Monday, October 24, 2016

Federal Middle District Court Judge James M. Munley Grants Offensive Motion for Summary Judgment Filed by Plaintiff on Liability in Car Accident Case

In the case of Broe v. Manns, No. 3:15-cv-985 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 27, 2016 Munley, J.), Judge James M. Munley of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted an offensive Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Plaintiffs on the issue of liability in a motor vehicle accident case.  

According to the Opinion, this case arose out of a rear-end motor vehicle accident.  

The Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging negligence and loss of consortium. Thereafter, the Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability.  

After reviewing the summary judgment standard of review, the court granted the Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on liability.  

The Plaintiff main contention was that the Defendant’s admission that he failed to brake to avoid the Plaintiff’s vehicle constituted negligence per se.  

The Defendant countered with an argument that his admission, given during a deposition, was an insufficient basis upon which to grant summary judgment.   The Defendant also asserted that the sudden emergency doctrine relieved him from liability. 

The court stated that it is well-settled that a violation of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code constitutes negligence per se.   Relying upon Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code provisions, including the assured clear distance ahead statute at 75 Pa. C.S.A. §3361, and noting that the police cited for violating that statute, the court found that the Defendant’s admission in this regard eliminated any genuine issue of material fact.   The court found that the Defendant’s admissions, coupled with the citations for violating the assured clear distance ahead statute, sufficiently established negligence per se.   Since the Defendant had not identified any genuine issues of material fact, the court found that there was no sufficient evidentiary basis upon which a reasonable jury could find in the Defendant’s favor on the liability issue.  

The court also rejected the Defendant’s reliance upon the sudden emergency doctrine noting that, under the applicable law, a person cannot avail himself of the protections of that doctrine if that person was himself driving carelessly.   The court stated that, based upon the Defendant’s citation for violating the motor vehicle code, along with his admissions on the issue of liability, the undisputed evidence before the court was found to establish, at the very least, that the Defendant was driving carelessly.  As such, the court found that the Defendant could not rely upon the sudden emergency doctrine to relieve him from liability.  

As stated, overall, the court granted Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the issue of liability.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may contact me at

I send thanks to Attorney Michael J. Foley of The Foley Law Firm of Scranton, Pennsylvania for bringing this case to my attention.  

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