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Kerr v. Prevost

Superior Court of Delaware

May 9, 2019

Corina M. Kerr
v.
Ryan G. Prevost, Lauren Cole and Rufus Thomas, Jr.

          William D. Fletcher, Jr., Esquire Schmittinger & Rodriguez

          Dawn L. Becker, Esquire Law Office of Dawn L. Becker

          Kenneth Doss, Esquire Casarino Christman Shalk Ransom & Doss 1007 North Orange Street,

          E. SCOTT BRADLEY JUDGE

         Dear Counsel:

         This is my decision on the respective Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Lauren Prevost, nee Lauren Cole ("Cole"), and Rufus Thomas, Jr. ("Thomas") for their involvement in a multi-car accident on June 9, 2015. The accident occurred at the intersection of Slaughter Neck Road and Delaware Route 1 when Thomas's vehicle was struck from behind by a vehicle driven by Defendant Ryan Prevost ("Prevost") as Thomas was entering the left hand turn lane. Cole was the owner of the Prevost vehicle and was riding in the passenger's seat of same at the time of the accident. The collision caused Thomas to lose control of his vehicle and it ended up striking and coming to a rest under a box truck operated by Plaintiff Corina Kerr ("Kerr") that had been stopped in the crossover median. Kerr filed the current action against Prevost, Cole, and Thomas for her injuries allegedly sustained in the accident.

         Cole now moves for summary judgment on the grounds that, as a passenger and the owner of the vehicle, she did not contribute to, or in any way cause, the initial collision between Prevost and Thomas. None of the other parties have opposed this motion.

         In the Thomas Motion, he asserts that there are no genuine disputes of any material facts in the current matter and that there are no facts that could support a reasonable inference that he negligently operated his vehicle and caused the accident. In response, Kerr cites to numerous statutory duties and argues that the record shows that Thomas was negligent in failing to properly use his turn signal, attempting to change lanes in an unsafe manner, and by being unable to exercise proper control of his vehicle as he was approaching an intersection. Similarly, Prevost and Cole oppose Thomas's Motion, claiming that Thomas negligently reduced his speed while still in the left through lane.

         I have decided that both Cole and Thomas are entitled to summary judgment for all claims against them in this matter. On Cole's Motion, I find that, as the owner of the vehicle and a passenger at the time of the accident, Cole did not in any way contribute to the accident. With regard to the Thomas Motion, I am satisfied that there are no genuine disputes of any material facts and that the arguments to the contrary raised by Kerr, Prevost, and Cole are unsupported by the record. Further, I do not find that any facts present here are sufficient to support a reasonable inference that Thomas was negligent in operating his vehicle. Where, as here, a driver signals his intention to turn but is then struck from behind before completing his turn there must exist some fact or genuine dispute over whether he acted unreasonably in order to support an inference that he was negligent. Mere speculation is not enough.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         On June 9, 2015, at approximately 5:30 p.m., Thomas was traveling on Delaware Route 1 North on his way to his home located on Slaughter Neck Road. As he entered the turn lane for the Route 1 crossover median for access to Slaughter Neck Road his black Honda Civic was struck from behind by a blue Mazda 3 owned by Cole and operated by Prevost. This collision caused Thomas to lose control of his vehicle and careen down the remainder of the turn lane before striking and coming to a stop under a box truck operated by Kerr which had been stopped in the crossover median.

         Prior to the initial collision, Thomas had been traveling in the left through lane of Route 1 North for approximately ten minutes. Although unable to recall his exact speed, he stated that he was going with the flow of traffic and had been maintaining a two car length gap with the vehicle in front of him. Thomas further stated that he had used his left turn signal and reduced his speed prior to his attempt to merge onto the turn lane.[1] After the initial impact, Thomas explained that he lost control of his vehicle and was unable to stop its momentum before it collided with Kerr's truck.

         From his perspective, Prevost contends that he was traveling between 55 and 60 mph and maintaining approximately three to four car lengths distance from Thomas's car. Prevost stated that the weather was good and there were no problems with visibility. He admitted that he did not "take note" or "become aware" of Thomas's car and was unable to answer how long he had been behind Thomas prior to the accident. Additionally, Prevost was not certain about whether Thomas had used his turn signal before breaking, stating that, "they happened around the same time." He claims that Thomas's attempt to enter the turn lane "came across as sudden." Prevost did not "slam" on his brakes but did apply more than a normal amount of force. Ultimately, Prevost was unable to stop his vehicle before striking the rear of Thomas's vehicle as it was approximately halfway into the turn lane. Prevost received and pled guilty to a citation for driving too closely.

         Kerr did not witness the Prevost-Thomas collision. After Kerr heard screeching tires she turned and saw Thomas's black Civic ...


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