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D'Amico v. D'Amico

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 29, 2018

VICKY D'AMICO, as Special Administration of the Estate of Alexis M. D'Amico, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
DANTE D'AMICO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HERNDON, United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Now before the Court is a motion for summary judgment brought by defendant Dante D'Amico (Doc. 22). Defendant seeks summary judgment in his favor as to plaintiff Vicky D'Amico's, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Alexis D'Amico, deceased, two-count complaint alleging negligent entrustment and negligence under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 180/1 et seq. (Doc. 1-2). Plaintiff opposes the motion (Doc. 29). For the following reasons, defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On the evening of August 29, 2014, at approximately 7:33 p.m., Alexis D'Amico, daughter of both the plaintiff and defendant, was involved in an automobile accident near the intersection of Michael Road and Michael Drive in Highland, Illinois. As a result of the accident, Alexis sustained fatal injuries.

         Vicky and Dante were married in 1997 and divorced in 2010. Alexis lived with Vicky until February 2013 when she moved in with Dante. From February 2013, until her death on August 29, 2014, Alexis lived with Dante and did not spend a single night at Vicky's home. (Doc. 23-1). Alexis obtained her driver's license two months before the accident, in June 2014. At the time of the accident, she was driving a 1987 Chevrolet Corvette owned by the defendant (Doc. 29-1, pg. 10).

         On August 12, 2016, defendant removed this case from the Circuit Court of Madison County, Illinois asserting diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (Doc. 1).[1] Plaintiff's complaint alleges in Count I that defendant negligently entrusted his Corvette to Alexis and that his negligent entrustment proximately caused Alexis' death. (Doc. 1-2). Specifically, plaintiff alleges in Count I that defendant had a duty to refrain from entrusting his Corvette to Alexis when he knew or should have known that she lacked the experience, competence and skills to operate the Corvette. Id. In Count II, plaintiff alleges that defendant was negligent in allegedly failing to properly maintain the Corvette when he knew or should have known of the unsafe conditions of the vehicle, including the brakes, steering mechanism, tires, wheels and other mechanical problems. Id. Plaintiff seeks recovery under the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180.1 et seq.) for pecuniary loss, including loss of companionship, society, love and affection arising out of Alexis' death. On July 24, 2017, defendant filed the underlying motion seeking summary judgment on both counts of plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 22), to which plaintiff responded (Doc. 29). The Court will address each count in turn.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper when the pleadings, discovery, and disclosures establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Winsley v. Cook Cnty., 563 F.3d 598, 602-03 (7th Cir. 2009); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmovant and all factual disputes are resolved in favor of the nonmovant. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007); Fischer v. Avanade, Inc., 519 F.3d 393, 401 (7th Cir. 2008). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of fact issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Santaella v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). In response, the non-moving party may not rest on bare pleadings alone, but instead must highlight specific material facts to show the existence of a genuine issue to be resolved at trial. Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). A genuine dispute as to a material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Pugh v. City of Attica, Indiana, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001). The Court will enter summary judgment against a party who does not “come forward with evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to find in [its] favor on a material question.” McGrath v. Gillis, 44 F.3d 567, 569 (7th Cir. 1995).

         IV. LAW AND APPLICATION[2]

         Based on the automobile accident that occurred on August 29, 2014, plaintiff brings the present two-count complaint alleging a negligent entrustment claim in Count I and a negligence claim in Count II, both pursuant to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180/1. The purpose of the Illinois Wrongful Death Act is to compensate the parents and siblings of the deceased family member for pecuniary losses resulting from that family member's death. Elliott v. Willis, 92 Ill.2d 530, 65 Ill.Dec. 852, 442 N.E.2d 163, 168 (1982).

         a. Negligent Entrustment

         Plaintiff claims that defendant is liable for negligently entrusting his Corvette to their daughter, Alexis. In Illinois, an action for negligent entrustment consists of “entrusting a dangerous article to another whom the lender knows, or should know, is likely to use it in a manner involving an unreasonable risk of harm to others.” Zedella v. Gibson, 165 Ill.2d 181, 185, 650 N.E.2d 1000, 1002 (Ill.1995). The negligent act of giving an automobile to an incompetent driver forms the basis of the tort. Pelczynski v. J.W. Peters & Sons, Inc., 178 Ill.App.3d 882, 886 (1989). “[A] person may be liable for the negligent entrustment of a vehicle ‘where that person entrusts the vehicle to one whose incompetency, inexperience, or recklessness is known or should have been known by the entrustor of the vehicle.' ” Watson v. Enter. Leasing Co., 325 Ill.App.3d 914, 921, 258 Ill.Dec. 915, 757 N.E.2d 604 (2001).

         In the context of motor vehicles, Illinois courts focus on two primary considerations in a negligent entrustment analysis: (1) whether the owner of the vehicle entrusted his car to an incompetent or unfit driver, and (2) whether the incompetency of that other person proximately caused plaintiff's injury. Evans v. Shannon, 201 Ill.2d 424, 434, 776 N.E.2d 1184, 1190 (2002); see also McGath v. Price, 342 Ill.App.3d 19, 27-28, 276 Ill.Dec. 42, 793 N.E.2d 801 (2003). The case law provides, when considering a negligent entrustment claim, the driver's driving record is highly relevant. See Lockett v. Bi-State Transit Authority, 94 Ill.2d 66, 74 (1983). For this reason, a plaintiff must provide ...


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