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Christiansen v. Gustafson

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

December 24, 2013

ELIZABETH A. CHRISTIANSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
ELIZABETH O. GUSTAFSON a/k/a BETTY O. GUSTAFSON, JANET R. SUNDQUIST, and NATIONWIDE GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign corporation, Defendants.

Submitted: November 26, 2013

Upon Consideration of Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Against Defendant Elizabeth Gustafson and Defendant Janet Sundquist as to Liability GRANTED

Jeffrey J. Clark, Esquire, Dover, Delaware for Plaintiff.

Maria J. Poehner, Esquire, Law Offices of Mason and Eiseman, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant Elizabeth O. Gustafson.

Beth A. Christman, Esquire, Casarino Christman Shalk Ransom & Doss, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant Janet R. Sundquist.

Miranda D. Clifton, Esquire, Law Office of Cynthia G. Beam, Newark, Delaware for Defendant Nationwide General Insurance Company.

ORDER

ROBERT B. YOUNG J.

SUMMARY

The present action arises from injuries suffered by Elizabeth A. Christiansen ("Plaintiff"), stemming from two separate rear-end collisions. The first collision took place on March 5, 2010, involving Elizabeth O. Gustafson ("Defendant Gustafson"). The second collision took place on January 10, 2012, involving Janet R. Sundquist ("Defendant Sundquist"). In Plaintiff's Motions for Partial Summary Judgment, the Plaintiff requests that the Court find Defendant Gustafson's and Defendant Sundquist's negligence to be the sole proximate cause of the collisions that occurred on March 5, 2010, and January 10, 2012. Plaintiff's Motions are GRANTED, because Defendant Gustafson and Defendant Sundquist admitted that they were charged with Inattentive Driving; Defendant Sundquist does not raise any issues of genuine material fact as to her liability for the second collision in either her discovery responses or an answer to the instant motion; and, both Defendant Sundquist and Defendant Gustafson have indicated to the Court that they do not oppose the instant motion.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

On March 5, 2010, Plaintiff was on South State Street in Dover, Delaware, and Defendant Gustafson was driving in a car behind Plaintiff. While Plaintiff was stopped for traffic, Defendant Gustafson struck Plaintiff's car from behind with her vehicle.

In the Uniform Collision report, Dover Police determined that the primary contributing circumstance of the collision was "driver inattention, distraction, or fatigue."[1] Defendant Gustafson was issued a citation for Inattentive Driving in violation of 21 Del. C. § 4176. Then, Defendant Gustafson entered a guilty plea to the charge through the Voluntary Assessment Center on March 25, 2010. Plaintiff filed this Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Against Defendant Gustafson as to Liability on November 6, 2013. Defendant Gustafson filed a letter indicating to the Court that she does not oppose the instant motion on November 12, 2013.

On January 10, 2012, Plaintiff was in the left turn lane on the northbound side of Saulsbury Road approaching the intersection at Forrest Avenue in Dover, Delaware. Defendant Sundquist's vehicle was two cars behind the Plaintiff, when Defendant Sundquist failed to stop, then collided with the car directly in front of her, causing that vehicle to propel forward into the rear of the Plaintiff's vehicle.

In the Uniform Collision report, Dover Police determined that the primary contributing circumstance of the collision was "driving in a careless or reckless manner."[2] Defendant Sundquist was issued a citation for Inattentive Driving in violation of 21 Del. C. § 4176. Then, Defendant Sundquist entered a guilty plea to the charge through the Voluntary Assessment Center on January 18, 2012. Plaintiff filed this Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Against Defendant Sundquist as to Liability on November 6, 2013. Defendant Sundquist filed a letter indicating to the Court that she does not oppose the instant motion on November 21, 2013.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary Judgement is granted upon a showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, where the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.[3] The Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.[4] The moving party bears the burden of showing that no material issues of fact are present, but once a motion is supported by such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate that there is a genuine dispute as to material issues of fact.[5]

DISCUSSION

In Defendant Gustafson's Answers to Plaintiff's Interrogatories, Defendant Gustafson demonstrated, in a response to an interrogatory regarding Defendant's version of how the accident occurred, that "the defendant glanced to the left to see where she could park, and when she looked forward again, the cars had suddenly stopped, and she tapped the bumper of the car in front of her."[6] In Defendant Sundquist's Answers to Plaintiff's Interrogatories, Defendant Sundquist demonstrated that, "the defendant was unable to stop and bumped the rear of the Baldwin [middle] vehicle."[7] In addition, Defendant Sundquist admitted that she was charged with Inattentive Driving, and paid the voluntary assessment. Finally, neither Defendant Sundquist nor Defendant Gustafson indicated in their discovery responses that the Plaintiff contributed in any way to the accident or was comparatively negligent for the second collision. Defendant Sundquist has not raised any genuine issue of material fact as to liability for the second collision. Furthermore, both Defendant Sundquist and Defendant Gustafson indicated to the Court, through their letters, they do not oppose the instant motion.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's Motions for Partial Summary Judgment Against Defendant Elizabeth O. Gustafson and Janet Sundquist as to Liability is GRANTED.


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