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Borough of Nauagatuck v. Knight Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 11, 2018

Borough of Naugatuck, Plaintiff,
v.
Knight Transportation, Inc. & Warren L. Huggins, Jr., Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JANET BOND ARTERTON, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Borough of Naugatuck brings this action against Knight Transportation, Inc. and its employee Warren L. Huggins, Jr. ("Defendants") alleging negligent property damage to Plaintiffs high school track. Defendants concede liability and move [Doc. #18] for summary judgment on the applicable measure of damages to be awarded to Plaintiff. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted for the reasons that follow.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff did not submit a Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement, and the following set of facts is undisputed for the purposes of this motion. See D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 56(a)(1) ("Each material fact set forth in the Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement and supported by the evidence will be deemed admitted ... unless such fact is controverted by the Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement.")[1]

         On December 31, 2014, Defendants were making a scheduled delivery of products to Naugatuck High School. (Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts [Doc. # 18-2] ¶2.) Defendant Huggins had trouble finding a road off the Plaintiffs property that would accommodate his tractor trailer vehicle. He opened the gate to and drove onto Plaintiffs high school track to turn his vehicle around. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) This maneuver resulted in damage to two parts of the track: a portion of one lane of the track itself ("Lane 3") and an infield area of the track. (Id. ¶ 5.) The damaged area of Lane 3 was approximately 1.5 square feet and required a patch of 1.3 square yards; the total area of the track is 6, 980 yards. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 22.)

         Plaintiff hired a subsidiary of the company that originally installed the track to perform the repairs to the track, which were completed by August 26, 2015 for a cost of $16, 283.00. (Id. ¶ 7-8; Ex. B to id. [Doc. # 18-4] at 20.) This professional installer made the repairs using the same material used for the original installation and created a texture similar to the rest of the track. (Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 9.) There is no evidence to suggest that the repairs were not performed in a proper and workmanlike manner or that the repairs failed to meet industry standards for safety and performance. (Id. ¶10.)

         Nonetheless, the repaired area of Lane 3 does not match the color of the rest of the track. (Id. ¶ 16.) There is also a slight difference in compression between the repaired portion of Lane 3 and the adjacent track. (See Dep. Tr. of Brian Mariano, Ex. A to id. [Doc. 18-3] at 23:3-8 ("... when the weather is cold, the track is hard everywhere, but as you get into track season, there's a definite squishier feel. There's a little more compression to the patch than the rest of the track. Typically, the track is a little bit firmer for that grip, and that area is a little bit softer. . . .").) The repaired portion of the infield area of the track is visually imperceptible. (Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 17; Engineer's Report, Ex. C to id. [Doc. # 18-5] at 5 ("Recent photographs show uniform color and texture throughout the repaired Infield....").)

         The repaired area of the track is both safe to use and fully functional for its intended use- there is no evidence that the difference in compression affects the performance of the track, and the track has been in continuous, normal use since it was repaired. (Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 13, 16-17.) No visiting coach or athlete has raised concerns about the track, and the track coach at Naugatuck High School has never voiced any safety concerns about the track.[2] (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) However, some community members have complained about the track's aesthetics. (Mariano Dep. Tr. at 19:12-14.)

         In its proposal submitted to Plaintiffs, the repair installer included an optional component of the repair: '"Additional Charge' - In the event that the patch area is still visible and the [Plaintiff] is not satisfied an[d] a[n] additional structural spray layer is needed there will be a charge of $5900.00 added to the [$16, 283.00] base price below." (3/28/15 Proposal, Ex. B to Def.'s Stmt. at 22.) Plaintiff did not purchase this option. (Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 19-20.)[3] More than one year after repairs were completed, Plaintiff received a proposal for applying a structural spray layer to the surface of the entire track at an estimated cost of $119, 250.00. (10/29/16 Proposal, Ex. B to id. at 23.) Even with this additional step, the repair to Lane 3 will remain somewhat noticeable. (Stone Aff. ¶ 17 ("It is almost impossible to completely correct a color difference in the track surface after a repair is made. It is possible that a structural spray layer over the entire track surface will minimize the appearance of any color differences, but it will not completely restore the appearance of the track surface to its original, pre-damage condition.").)

         Plaintiffs make no argument that the infield portion of the track requires further repairs. (Pl.'s Mem. [Doc. # 19] at 9 ("The plaintiff submits that there is sufficient evidence ... to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact, namely, whether the running track was restored to substantially the same condition it was in before the damage ....").)

         II. Discussion

         A. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where, after all ambiguities and inferences are drawn in favor of the party against whom judgment is sought, the moving party shows there is no genuine issue of material fact. Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., L.P.,22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994) (citing Heyman v. Commerce & Indus. Ins. Co.,524 F.2d 1317, 1320 (2d Cir. 1975)). "The moving party bears the burden of establishing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact," Zalaski v. City of Bridgeport Police Dep't,613 F.3d 336, 340 (2d Cir. 2010), but "in cases where the nonmovant will bear the ultimate burden of proof at trial on an issue, the moving party's burden under Rule 56 will be satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim." Brady v. Town of Colchester,863 F.2d 205, 210-11 (2d Cir. 1988) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317 (1986)). "[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is 'genuine,' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the ...


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