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Conway v. Adrian Carriers, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 9, 2017

TAMMY CONWAY, individually, and as Personal Representative of the Estate of David Conway, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
ADRIAN CARRIERS, LLC, and GREGORY LEE HORNE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          David R. Herndon, United States District Judge

         Introduction and Background

          Pending before the Court are several motions for summary judgment filed by defendants Adrian Carriers, LLC and Gregory Horne: motion for summary judgment on punitive damages (Docs. 107 & 113); motion for summary judgment on Counts I and IV relative to any claims of negligent hiring, training, supervision, retention & entrustment (Docs. 109 & 108); and motion for summary judgment on Counts IV, V and VI related to claims under the survival act (Docs. 110 & 111). Plaintiff opposes the motions (Docs. 116; 114; and 115, respectively). Based on the record and the applicable law, the Court grants both the motion for summary judgment on punitive damages and the motion for summary judgment on Counts I and IV relative to any claims of negligent hiring, training, supervision, retention & entrustment and denies the motion for summary judgment as to Counts IV, V, and VI related to claims under the survival act.

         On August 9, 2016, Tammy Conway, individually, and as personal representative of the Estate of David Conway, deceased, filed a fourth amended complaint against Adrian Carriers, LLC and Gregory Lee Horne (Doc. 72).[1] This case stems from a tractor trailer on tractor trailer collusion between plaintiff's decedent David Conway and defendant Horne, an employee of Adrian Carriers, LLC (“Adrian Carriers”) on August 24, 2015. David Conway died as a result of the accident and his estate brings wrongful death claims (Count I against Adrian Carriers, Count II against Horne & Count III- against Adrian Carriers for vicarious liability) and survival act claims (Count IV against Adrian Carriers, Count V against Horne & Count VI-vicarious liability against Adrian Carriers) under Illinois law. Plaintiff seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

         Summary Judgment

          “The court shall grant summary judgment if 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). Whether a fact is material depends on the underlying substantive law that governs the dispute. Carroll v. Lynch, 698 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). “A factual dispute is ‘genuine' only if a reasonable jury could find for either party.” Nichols v. Mich. City Plant Planning Dep't, 755 F.3d 594, 599 (7th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Because the plaintiff bears the ultimate burden of persuasion, the defendant's summary judgment burden “may be discharged by ‘showing'-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); see also Andrews v. CBOCS W., Inc., 743 F.3d 230, 234 (7th Cir. 2014). “Upon such a showing, the nonmovant must then ‘make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.'” Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548). The nonmovant must “go beyond the pleadings ... to demonstrate that there is evidence upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict in her favor.” Id. at 1168-69 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Summary judgment is appropriate where “no reasonable jury could rule in favor of the nonmoving party.” See Bagwe v. Sedgwick Claims Mgmt. Servs., Inc., 811 F.3d 866, 879 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

         Facts[2]

         The accident in this case occurred during the evening of August 24, 2015 on I-55 in Grundy County, Illinois. On the date of the accident, Horne was driving Adrian Carrier's tractor trailer southbound on I-55 and David Conway was driving former third party defendant 5 Star Logistics, LLC's tractor trailer in the same direction on I-55 behind Horne.[3] David Conway was returning from Chicago, Illinois and Horne was returning from picking up a load at a railroad yard near Wilmington, Illinois. Shortly after 8:00 p.m., the front left of the tractor trailer driven by David Conway collided with the right rear of the tractor trailer driven by Horne. As a result of the accident, Conway sustained fatal injuries.

         On August 26, 2015, Amanda Youmans, D.O., performed an autopsy on David Conway. Dr. Youmans determined that David Conway's cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries. Dr. Youmans also determined that at the time between the blunt force trauma and death of David Conway could have been “seconds, ” which included the possibility of “instantaneous or immediate death.” Dr. Youmans could not determine whether David Conway was conscious or whether he experienced any pain or suffering from the moment of injury until death. No witness has testified that David Conway was conscious at any time from the moment of injury until death.

         At the time of the accident, Tammy Conway, David Conway, and the four minor Conway children were Missouri residents.[4] 5 Star Logistics, LLC, was a Missouri limited liability corporation, that was formed in Missouri and that had its principal place of business in Missouri. Conway started the trip that ended in his death in Missouri and was headed to his home in Missouri.

         Analysis

          Punitive Damages

          First, defendants maintain that they are entitled to summary judgment regarding plaintiff's claims for punitive damages as Illinois law does not allow punitive damages under either the Illinois Wrongful Death Act and under the Illinois Survival Act and that Illinois law applies in this case. In response, plaintiff counters that Missouri law applies as the location of the crash in Illinois was merely fortuitous. Plaintiff also states: “The parties have acknowledged that if Missouri law applies, which it should, Plaintiff will be allowed to submit on punitive damages. If Defendants are correct, which they are not, and Illinois law applies, Plaintiffs will not be allowed to submit on punitive damages.” (Doc. 116, p. 1). Plaintiff argues that Missouri law should apply as it has a more significant relationship than Illinois to this case. Based on the following, the Court agrees with Defendants.

         Illinois law plainly holds that punitive damages may not be recovered in wrongful death or survival actions. This principle was established in a line of cases stemming from Mattyasovsky v. West Towns Bus Co., 330 N.E.2d 509, 512 (Ill. 1975). The Illinois Supreme Court explained that seminal decision in Froud v. Celotex Corp., 456 N.E.2d 131, 134 (Ill. 1983): Where a death gives rise to two statutory actions, “one permitting recovery of damages by the decedent's estate under the Survival Act and the other recovery by the next of kin under the Wrongful Death Act, this court refused to impose, in addition, a common law exaction against the defendant, under the label of exemplary damages, which becomes a windfall for the plaintiff.” See also Van Winkle v. Owens-Corning Fiverglass Corp., 683 N.E.2d 985 ( Ill. App. 1997)(“Illinois law is clear that punitive damages are not recoverable under the Survival Act ...


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