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Trammell v. Peoples

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

October 11, 2017

DONNIE TRAMMELL, ET AL.
v.
D'EDDRICK PEOPLES, ET AL.

          Session August 23, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 15C317 Kelvin D. Jones, Judge

         This is a negligence action concerning injuries sustained from an accident. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. We reverse.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Reversed; Case Remanded

          Aldo J. Stolt, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Donnie Trammell and Carolyn Trammell.

          Russell B. Morgan and Frankie N. Spero, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, D'eddrick Peoples and Freshpoint Tomato, LLC.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J. and Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN W. McCLARTY, JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 21, 2014, Donnie Trammell, along with his wife, Carolyn Trammell (collectively "Plaintiffs"), were involved in a motor vehicle accident with D'eddrick Peoples ("Employee"), who was driving a box truck while in the course and scope of his employment with Freshpoint Tomato, Inc. (collectively "Defendants"). The accident occurred at approximately 5:23 a.m. on Interstate 65 and was recorded on a video camera mounted on the truck's dashboard. The recording is 12 seconds and includes the 8 seconds before impact and the 4 seconds following impact. In the eight seconds before impact, Employee can be seen traveling at a speed of approximately 60 miles per hour ("mph") in a middle lane while passing a construction scene monitored by police vehicles immediately to his right. Plaintiffs can be seen driving in the far left-hand lane ahead of

          Employee. In the four seconds before impact, Mr. Trammell initiates his turn signal and begins to merge into Employee's lane. Unable to slow in time, Employee's truck collides with the vehicle operated by Mr. Trammell, causing it to spin.

         On January 22, 2015, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendants, alleging that Employee failed to: a. maintain the vehicle under proper and reasonable control;

b. maintain a proper lookout for other vehicles on the roadway;
c. operate the vehicle at an appropriate speed for the existing conditions;
d. bring the vehicle under control and to stop when there was sufficient time and distance to do so before striking the vehicle in which [Plaintiffs] were riding;
e. drive in a reasonable and prudent manner with regard for the control of the vehicle and traffic conditions on the roadway; [and]
f. see that which was there to be seen and take proper action with respect thereto.

         Plaintiffs further claimed that Employee violated Tennessee Code Annotated sections 55-8-124(a)[1] and -136(b)[2] by following more closely than was reasonable and prudent and by failing to exercise due care. Plaintiffs alleged that Employee's negligence caused the accident and their corresponding injuries.

         On May 18, 2016, Defendants moved for summary judgment, citing the recording as evidence that Mr. Trammell was more than 50 percent at fault and that Employee acted as a reasonably prudent person would have under the circumstances, thereby negating the breach of duty element. Defendants alleged that the recording established that Mr. Trammell swerved in front of Employee. In support of their motion, Defendants attached a statement of undisputed material facts and declarations submitted by Rod Goodner, Freshpoint's Director of Operations, and Employee.

         Mr. Goodner declared that he inspected the truck and the video camera mounted on the dashboard. He initiated the upload of the video and then downloaded the file onto his computer. He attached a true and accurate copy of the video. Likewise, Employee confirmed that the box truck was equipped with a video camera. He further claimed that Mr. Trammell "swerved his vehicle into my lane of traffic directly in front of the ...


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