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Violeta Bursuc v. Paul Hegarty and Sean Mcanena

February 7, 2012

VIOLETA BURSUC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PAUL HEGARTY AND SEAN MCANENA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

This case concerns plaintiff's claims that defendants are liable for the injuries she sustained when defendants' vehicle struck the bicycle she was riding. Currently before the Court are two motions for summary judgment, one filed by each defendant. Plaintiff has opposed both motions. For the reasons expressed below, defendant Paul Hegarty's motion will be denied, and defendant Sean McAnena's motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

On August 27, 2008, plaintiff, Violeta Bursuc, was struck by a pick-up truck, owned by defendant Sean McAnena and driven by defendant Paul Hegarty, while she was riding a bicycle in Wildwood, New Jersey. Plaintiff was hit when she rode off the sidewalk down a driveway and into the street. Plaintiff recalls riding her bicycle into the street and seeing the pick-up truck moments before impact, but she does not remember any more details about the accident. Defendant Hegarty, who borrowed defendant McAnena's vehicle to pick-up his daughters from the beach because he did not want to lose the parking spot of his own vehicle, recalls hearing a scream and then the impact occurred. One eyewitness to the accident, Paul Lubiak, Jr., was standing on the second floor deck of a house across the street, and he observed plaintiff riding into the street and being hit by the pick-up truck.

Both defendants have moved for summary judgment in their favor. Defendant Hegarty argues that he is entitled to summary judgment because plaintiff's witnesses lack credibility, and therefore, plaintiff cannot establish liability as to Hegarty. Defendant McAnena argues that he is entitled to summary judgment because it is undisputed that no agency relationship existed between Hegarty and McAnena, and therefore, he cannot be held liable for plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff has opposed both motions, arguing that factual and credibility determinations must go to a jury.

ANALYSIS

A. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that the materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, or interrogatory answers, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

An issue is "genuine" if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Marino v. Industrial Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004)(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. A party opposing summary judgment must do more than just rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or vague statements. Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001).

C. Analysis

1. Defendant Hegarty's Motion for Summary Judgment In his motion, Hegarty argues that plaintiff cannot meet her burden of proving that he was negligent, and that judgment must be entered in his favor. The basis of Hegarty's position is that because plaintiff cannot remember the details of how the accident occurred, she must rely upon the testimony of two witnesses--the eyewitness, Paul Lubiak, and her expert witness, William Martin--and that the testimony of both witnesses is faulty. Hegarty argues that the testimony is not credible because both witnesses rely upon ...


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