United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Tevin Davis
(“Davis”) and Swift Transportation Co. of
Arizona, LLC's (“Swift”) (collectively
“Defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment on
Plaintiff Tiffany Locke's (“Locke”) Claim for
Punitive Damages. [DN 39.] Plaintiff has responded [DN 44]
and Defendants have replied. [DN 49.] As such, this matter is
ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment is
action arises from an automobile accident on April 26, 2016
in Trigg County, Kentucky. Locke was driving eastbound in the
right lane of the interstate. Davis was driving an
eighteen-wheeler truck. Davis then merged into the right lane
of the highway and Locke subsequently crashed into the rear
of the truck causing injury.
filed this action alleging negligent, reckless conduct by
Defendants. Locke seeks to recover punitive damages from
Defendants. Defendants filed this present motion for summary
on Locke's claim of punitive damages.
judgment is appropriate where “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). In determining whether summary judgment
is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw
all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See
Matshushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a
genuine issue of material fact.” Street v. J.C.
Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989).
The test is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has
presented a jury question as to each element in the case.
Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996).
The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of
evidence in support of his position; the plaintiff must
present evidence on which the trier of fact could reasonable
find for the plaintiff. See Id. (citing Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). The
plaintiff may accomplish this by “citing to particular
parts of materials in the record” or by “showing
that the materials cited do not establish the
absence…of a genuine dispute…”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Mere speculation will not suffice to
defeat a motion for summary judgment, “the mere
existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat a
properly supported motion for summary judgment. A genuine
dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must
exist to render summary judgment inappropriate.”
Monette v. Electronic Data Sys. Corp., 90 F.3d 1173,
1177 (6th Cir. 1996).
alleges Defendants' conduct was “negligent,
reckless, grossly negligent, malicious, careless, willful and
wanton.” [DN 1-1 at 7.] In Kentucky, a plaintiff may be
entitled to punitive damages if the defendant has acted
grossly negligent. Gibson v. Fuel Transp., Inc., 410
S.W.3d 56, 59 (Ky. 2013). For punitive damages to be
appropriate, there must be a “finding of failure to
exercise reasonable care, and then an additional finding that
this negligence was accompanied by wanton or reckless
disregard for the lives, safety or property of others.”
Horton v. Union Light, Heat & Power Co., 690
S.W.2d 382, 389-390 (Ky. 1985) (internal quotations omitted).
“KRS § 411.184(2) requires that this reckless or
wanton behavior be proven by the elevated standard of clear
and convincing evidence.” Gibson, 410 S.W.3d 56, 59
(Ky. 2013) (internal quotations omitted).
the facts are disputed. It is disputed whether Davis was
merging from the shoulder after being stopped on the side of
the road to read a message from Swift or if he had recently
merged onto the highway. Davis, in his deposition, stated he
believed he went down the on-ramp and was already in the
right lane going 30 miles per hour. He stated he has no
recollection of pulling over on the side of the road. On the
other side, Locke alleges Swift's internal notes and
vehicle data show that Davis was pulled over to read a
Qualcomm message shortly before the accident. William
Peyton-a representative of Swift-stated in his deposition
that the Qualcomm message was read at 3:05 p.m. Central time.
Peyton also acknowledges that according to the police report,
the accident occurred nine minutes later-3:14 p.m. It is
Locke's contention that the timing of the accident
relative to the time the message was read, and relevant
vehicle data proves Davis was pulled over on the side of the
the facts in light most favorable to Locke, Davis pulled to
the shoulder of the interstate to read a message from Swift
on the Qualcomm system. It is expressly prohibited to park
trucks on the shoulder in non-emergency situations by the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, KRS § 189.450,
and Swift's policy. Locke argues that Davis' alleged
violation of policy and law is grossly negligent and entitles
her to punitive damages. Defendants cite a string of cases
that clarify what type of conduct in automobile accidents
generally equals gross negligence. There must be a
“causal connection” between Davis pulling over to
the side of the road and the accident. See Horn v.
Hancock, 700 S.W.2d 418, 421 (Ky. App. 1985).
in Kentucky have routinely held that slightly speeding,
intentional violations of statutory requirements, and falling
asleep at the wheel do not meet the standard of gross
negligence. See Kinney v. Butcher,131 S.W.3d 357
(Ky. App. 2004); Horn v. Hancock, 700 S.W.2d (Ky.
App. 1985); Turner v. Werner Enterprises, Inc., 442