Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., Inc., No. 04-30467.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtPatrick E. Higginbotham
Citation402 F.3d 536
PartiesPurjice BOUDREAUX, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. SWIFT TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, INC.; et al., Defendants, Swift Transportation Company, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.
Decision Date04 March 2005
Docket NumberNo. 04-30467.
402 F.3d 536
Purjice BOUDREAUX, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SWIFT TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, INC.; et al., Defendants,
Swift Transportation Company, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.
No. 04-30467.
United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.
March 4, 2005.

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Al M. Thompson, Jr. (argued), New Orleans, LA, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Michael J. Remondet, Jr. (argued), Jeansonne & Remondet, Lafayette, LA, for Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

Before REAVLEY, HIGGINBOTHAM and DeMOSS, Circuit Judges.

PATRICK E. HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judge:


Purjice Boudreaux filed suit against Swift Transportation Company seeking damages for injuries arising from a slip and fall incident. Boudreaux claimed that he slipped after stepping in a puddle of oil that had been left on a truck stop parking lot by a Swift truck. The district court granted Swift's motion for summary judgment. We affirm.

I

Prior to sustaining injuries in the fall, Boudreaux was employed by Werner Enterprises as a truck driver. During the evening hours of February 10, 2001, Boudreaux entered a Flying J truck stop in Waco, Texas, and parked his eighteen-wheeler beside a tractor-trailer owned and operated by Swift. The trucks remained parked beside each other throughout the night. The next morning, Boudreaux exited his truck and proceeded to the restaurant located in the truck stop to eat breakfast.

Upon leaving the restaurant, he observed the Swift truck departing the parking area. He then walked toward his truck and stepped in a puddle of oil located on the portion of the parking lot where the Swift truck had been parked. Boudreaux stepped out of the puddle of oil and wiped his shoes on the asphalt. He then performed an inspection of his truck, and continued wiping his feet on the asphalt and a small patch of grass in an effort to remove the oil from his shoes. Both the asphalt and the grass were wet due to mist that had been falling throughout the morning.

After inspecting his truck for five to seven minutes, Boudreaux climbed into the truck's cab, sat down on the driver's seat, and picked up a pack of cigarettes. As he was exiting the cab, Boudreaux slipped on one of the truck's steps and fell directly to the ground, landing squarely on his backside. He immediately felt pain in his lower

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back and left leg. Boudreaux reported his injury to Werner, but mentioned neither the puddle of oil nor the Swift truck. As a result of injuries sustained from the fall, Boudreaux underwent back surgery in July 2001, and has been unable to return to work as a truck driver for Werner.

Boudreaux filed suit against Swift and Flying J, alleging negligence and premises liability claims. Swift filed a motion for summary judgment which the district court denied in order to allow Boudreaux additional time to seek evidence that the oil puddle had been left by the Swift truck. Boudreaux requested that Swift produce copies of records which would identify the Swift truck that was parked at the Flying J on the morning of February 11, 2001, as well as maintenance and repair records for that truck for the years 2000 and 2001. Swift objected to this request on grounds that it was unduly burdensome, and refused to provide the documents. Boudreaux did not file a motion to compel.

After the discovery deadline passed, Swift filed a motion for reconsideration of its motion for summary judgment. The district court granted this motion, finding that Boudreaux was not entitled to a favorable inference on account of Swift's failure to produce requested documents because Boudreaux had not filed a motion to compel. The court summed up Boudreaux's evidence as follows:

[P]laintiff's evidence consists solely of his own deposition testimony that: (1) the Swift truck was parked in the Flying J parking lot when plaintiff arrived and was parked there for many hours prior to the alleged accident; (2) the location of the oily substance was directly beneath where the cab of the Swift truck had been parked immediately prior to leaving; and (3) the oil stood on top of the parking surface, covered an area of 6-7 inches and appeared "fresh."

The court then concluded: "As plaintiff has offered nothing more than his own testimony in support of only circumstantial evidence that his alleged accident was caused by an oil spill for which Swift was responsible, plaintiff has failed to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to Swift's negligence."

Thirty days after the court entered its ruling granting Swift's motion for summary judgment, Boudreaux filed a notice of appeal. The following day the court granted Flying J's motion for summary judgment, effectively ending the litigation.1

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II
A

We review a grant of summary judgment de novo,"applying the same standards the district court used."2 "Summary judgment is proper when the pleadings and evidence demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."3 "An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action."4 The party moving for summary judgment must" `demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact,' but need not negate the elements of the nonmovant's case."5

Once the moving party has demonstrated the absence of a material fact issue, the non-moving party must "go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."6 This burden will not be satisfied by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence."7 Rather, the non-moving party must "set forth specific facts showing the existence of a `genuine' issue concerning every essential component of its case."8 A dispute as to a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.9

When considering summary judgment evidence, we must view "all facts and inferences ... in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party."10 We must "not weigh the evidence or evaluate the credibility of witnesses."11 "We resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only where there is an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts."12 We will not assume "in the absence of any proof ... that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts," and will grant summary judgment "in any case where critical evidence is so weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not support a judgment in favor of the nonmovant."13

