In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the evidence is reviewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Summary judgment is appropriate if there are no genuine issues of material fact remaining and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of material questions of fact. That burden may be satisfied by submitting evidentiary materials, such as interrogatory answers, deposition testimony, admissions, or other specific documents, and/or pointing to the absence of such items in the evidence adduced by the parties. If the moving party satisfies that initial burden, the nonmoving party then must identify any evidentiary materials already before the court or present its own evidence demonstrating that factual questions remain.
Plaintiff school bus passenger claimed that while she was riding home on one of the bus company's buses, she was injured when the bus collided with an unidentified vehicle. Plaintiff could not remember the street or the neighborhood where the accident occurred. Police did not respond to the accident and consequently, there was no police report. Plaintiff did not see the collision occur and was unable to offer any details about it. The trial court granted summary judgment for defendant as plaintiff failed to provide any evidence of the bus company's negligence, and on appeal the court agreed.
Was plaintiff able to present sufficient evidence to establish defendant's negligence?
The court held that to assign negligence to the bus company based on the evidence in the record would have impermissibly crossed the line from reasonable inference and ventured into the realm of rank speculation. The passenger's tenuous description of the accident left the bus company virtually unable to conduct discovery. The passenger failed to meet her burden on the bus company's motion for summary judgment.