United States District Court, D. Connecticut
TAVONN R. JENKINS, et al, Plaintiffs,
ROAD SCHOLAR TRANSPORTATION, LLC, et al, Defendants.
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
BOND ARTERTON, U.S.D.J.
Tavonn R. Jenkins, together with his minor children Tavonn R.
Jenkins, Jr. and Mia Cherie Jenkins, brings this diversity
action against Road Scholar Transportation, LLC, 2001 Leasing
Corporation, and Joshua P. Caswell, for personal injuries
suffered by Plaintiff and for his children's loss of
consortium. (Second Am. Compl. ("SAC") [Doc. # 58]
¶¶ 1-8.) Plaintiff claims that Defendant Caswell
acted negligently by unsafely and illegally parking his truck
on the right shoulder of 1-95, where Plaintiff collided with
the truck and suffered serious injuries on March 8, 2014.
(Id. ¶¶ 11-12, 16.) Defendants moved for
summary judgment, ([Doc. # 901), and for the reasons set
forth below, the Court grants Defendants' Motion.
evening of March 7, 2014, Plaintiff drove from his home in
New Haven to attend a birthday party in New York, leaving
around 9 p.m. and arriving in New York approximately one hour
and forty-five minutes later. (Ex. A (PL's Dep.) to
Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 90-3] at 43, 48-50.) The
party took place at a restaurant, 9A. (Id. at 50.)
Plaintiff estimates that he left the party "around
midnight or 1:00 [a.m.] ...." (Id. at 56.)
After leaving 9A, Plaintiff walked to Amy Ruth's, a
"chicken and waffle ... place in Harlem."
(Id. at 57.) Amy Ruth's was within walking
distance of 9A, and Plaintiff wanted "to get some air,
get some coffee, get something in [his] system[.]"
(Id.) Plaintiff had only eaten appetizers at 9A, but
stated that he had also eaten dinner at home in New Haven
before driving to New York. (Id. at 57-58.) At his
deposition, Plaintiff testified that his alcohol consumption
at 9A consisted of "a couple of celebratory shots"
and a single beer. (Id. at 58-60.) At Amy
Ruth's, Plaintiff ate chicken and waffles, which he
described as a "sobering up method." (Id.
at 61.) Plaintiff stayed at Amy Ruth's for no more than
forty-five minutes. (Id.) Plaintiff drank coffee on
his walk back to his car, which was parked at 9A.
(Id. at 62.) Plaintiff left New York around 3 a.m.,
and the collision occurred at 3:49 a.m. (Id. at
intended to drive directly to his home in New Haven from 9A,
taking 1-95, a drive that he had made many times before.
(Id. at 64.) Before the collison, Plaintiff stopped
only to pay the toll. (Id. at 65.) According to
Plaintiff, prior to the collison, he was driving around 50-55
miles per hour in the middle of three lanes in Greenwich,
Connecticut. (Id. at 66.) Plaintiff testified that
as he passed a truck weigh station on his right, he "hit
a patch of ice or something, some slippery condition on the
ground," which he "assumed was black ice because
[he] couldn't see it[.]" (Id. at 68-69.)
Upon hitting the ice, Plaintiff testified that he "began
to slide to the right through one lane past the breakdown
lane." (Id. at 69.) Upon entering the breakdown
lane but before hitting the truck, the right side of
Plaintiffs car made contact with an ice bank piled to the
right of the breakdown lane, staying in contact with that ice
for 82 feet until he collided with the parked truck.
(Id. at 69, 74.)
to Plaintiff, when he hit the ice patch in the middle lane,
he did not spin, but instead slid to the right. (Id.
at 92.) The car did not rotate and remained facing forward in
the direction of traffic, but crossed over from the middle
lane to the right travel lane, through the acceleration lane
(leading out of the weigh station), and into the shoulder.
(Id. at 93-94.)
to Plaintiffs medical records, Plaintiff told staff that he
believed he lost consciousness and that he had seven drinks
before the collison. ([Doc. # 90-9] at 2.) The records state
that Plaintiff "is currently intoxicated" and
"smells of alcohol." (Id.) While the
records do not clearly specify at what time those
observations were made, they do note that Plaintiff had to be
extricated from the car over the course of 2 hours.
