Young v. Swiney, Civil Action No. ELH–12–3657.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Writing for the CourtELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, District Judge.
Citation23 F.Supp.3d 596
PartiesJamie Rose YOUNG, Plaintiff, v. Donn SWINEY, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date30 May 2014
Docket NumberCivil Action No. ELH–12–3657.

23 F.Supp.3d 596

Jamie Rose YOUNG, Plaintiff
Donn SWINEY, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. ELH–12–3657.

United States District Court, D. Maryland.

Signed May 30, 2014.

23 F.Supp.3d 599

Daniel J. Earnshaw, Law Offices of Daniel J. Earnshaw, LLC, Edgewood, MD, for Plaintiff.



This suit arises from an automobile accident that occurred on June 16, 2010, involving, among others, Joseph Young and Donn Swiney. Mr. Young sustained multiple injuries in the accident and, over two years later, on September 6, 2012, he committed suicide, at the age of 45. Thereafter, Mr. Young's widow, plaintiff Jamie Rose Young, filed suit, “individually and in her capacity as Personal Representative of the Estate of [Mr. Young], and as parent and legal guardian of Chelsea Lynn Young and Jenna Alexandra Young, minors,” against Swiney; Swiney's employer, Industrial Transport Services, LLC (“Industrial Transport”); and Warehouse Services, Inc. (“Warehouse”). See ECF 2 (Complaint).1 However, in a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal filed January 10, 2013 (ECF 12), plaintiff dismissed her claims against Swiney and Warehouse. See infra. Thus, only Industrial Transport remains as a defendant.

Plaintiff subsequently filed a First Amended Complaint (ECF 30, the “FAC”) and, like the original Complaint, it contains five counts: a survival action (Count I) and four wrongful death claims (Counts II through V). See id.2 Count I, the survival action, is brought by plaintiff in her capacity “as personal representative of the Estate of Joseph Russell Young [.]” FAC at 3. Based on Mr. Swiney's alleged negligence, Count I seeks judgment in the amount of $3,000,000.00 for, among other things, Mr. Young's medical expenses; his physical and emotional pain and suffering; his loss of income from the date of the accident until September 6, 2012; funeral expenses; interest; and costs of suit. Id. at 2–3. The remaining counts, Counts II through V, all raise wrongful death claims, and seek $2,000,000 in damages. Count II, originally brought against Industrial Transport and Warehouse, and Count III, brought against Mr. Swiney, both allege that Ms. Young “has suffered pecuniary loss, mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, and the loss of the society, companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, attention, advice, counsel, and love of her husband.” In Count IV, plaintiff seeks, on behalf of her daughter Chelsea Young, damages from all three defendants, based on Chelsea's “pecuniary loss, mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering and other damages” due to the death of her father. Likewise, in Count V, plaintiff seeks, on behalf of her other daughter, Jenna Young, damages from all three defendants, due to Jenna's “pecuniary loss,

23 F.Supp.3d 600

mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering and other damages.”

Notably, fault for the underlying motor vehicle accident is not at issue. See, e.g., ECF 32 (Industrial Transport's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment) at 1 (“Fault for the accident is conceded”). Specifically, in the Notice of Voluntary Dismissal (ECF 12), the parties advised that, “[i]n exchange for the voluntary dismissal” of all claims against Mr. Swiney and Warehouse, “counsel for Industrial Transport Services, LLC has agreed to stipulate that Mr. Swiney was an employee of Industrial Transport Services, LLC at the time of the accident, and that Mr. Swiney was responsible for causing the collision that occurred on the night of June 16, 2010 with the vehicle that was driven by Plaintiff's decedent, Joseph R. Young.”Id.; see ECF 13 (Order approving dismissal). Moreover, in its Reply, defendant does not challenge plaintiff's characterization of the accident or the nature and extent of Mr. Young's physical injuries. Rather, defendant maintains that “[s]uch ‘evidence’ ... is not sufficient to support the wrongful death counts set forth in Counts II, III, IV and V of [the FAC].” Reply at 1.3

Now pending is Industrial Transport's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF 32), to which it has appended a supporting memorandum (ECF 32–1, “Mem.”) (collectively, the “Motion”). Plaintiff has filed a “Response to Motion for Partial Summary Judgment” (ECF 36), as well as a supporting memorandum (ECF 37, “Opposition” or “Opp.”). Defendant has replied (ECF 41, “Reply”). Both sides have also submitted numerous exhibits.4

