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McDuffie v. Wilner

February 17, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gabriel W. Gorenstein, United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Sean A. McDuffie brought this personal injury action against defendants Jan S. Wilner a/k/a Jon S. Wilner a/k/a John S. Wilner and JB Hunt Transport, Inc. ("JB Hunt") in New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County. JB Hunt and Wilner removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). McDuffie later filed an Amended Complaint adding RSK, Co. as a defendant and asserting against it two claims for declaratory relief. This Court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) because of the complete diversity among the parties. McDuffie alleges that he was injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by Wilner, who was driving a truck on behalf of his employer, JB Hunt.

Wilner and JB Hunt now move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 dismissing the complaint. RSK, the carrier that paid McDuffie worker's compensation benefits, moves for summary judgment seeking a ruling that Connecticut's Workers' Compensation Law applies to this matter and directing McDuffie to satisfy the full amount of RSK's lien on any judgment or settlement McDuffie may receive. McDuffie moves for summary judgment against Wilner and JB Hunt on the issue of liability.

For the reasons stated below, McDuffie's motion is granted in part and denied in part, Wilner and JB Hunt's motion is denied, and RSK's motion is granted.


To determine the relevant facts, we turn to the parties' statements pursuant to Local Civil

Rule 56.1(a). Each party purported to submit a statement of undisputed material facts in support of its motion. See Rule 56.1 Statement of Material Facts, filed Aug. 30, 2005 (Docket #43) ("Pl. 56.1"); Local Civil Rule 56.1 Statement ("Wilner-JB 56.1") (annexed to Notice of Motion, filed July 15, 2005 (Docket #35) ("Wilner-JB Mot.")); Rule 56.1 Statement of Material Facts and Memorandum of Law, filed Aug. 1, 2005 (Docket #37) ("RSK 56.1"), at 2-3. McDuffie's statement and the joint statement of Wilner and JB Hunt, however, do not contain citations to admissible evidence as required by Local Civil Rule 56.1(d). While the Court could simply deny their motions on this basis alone, see Amnesty Am. v. Town of West Hartford, 288 F.3d 467, 470 (2d Cir. 2002) ("Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 does not impose an obligation on a district court to perform an independent review of the record to find proof of a factual dispute.") (citing cases), it would be pointless to do so since the two statements are in agreement with respect to the essential facts of the underlying incident. See, e.g., Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., Inc., 258 F.3d 62, 73 (2d Cir. 2001) ("A district court has broad discretion to determine whether to overlook a party's failure to comply with local court rules.").

RSK's Rule 56.1(a) statement, which relates to the issue of workers' compensation, contains citations to admissible evidence. Because no party submitted a statement controverting any of the factual assertions in RSK's statement, see Local Civil Rule 56.1(b), the facts contained in RSK's Rule 56.1(a) statement are deemed admitted. See Local Civil Rule 56.1(c).

A. Facts

On October 14, 2003, McDuffie parked a tractor-trailer in a designated spot outside a Home Depot store so that the store's employees could unload the goods from his trailer. See Pl. 56.1 ¶ 1; RSK 56.1 ¶ 1. While the Home Depot employees were unloading the trailer, Pl. 56.1 ¶ 2 -- or, in defendants' version, while McDuffie was waiting for this process to occur, Wilner-JB 56.1 ¶ 1 -- McDuffie was "squatting in the rear sleeper cabin" of the trailer, Wilner-JB 56.1 ¶ 1. At the same time, Wilner was operating a tractor-trailer owned by his employer, JB Hunt, and was attempting to maneuver that trailer into the Home Depot loading dock in reverse. Pl. 56.1 ¶¶ 3-4. While reversing the trailer, Wilner caused the left front bumper of JB Hunt's trailer to strike the driver's side front bumper of McDuffie's stationary trailer. Id. ¶¶ 3, 5-6. When the vehicles collided, McDuffie was thrown forward in the rear of his trailer cabin causing him to strike his left shoulder against the interior of the cabin. Wilner-JB 56.1 ¶ 4.

At the time of the accident, McDuffie was a resident of Connecticut (as he remains today), and was employed by Anastasio & Sons Trucking Company, which is also located in the State of Connecticut. RSK 56.1 ¶ 2; see also Amended Complaint, filed Apr. 22, 2005 (Docket #30) ("Am. Compl."), ¶ 1. McDuffie's injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment, and thus were covered by Connecticut's Workers' Compensation Act. Id. (citing to Employer's First Report of Occupational Injury or Disease ("Injury Report") (reproduced as Ex. A to Notice of Motion, filed Aug. 1, 2005 (Docket #36) ("RSK Mot."))). After the accident, McDuffie requested workers' compensation benefits in Connecticut. Id. ¶ 1 (citing Injury Report). RSK was the workers' compensation carrier for McDuffie's employer. Id. ¶ 3.

Accordingly, RSK made payments on behalf of McDuffie through the Workers' Compensation Commission of Connecticut. Id. (citing to Display Financial Details ("RSK Payments") (reproduced as Ex. B to RSK Mot.)). After McDuffie filed the instant lawsuit in New York State court, RSK sent correspondence to McDuffie's counsel "asserting a lien on any recovery had by McDuffie in the amount of $60,284.44." Id. ¶ 4 (citing Letter fax from Maggie Luhn to Joe Vozza, dated Sept. 23, 2003 (reproduced as Ex. C to RSK Mot.)). RSK has now paid about $65,023.25 on behalf of McDuffie. See RSK Payments.

B. Procedural History

On September 24, 2003, McDuffie commenced the instant lawsuit in New York Supreme Court, Bronx County, asserting a claim of negligence against Wilner and JB Hunt. See Verified Complaint ("Compl.") (reproduced as Ex. A to Notice of Removal, filed Oct. 22, 2003 (Docket #1) ("Notice of Removal")), ¶¶ 16-17. On October 22, 2003, the defendants removed the action to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. See Notice of Removal. McDuffie filed an Amended Complaint on April 22, 2005, adding RSK as a defendant, and asserted two additional causes of action seeking a declaratory judgment, inter alia, as to whether RSK can assert a lien on McDuffie's recovery. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 46, 55-58. In response to the Amended Complaint, Wilner and JB Hunt filed an amended answer. Amended Verified Answer, filed May 4, 2005 (Docket #31). RSK answered the Amended Complaint and included a ...

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