ST. LOUIS – The U.S. District Court Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division has ruled in favor of a Missouri man who filed a lawsuit against the U.S. after he was injured while trying to avoid a collision with a postal worker’s vehicle.
In the March 21 ruling, U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry said genuine disputes of material fact remain and therefore summary judgment cannot be granted.
“Where sufficient evidence exists to support a factual dispute, a jury must resolve the differing versions of truth at trial,” the opinion stated. “A fact is considered ‘material’ if it ‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.’”
Background in the ruling indicates the government had moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff Joe Jackson Jr. was solely responsible for his injuries under Missouri law because he could have avoided the accident had he been driving more slowly or had he driven around the postal vehicle.
The incident happened in March 2016. The ruling states Jackson Jr. was driving his scooter westbound on Brotherton Lane in Ferguson and postal truck driver Chaprisse Jones was turning on to Brotherton Lane from Grove before attempting to make a U-turn. The ruling states the plaintiff believed he could not stop in time to avoid hitting the vehicle and laid down his scooter on the payment, causing his injuries. There was no collision between the scooter and the postal service vehicle.
Citing Missouri law, the court said a claim of negligence requires a duty of care owed to plaintiff, breach of duty, breach which was the direct and proximate cause of the injuries and actual damages to the plaintiff.
“A driver operating a motor vehicle has a duty to exercise the highest degree of care,” the opinion stated. “Generally, negligence is an issue for the trier of fact.”
According to the defendant’s argument, cited by the court, Jackson testified in his deposition that he could have avoided the accident if he had been driving more slowly and also testified that there was room for the scooter to have gone around the truck.
“Defendant presented testimony of a police officer who measured skid marks at the scene, and presented the affidavit of a witness who believes that plaintiff was traveling at a rate of 40 miles per hour,” the opinion stated.
Looking at defendant’s argument, Perry said the evidence proves that what happened is disputed and “summary judgment is not appropriate.”
“Plaintiff did not concede that he was traveling too fast under the circumstances, he merely agreed that he could have avoided the accident if he had been driving more slowly,” the opinion stated. “This does not prove negligence on his part.”
Perry said Jackson could have presumably “avoided the accident if he had been walking the scooter rather than driving it, but that does not mean his speed during the accident was excessive.”
“Whether he could have avoided the accident by driving around the truck similarly depends on speed and other facts that have not been provided to the court,” Perry wrote. “This is a classic case requiring a trial.”
Perry also wrote that “while skid marks may be relevant, the cause of the skid marks and whether they show that plaintiff was traveling at an excessive speed is a factual issue that cannot be resolved on a motion for summary judgment.”