23 F.Supp.3d 601

Industrial Transport raises three arguments in its Motion. First, defendant seeks summary judgment as to the four wrongful death claims (Counts II through V), asserting that plaintiff's evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to establish that Mr. Young's suicide on September 6, 2012, was proximately caused by the motor vehicle accident of June 16, 2010. ECF 32 at 1–2. Second, defendant maintains that it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to any claimed economic loss occurring after September 6, 2012,” on the ground that Mr. Young's suicide constitutes “a superseding and/or intervening cause” of his death that bars recovery for subsequent economic losses. Id. at 2. Defendant also raises a third challenge, arguing that no evidence exists indicating that the “decedent suffered pre-impact fright prior to the occurrence.” Id. In other words, defendant seeks summary judgment as to Counts II through V in their entirety; regarding Count I, the survival action, defendant seeks to limit plaintiff's potential recovery, but does not move for summary judgment as to that count in its entirety.

With respect to defendant's third argument, plaintiff “consents to the entry of summary judgment [in favor of Industrial Transport] on the issue of whether the decedent suffered pre-impact fright prior to the occurrence.” ECF 36 at 2; see also, e.g., Ferdinand–Davenport v. Children's Guild, 742 F.Supp.2d 772, 777 (D.Md.2010) (“By her failure to respond to [defendant's] argument” in dispositive motion, “the plaintiff abandons [her] claim.”); Mentch v. E. Sav. Bank, FSB, 949 F.Supp. 1236, 1247 (D.Md.1997) (plaintiff's failure to address in opposition brief an argument raised in defendant's opening brief constitutes abandonment of claim). Accordingly, summary judgment will be entered in Industrial Transport's favor as to the issue of pre-impact fright.

No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6; see also note 10, infra. For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background5

On June 16, 2010, Mr. Young sustained serious injuries in a motor vehicle accident that occurred in Cecil County, Maryland. See Opp. Exh. J (Singerly Fire Company report) at 2. At the time of the accident, Mr. Young was 43 years of age, worked as a carpenter and a millwright, was married, and had two young daughters. See Psychovocational Evaluation of Mr. Young, dated May 10, 2012 (“Anderson Evaluation”) at 1. Although defendant concedes that its employee was at fault, see ECF 32 at 1; Reply at 2, and does not dispute “that Mr. Young suffered certain physical injuries from the accident,” Reply at 2, I will recount facts surrounding the accident and Mr. Young's resulting injuries, because

23 F.Supp.3d 602

the accident and the injuries are relevant to the claims.

The accident occurred in Elkton, Maryland. See Opp. Exh. J at 2. While Mr. Young was stopped in his vehicle, a “full size pick up truck,” Opp. Exh. J at 3, he was struck from behind by an eighteen-wheel tractor trailer truck. Deposition of Officer Michael Lewis, Sept. 19, 2013 (“Lewis Dep.”) at 10; Opp. Exh. K (Cecil County EMS report) at 3. According to Bruce Kelly, another accident victim, the tractor trailer truck was traveling at a high rate of speed, “like he was going down I–95 or something.” Deposition of Bruce Kelly, Sept. 19, 2013, at 8; see Lewis Dep. at 10 (tractor trailer struck Mr. Young's vehicle at a “fairly high rate of speed”). Upon being struck from the rear by the tractor trailer truck, Mr. Young's truck “slammed into” the vehicle in front of his. Opp. Exh. K at 3.

Following the accident, Mr. Young was transported to Christiana Hospital. Opp. Exh. J at 3. A report of the Singerly Fire Company, which responded to the scene, states, id.:

This unit notified dispatch of a 4 vehicle [collision] involving an 18 wheeler and 3 pick-up trucks with 4 possible patients. Shortly after [Mr. Young] was found to be stuck in his vehicle and not able to exit via normal egress due to the damage, injuries and position of the vehicles. This patient was the driver in the first vehicle struck. Patient's vehicle was a 4 door [D]odge full size pick up truck. Striking vehicle struck this vehicle in the rear doing substantial damage to the bed of the truck before continuing to strike the vehicle on the driver's side doing damage there and pushing the vehicle to the right. This vehicle came to rest partially resting on the 18 wheeler's saddle tank. This vehicle was also leaking fuel. Upon gaining access to the patient via passenger side doors patient was found alert and oriented and complaining of neck pain, a laceration to the back of his head and pain to his left forearm. At this time patient was placed in a c-spine colar [sic]. Patient stated that the last thing

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