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Cardona v. The Mason And Dixon Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

May 31, 2017

ALBA CARDONA, Plaintiff,
v.
THE MASON AND DIXON LINES, INC., NATIONAL TRUCK LEASING a/k/a NATIONAL TRUCK FUNDING and TIMOTHY LEVERETTE, individually, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOHN J. O'SULLIVAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER came before the Court on the Defendant, National Truck Leasing's Second Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (DE# 60, 1/6/17).

         BACKGROUND

         On January 6, 2017, defendant National Truck Leasing (hereinafter “defendant”)[1]filed the instant motion. See Defendant, National Truck Leasing's Second Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (DE# 60, 1/6/17) (hereinafter “Motion”). The plaintiff filed her response in opposition on March 1, 2017. See Plaintiff's Response to National Truck Leasing's Second Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (DE# 76, 3/1/17) (hereinafter “Response”). The plaintiff also filed several deposition transcripts. See Plaintiff's Notices of Filing (DE# 72-74, 3/1/17). The defendant filed its reply on March 8, 2017. See Defendant, National Truck Funding's Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Second Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (DE# 79, 3/8/17) (hereinafter “Reply”).

         This matter is ripe for adjudication.

         FACTS

         At all relevant times, the defendant “[wa]s engaged in the business of renting and/or leasing commercial and heavy-duty trucks. . . .” Motion (DE# 60 at 2). On January 22, 2013, the defendant entered into a Commercial Truck Rental Agreement (hereinafter “Rental Agreement”) with defendant Timothy Leverette. See Rental Agreement, Exhibit A to Affidavit of T. Alan Walls (DE# 33 at 6-11).[2] The defendant was the owner of the truck rented to Mr. Leverette. The Rental Agreement provided that “[Mr. Leverette] acknowledge[d] that he[ ] ha[d] inspected the Truck per the Attachment to [the Rental Agreement] and except as expressly noted, ha[d] agreed that the Truck [wa]s in a good and usable condition, with no apparent defects and fit for [Mr. Leverette]'s rental purpose. Id. at 7. Under the terms of the Rental Agreement, “[Mr. Leverette] agree[d] to maintain the Truck per the Payment and Maintenance Responsibilities section.” Id. The “Payment and Maintenance Responsibilities” section of the Rental Agreement stated, in pertinent part, that:

2. MAINTENANCE. [Mr. Leverette] is responsible for maintenance of the Truck and agrees to maintain it in the operating condition, as well as appearances, as when, it was first rented by [Mr. Leverette]. [Mr. Leverette] agrees that he[ ] has inspected the Truck and accepts that the Truck is in good operating condition and appearance. [Mr. Leverette] agrees to maintain the Truck in approved U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) condition at all times. Specifically[, Mr. Leverette] must (i) change oil in the motor every 10, 000 miles, transmission and rear ends at least every 100, 000 miles, and to replace any tire which shows tread wear in excess of 50%. [Mr. Leverette] must i) send [the defendant] the maintenance receipts; ii) inspect the wheel seals, transmission seals, motor seals, look for and locate oil leaks; iii) inspect all gauges on the dash; in particular looking for low oil pressure and high water temperature. [Mr. Leverette] also agrees to maintain the Truck body, glass, and all interior appointments in good condition and agrees to maintain the air pressure system, brake system, heat and air conditioning system, electrical system, fuel system, exhaust system, and all other systems, attachments, appointments and finishes in good working condition and free from any defects or malfunctions. [The defendant] is granted full access to inspect the entire interior and exterior of the Truck regardless of location. Any failure of [Mr. Leverette] to maintain the Truck in good working condition as set forth herein shall be considered negligence and a breach of this Rental Agreement and shall permit [the defendant] to terminate this Rental Agreement and take possession of the Truck.
3. REPAIRS & ALTERATIONS. [Mr. Leverette] must have prior written authorization from [the defendant] for any repairs in excess of $300.00 outside of the maintenance schedule listed above. [Mr. Leverette] also understands he[ ] may not alter or modify the appearance of the vehicle, exterior and interior, except as required by haul company, without prior written authorization from [the defendant].

Id. at 8 (emphasis added).

         On July 19, 2013, Mr. Leverette was driving the truck he had rented from the defendant when he collided with the plaintiff's vehicle. On “the same evening after the accident occurred, the [truck] passed a [United States Department of Transportation] inspection. . . .” Reply (DE# 79 at 2).

         During this litigation, the defendant did not produced any maintenance records or photographs evidencing the condition of the truck before it was in Mr. Leverette's custody or after it was in Mr. Leverette's custody. Response (DE# 76 at 2-3). The defendant “has no knowledge as to the safety features that the truck [wa]s supposed to be equipped with” and “whether those safety features were in existence or not.” Id. at 2. The defendant “does not have any record of any safety violations observed on the truck when it [wa]s in the custody of its renters or lessors.” Id.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court is guided by the standard set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ...


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