Simler v. Dubuque Paint Equipment Services, Inc., 110619 FED8, 18-3315

Docket Nº:18-3315
Opinion Judge:STRAS, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Kelly Simler; Scott Simler Plaintiffs - Appellants v. Dubuque Paint Equipment Services, Inc.; Kim A. Ross; Roy G. Brice Defendants - Appellees Linda J. Gartner Plaintiff LM General Insurance Company; KLLM Transportation Services, Inc. Defendants FFE Transportation Services, Inc. Defendant-Appellee Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission ...
Judge Panel:Before KELLY, MELLOY, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:November 06, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Kelly Simler; Scott Simler Plaintiffs - Appellants

Linda J. Gartner Plaintiff

v.

Dubuque Paint Equipment Services, Inc.; Kim A. Ross; Roy G. Brice Defendants - Appellees

LM General Insurance Company; KLLM Transportation Services, Inc. Defendants

FFE Transportation Services, Inc. Defendant-Appellee

Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission Defendant

No. 18-3315

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 6, 2019

Submitted: September 26, 2019

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - Hannibal

Before KELLY, MELLOY, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.

STRAS, Circuit Judge.

This case presents a classic proximate-cause problem. Is a driver who causes an accident on a highway liable for a second one occurring in the traffic backup that follows? Applying Missouri law, we conclude that the answer is no based on the time and distance separating the two accidents, so we affirm the district court's1grant of summary judgment to the driver.

The driver in question is Roy Brice, who crashed his employer's truck into the rear of another vehicle. The accident caused a severe backup of traffic half-a-mile long across a stretch of Interstate 70 in Montgomery County, Missouri. Between eight and sixteen minutes after the accident, Kelly Simler noticed the stoppage ahead and brought her car to a stop at the back of the line. Kim Ross, who was exceeding the speed limit at the time, did not and struck the rear of Simler's vehicle with his cargo van. Simler, who suffered permanent injuries from the impact, seeks to hold Brice (and his employer) responsible for setting this chain of events in motion.

The legal question is whether proximate cause stretches this far. Or is Ross's negligence a superseding cause that "interrupt[ed] the chain of events" set in motion by the first accident? Metzger v. Schermesser, 687 S.W.2d 671, 673 (Mo.Ct.App. 1985) (citation omitted). The answer under Missouri law depends on whether Ross's careless driving was a "foreseeable consequence of [Brice's] original act of negligence." E.g., Robinson v. Mo. State Highway & Transp. Comm'n, 24 S.W.3d 67, 80 (Mo.Ct.App. 2000) (per curiam)...

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