VOLODYMYR HELYUKH, ET AL.
BUDDY HEAD LIVESTOCK & TRUCKING, INC., ET AL.
Session June 21, 2016
from the Circuit Court for Henderson County No. 12095 Roy B.
Morgan, Jr., Judge.
plaintiffs appeal the grant of summary judgment in a
negligence case. One of the plaintiffs, a truck driver,
suffered injuries stemming from a collision with another
tractor-trailer owned by the defendant and operated by its
employee. The plaintiffs claimed that the employee's
negligence proximately caused the accident. The owner of the
overturned tractor-trailer moved for summary judgment on the
ground that the plaintiffs could not establish that its
employee's conduct fell below the applicable standard of
care. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment. On
appeal, the plaintiffs argue, among other things, that owner
of the overturned tractor-trailed failed to meet its burden
of production in moving for summary judgment. Because we
conclude that the movant failed to demonstrate the absence of
material facts that would create genuine issues for trial, we
reverse the grant of summary judgment.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Reversed and Case Remanded.
J. Berke, Jeremy M. Cother, and Charles A. Flynn,
Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellants, Volodymyr
Helyukh, and Mariah Helyukh.
Dale Thomas and Matthew R. Courtner, Jackson, Tennessee, for
the appellee, Buddy Head Livestock & Trucking, Inc.
M. Kellar and Lucas E.W. Jerkins, Nashville, Tennessee, for
the appellee, Northland Insurance Company.
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S. and Kenny Armstrong, J.,
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
November 16, 2011, Volodymyr Helyukh, a long-distance truck
driver, sustained injuries when he collided with an
overturned tractor-trailer on Interstate 40 in western
Tennessee. The overturned vehicle was owned by Buddy Head
Livestock & Trucking, Inc. and operated by its employee,
Michael Heller. Mr. Helyukh testified in his deposition that
he was driving west within the posted speed limit on
Interstate 40 when he suddenly saw what he thought was a
"wall" blocking both lanes of travel. Unable to
stop or avoid the obstacle, Mr. Helyukh collided with the
overturned vehicle. He did not know what events transpired to
cause the tractor-trailer to overturn.
24, 2012, Mr. Helyukh and his wife filed this action against
Buddy Head Livestock, Michael Heller, USF Holland, Inc., and
Jack Grady. Plaintiffs alleged that Mr. Heller's
negligence was the proximate cause of Mr.
Helyukh's injuries and that Buddy Head Livestock was
responsible for that negligence because Mr. Heller was
driving the tractor-trailer in the course of his employment.
to the complaint, a third tractor-trailer, driven by Mr.
Grady and owned by USF Holland, was also traveling west along
the same stretch of interstate during the relevant time
period. Plaintiffs included Mr. Grady and USF Holland in this
action because Buddy Head Livestock and Mr. Heller claimed
that Mr. Grady forced Mr. Heller off the road and contributed
to the accident.
initial answer, Buddy Head Livestock admitted that Mr. Heller
was an employee and that, as his employer, the company was
liable for any negligence on the part of Mr. Heller but
denied that Mr. Heller was negligent. The company also
admitted that Mr. Heller left his lane of travel after being
forced off the road by another vehicle and that the vehicle
in question "may have been" driven by Mr. Grady or
"may have been" a vehicle driven by an unidentified
driver. Buddy Head Livestock affirmatively asserted the
comparative fault of Mr. Helyukh, Mr. Grady, and the
September 16, 2013, the court granted Buddy Head Livestock
leave to amend its answer. In the amended answer, the company
asserted that Mr. Heller was forced off the road by an
unidentified vehicle and eliminated all references to Mr.
Grady and USF Holland. ...