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Cannon v. Bolden

Superior Court of Delaware

March 27, 2018

Cannon
v.
Bolden, el al.

          Submitted: March 1, 2018

         On The Enterprise Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment: GRANTED

          Kelly E. Rowe, Esquire Reilly, McDevitt, Henrich & Cholden

          David A. Boswell, Esquire Hudson, Jones, Jaywork & Fisher, LLC

          Kenneth M. Doss, Esquire Casarino, Christman, Shalk, Ransom & Doss, P.A.

         Dear Counsel, In the case at bar, the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Enterprise Defendants, as defined below, is now ripe for decision. The record has been supplemented since the Motion to Dismiss was filed and, therefore, the Court will entertain the Motion to Dismiss as a Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth herein, the Enterprise Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

         Factual Background

         This action arises out of a motor vehicle collision that took place at the intersection of Brickyard Road and Sussex Highway on February 21, 2013, in Sussex County, Delaware. Thorrhonda E. Cannon (hereinafter, "Plaintiff) was operating her 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier and traveling eastbound on Brickyard Road. Plaintiff alleges she came to a full stop on Brickyard Road at its intersection with Sussex Highway. When Plaintiff proceeded into the intersection, she was struck by a 2012 Ford Focus (hereinafter, "the Ford") traveling northbound on Sussex Highway and operated by Melva N. Bolden (hereinafter, "Bolden"). Plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of this accident.

         The Ford was a rental car owned by EAN Holdings, LLC, Enterprise Leasing Company of Philadelphia, LLC, and Enterprise Holdings, LLC, collectively ("the Enterprise Defendants").[1] On February 21, 2013, Defendant Neal agreed to arrange and pay for Bolden's rental car while he serviced her personal vehicle. They agreed to meet at the rental car company's location. Sometime near close-of-business at 6 p.m. on that date, Defendant Neal went to Enterprise Rent-A-Car's Seaford location ("Enterprise") and filled out the rental agreement form on Bolden's behalf. Bolden arrived as the paperwork was being completed and provided her driver's license to an Enterprise employee. Bolden was listed as an additional driver on the rental agreement and drove the vehicle off the lot.

         Plaintiff alleges she was unable to see Bolden's vehicle at the time of the collision because Bolden was operating the Ford in the dark without headlights. Bolden testified under oath at her deposition that the car's headlights came on when she turned on the vehicle. Defendant Neal submitted an affidavit wherein he avers that the car's headlights were on when he observed Bolden driving out of Enterprise's parking lot.

         Following the accident, Plaintiff filed suit against Bolden, the Enterprise Defendants, and Defendant Neal. Bolden filed cross-claims against all co-defenants for contribution/indemnification. The Court recently granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant Neal.

         Discussion

         This Court will grant summary judgment only when no material issues of fact exist, and the moving party bears the burden of establishing the non-existence of material issues of fact.[2] Once the moving party has met its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to establish the existence of material issues of fact.[3] Where the moving party produces an affidavit or other evidence sufficient under Superior Court Civil Rule 56 in support of its motion and the burden shifts, the non-moving party may not rest on its own pleadings, but must provide evidence showing a genuine issue of material fact for trial.[4]If, after discovery, the non-moving party cannot make a sufficient showing of the existence of an essential element of his or her case, summary judgment must be granted.[5]If, however, material issues of fact exist, or if the Court determines that it does not have sufficient facts to enable it to apply the law to the facts before it, summary judgment is inappropriate.[6]

         "In order to prevail in a negligence action, a plaintiff must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a defendant's negligent act or omission breached a duty of care owed to plaintiff in a way that proximately caused the plaintiff injury."[7]Liability depends upon whether the defendant was "under a legal obligation - a duty - to protect the plaintiff from the risk of harm which caused his injuries."[8] "[I]n appropriate situations, a trial court is authorized to grant judgment as a matter of ...


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