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Sadler v. Johnson

Superior Court of Delaware

July 17, 2018

STEVEN SADLER and LISA SADLER, Plaintiffs,
v.
JOSHUA MICHAEL JOHNSON and CALVERT MECHANICAL SYSTEMS, INC., Defendants.

          Submitted: May 31, 2018

         Upon Defendant Calvert Mechanical Systems, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment GRANTED IN PART; DENIED IN PART

          Timothy A. Dillon, Esq., McCann & Wall, LLC, Attorney for Plaintiffs

          Colin M. Shalk, Esq., Casarino, Christman, Shalk, Ransom & Doss, P.A., Attorney for Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Honorable Andrea L. Rocanelli, Judge.

         This action arises out of a motor vehicle accident. Defendant Calvert Mechanical Systems, Inc. ("Calvert") moves for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' agency, negligent entrustment, negligence, and punitive damages claims against Calvert. In their response, Plaintiffs concede that they cannot establish their claims for punitive damages and negligent entrustment against Calvert.[1] However, Plaintiffs oppose Defendant's motion as to the claims of vicarious liability and negligence against Calvert. This is the Court's decision on Calvert's motion for summary judgment.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On January 10, 2014, Defendant Joshua Johnson ("Johnson") was operating a vehicle owned by Calvert ("Calvert Vehicle") when Johnson backed into Plaintiffs' vehicle, causing Plaintiffs injuries. At the time of the accident, Johnson was employed with Calvert as an HVAC Technician. Johnson was permitted to drive the Calvert Vehicle home after work, but was not permitted to drive it for personal use.

         Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Johnson, the Calvert Vehicle's driver, and Calvert, the Calvert Vehicle's owners. As to Johnson, Plaintiffs only raised a negligence claim. As to Calvert, Plaintiffs allege that Calvert is vicariously liable for Johnson's negligence, and raise additional claims of negligence and negligent entrustment. Plaintiffs also seek punitive damages from both Johnson and Calvert.

         Johnson testified at his deposition that, prior to the accident, he drove the Calvert Vehicle to a friend's house and consumed multiple beers. The accident took place as Johnson was backing out of his friend's driveway in the Calvert Vehicle. The parties dispute whether Johnson was leaving his friend's house to go home or to return to work. Following the accident, Johnson was charged with DUI and entered the First Offender Program.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court may grant summary judgment only where the moving party can "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."[2] The moving party bears the initial burden of proof and, once that is met, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to show that a material issue of fact exists.[3] At the motion for summary judgment phase, the Court must view the facts "in the light most favorable to the non-moving party."[4] Summary judgment is only appropriate if Plaintiffs' claims lack evidentiary support such that no reasonable jury could find in their favor.[5]

         DISCUSSION

         Because Plaintiffs concede that they cannot establish their claims for punitive damages and negligent entrustment against Calvert, the Court need only address ...


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