(Id.) At his deposition, Plaintiff maintained that
he was awake throughout this entire episode and denied
recalling that he had told a responding state trooper and
Stamford Hospital staff that he had fallen asleep at the
wheel. (PL's Dep. at 74-75.) When asked whether he
recalled telling hospital staff that he had had seven drinks,
Plaintiff testified that he did not remember speaking with
the staff at all. (Id. at 99.)
recalls that the weather was cold on the night of the
collison, but he did not have any other traction issues on
the way to New York or on the return trip until the collison.
(Id. at 96.) Plaintiff did not see any other
vehicles spin out or lose control on the highway.
(Id.) Deputy Chief Keith Millette of the Greenwich
Fire Department, who responded to the crash, approached from
the same direction as had Plaintiff and states in his
affidavit that he had "no recollection of having
difficulties with traction, or encountering any problems with
ice on the roadway." ([Doc. # 90-12] at 2-3.) Millette
arrived at the scene at 4:03:55 a.m. (Id. at 3.)
Over course of the 3-hour call, from approximately 4:00 to
7:00 a.m., Millette had "no recollection of having had
any difficulties with ice[, ]" and the only ice he saw
was in the snowbank on the side of the road. (Id. at
3-4.) Millette noted that "[t]here was nothing
compelling about the surface of the road or shoulder, one way
or the other" and that he did "not remember any
Fire Department personnel having difficulty with their
footing." (Id. at 4.)
in the unrebutted report of Brad Field, Chief Meteorologist
of New England Skywatch Weather, Field concludes, based on
the absence of precipitation in the location of the crash,
and the lack of "evidence of enough [snowbank] melting
to flood into the northbound travel lane and freeze over[,
]" that it is "highly likely that the travel lane
would have been dry and ice-free." ([Doc. # 90-13] at
support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants also
rely upon the unrebutted expert toxicology report of Dr.
Charles McKay. ([Doc. # 90-11].) In his report, Dr. McKay
lays out the basis and methodology by which he
reverse-extrapolates Plaintiffs approximate blood-alcohol
concentration ("BAC") at the time of the crash.
(Id. at 3-4, 6.) Dr. McKay notes that "[t]he
BAC equivalent of 0.093g% was drawn from Mr. Jenkins 3 hours
and 21 minutes after the crash, with his last drink stated to
have been consumed more than 2 hours before that."
(Id. at 3.) According to Dr. McKay's
calculations, Plaintiffs "BAC at the time of the crash
would have most likely been >0.15g% (with a possible range
of 0.12 - 0.19g%)." (Id.) Accordingly, Dr.
McKay concludes that Plaintiff "was legally intoxicated
while driving on the highway in the early morning hours of
March 8, 2014." (Id. at 5.) "His
[reverse-extrapolated] BAC at the time of the crash ...
represented nearly 4 standard drinks of alcohol in his system
at that time, and most likely required the consumption of
more than 13 standard drinks over that evening and night to
night of the crash, Connecticut State Trooper David Tharas
was assigned to patrol 1-95 north and south between the New
York border and Exit 10. (Ex. C (Tharas Dep.) to Defs.'
Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 90-5] at 12.) Tharas was dispatched to
the scene, where he remained from approximately 4:00 until
7:00 a.m. (Id. at 20, 23.) Tharas had no issues with
ice on the roadway that night and testified that the roads
were clear. (Id. at 23-24.) Tharas stated that he
knew Plaintiff had been drinking because he "smelled it
on him." (Id. at 29-30.) Moreover, according to
Tharas, Plaintiffs "eyes were bloodshot and glassy"
and his speech was slurred. (Id. at 35.)
asked Plaintiff what had happened, and Plaintiff told him
that he had fallen asleep. (Id. at 37.) Plaintiff
made no mention of having hit ice on the roadway.
(Id. at 37-38.) Tharas found, in his report, that
the two contributing factors to the crash were (1) Joshua
Caswell illegally parking in the breakdown lane and (2)
Plaintiffs operation of his car under the influence of
alcohol. (Id. at 59-60.)
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment