the forum state.”). For causes of action sounding in tort, Maryland adheres to the lex loci delicti rule, applying the substantive law of the state in which the alleged tort took place. Philip Morris Inc. v. Angeletti, 358 Md. 689, 744-45 (2000).

         This car crash occurred in Maryland, so Plaintiff's negligence claim is dictated by Maryland law. Accordingly, the plaintiff must demonstrate: “(1) that the Defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) that the Defendant breached that duty, (3) that the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss, and (4) that the loss or injury proximately resulted from the Defendant's breach of the duty.” Id. (quoting Horridge v. St. Mary's Cnty. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 382 Md. 170, 182 (2004)). Importantly, in the context of a rear-end collision, the Maryland Court of Appeals in Brehm v. Lorenz,206 Md. 500, 506 (1955), clearly held that “the plaintiff must produce some evidence that the defendant, either by his act or omission, violated some duty incumbent upon him that caused the injury.” Otherwise, ...


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