B

The parties agree that Texas law applies in this diversity case. Under Texas law, "[t]he elements of a negligence cause of action are the existence of a legal

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duty, a breach of that duty, and damages proximately caused by the breach."14 Whether a legal duty exists is a threshold question of law in a negligence action, and is to be determined based on the facts surrounding the occurrence in question.15 Under Texas law, the dominant consideration in determining whether a duty exists is foreseeability of risk.16 To establish a breach of duty, a plaintiff must show that a defendant either did something an ordinarily prudent person exercising ordinary care would not have done under the circumstances, or that the defendant failed to do that which an ordinarily prudent person would have done in the exercise of ordinary care.17 A defendant's negligence will constitute a proximate cause of a plaintiff's injuries when such negligence was the actual cause of the injuries, and the injuries were a foreseeable result of the negligence.18

C

Boudreaux contends that the district court erred in finding his summary judgment evidence insufficient to create a genuine fact issue regarding Swift's negligence. In addition, he argues that the district court improperly weighed his credibility, overlooked Swift's failure to present competent summary judgment evidence showing that it was not negligent, and erroneously placed upon him the burden of compelling discovery from Swift.

1

Boudreaux claims that his summary judgment evidence, which consisted primarily of his own deposition testimony, raised a genuine issue of material fact as to Swift's negligence. Boudreaux testified that when he parked at the Flying J at approximately 5:00 p.m. on February 10, a Swift truck was already parked in the space beside him, that both trucks remained parked beside each other throughout the night, and that the Swift truck left the parking lot only moments before he stepped in the puddle of oil. He noted that the puddle was roughly 7-8 inches in diameter, contained approximately one gallon of oil, and looked "fresh" because it had not yet seeped into the crevices of the asphalt. He stated that after he stepped in the oil, he attempted to remove it from his shoes by wiping them several times on the asphalt and the grass over a five to seven minute period while he inspected his truck. He then climbed into his truck, retrieved a pack of cigarettes, and slipped while stepping down onto one of the truck's grated aluminum steps. Immediately after falling to the ground, Boudreaux alleged that he passed his hand across the bottom of his boots and found them covered with a thin layer of black oil.

Boudreaux also proffered as summary judgment evidence Swift's truck driver

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manual, which requires its drivers to make pre-trip inspections of their vehicles. Boudreaux alleged that a proper inspection conducted under daylight conditions would have revealed the presence of oil leaking from a truck engine onto the parking lot surface below.

We are persuaded that Boudreaux's evidence fails to create a genuine issue of material fact as to all elements of his negligence claim. Initially, we note that Boudreaux presented some...

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  • True The Vote v. Hosemann, C.A. No. 3:14–CV–532–NFA.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • August 29, 2014
    ...349 (5th Cir.2005). The moving party, however, need not negate the elements of the non-movant's case. See Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir.2005). The moving party may meet its burden by pointing out “ ‘the absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case.’......
  • Chambers v. Sears, Civil Action No. H–08–3676.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • April 30, 2010
    ...349 (5th Cir.2005). The moving party, however, need not negate the elements of the non-movant's case. See Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir.2005). The moving party may meet its burden by pointing out “ ‘the absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case.’......
  • Villagran v. Central Ford, Inc., Civil Action No. H-05-2685.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • October 23, 2007
    ...of a genuine issue of material fact, but need not negate the elements of the nonmovant's case. Boudreaux v. Swift Trans p. Co., Inc., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir.2005). "An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action." DIRECTV, Inc. v. Robson, 420 F.3d 532, 536......
  • Duffie v. US, No. 08-20708.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 10, 2010
    ...of a genuine issue of material fact, it does not need to negate the elements of the nonmovant's case. Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir.2005) (citation omitted). "`An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.'" DIRECTV, Inc. v. Robs......
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1758 cases
  • True The Vote v. Hosemann, C.A. No. 3:14–CV–532–NFA.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • August 29, 2014
    ...349 (5th Cir.2005). The moving party, however, need not negate the elements of the non-movant's case. See Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir.2005). The moving party may meet its burden by pointing out “ ‘the absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case.’......
  • Chambers v. Sears, Civil Action No. H–08–3676.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • April 30, 2010
    ...349 (5th Cir.2005). The moving party, however, need not negate the elements of the non-movant's case. See Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir.2005). The moving party may meet its burden by pointing out “ ‘the absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case.’......
  • Villagran v. Central Ford, Inc., Civil Action No. H-05-2685.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • October 23, 2007
    ...of a genuine issue of material fact, but need not negate the elements of the nonmovant's case. Boudreaux v. Swift Trans p. Co., Inc., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir.2005). "An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action." DIRECTV, Inc. v. Robson, 420 F.3d 532, 536......
  • Duffie v. US, No. 08-20708.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 10, 2010
    ...of a genuine issue of material fact, it does not need to negate the elements of the nonmovant's case. Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir.2005) (citation omitted). "`An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.'" DIRECTV, Inc. v. Robs......
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