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Williams v. United Parcel Service of America, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware

November 9, 2017

DANTE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE OF AMERICA, INC, Defendant.

          Date Submitted: August 7, 2017

         Upon Defendant's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment: GRANTED.

          Joseph J. Longobardi, III, Esquire and M. Jean Boyle, Esquire, Longobardi & Boyle, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Nancy C. Cobb, Esquire, Law Offices of Chrissinger & Baumberger, Attorney for Defendant.

          OPINION

          JURDEN, P.J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Defendant United Parcel Services, Inc.'s ("UPS") Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff Dante Williams ("Williams") claims he was injured in a motor vehicle collision caused by a UPS truck.[1] The only eyewitness to the collision, who is now deceased, told police that a UPS truck struck Williams' parked truck.[2] UPS denies that one of its vehicles struck Williams' truck.[3]At issue is whether the eyewitness' statement is admissible because, if not, Plaintiff cannot establish a. prima facie case against UPS and defendant is entitled to summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On October 4, 2013, Williams was sleeping inside his truck, which was parked in the parking lot of a Wawa store located at Route 13 and Memorial Drive.[4] Williams woke up and discovered his truck had been struck by another vehicle.[5]Williams did not see the vehicle that struck his truck, and the striking vehicle fled the scene of the collision.[6]

         Police were called and responded to the scene. The responding police officer completed a State of Delaware Uniform Collision Report (the "Police Report").[7]The only eyewitness to the collision, Nathaniel Means, Sr. ("Means"), a Wawa patron, gave a statement to the responding police officer.[8] According to the Police Report, Means told the police officer that a "UPS truck [...] collided with the front of [Williams' truck], causing damage to the grill."[9] The Police Report also notes that Williams "advised he was asleep in his truck, which was parked in the same location, and was awaken[ed] when a UPS semi-truck made contact with his vehicle."[10]

         III. PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         Defendant argues it is entitled to summary judgment because there is no evidence on record upon which a finder of fact could conclude that Williams' truck was struck by a UPS truck.[11] In opposition, Williams concedes he cannot identify the vehicle that struck his truck, but argues that Means' eyewitness account is admissible as a present sense impression under Delaware Rule of Evidence ("DRE") 803(1).[12]

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary Judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.[13] The moving party bears the burden of establishing the non-existence of material issues of fact.[14]Once such a showing is made, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate that there are material issues of fact in dispute.[15] In considering a Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court must view the record in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.[16] The Court will not consider inadmissible hearsay when deciding a Motion for Summary Judgment, [17] and "[t]he non-movant cannot create a genuine issue of fact with bare assertions or conclusory allegations, but must produce specific evidence that would sustain a verdict in its favor."[18]

         V. DISCUSSION

         Because Williams did not see the striking vehicle, Means' statement to the police officer is the only potentially admissible evidence linking UPS to this collision. There is no dispute that Means' statement to the police is hearsay, [19] and therefore the question is whether that statement falls within the Present Sense Impression exception to the hearsay rule.[20] If so, summary judgment is not appropriate. If not, then UPS is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Plaintiff is unable to establish a prima facie case that UPS caused Plaintiffs injuries.[21]

         Under DRE 803(1), the Present Sense Impression exception applies if:

(1) The declarant personally perceived the event described;
(2) The declaration is an explanation or description of the event, rather ...

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