An appellate court's scope of review of a trial court's grant of summary judgment is limited to determining whether the trial court made an error of law, or abused its discretion. Summary judgment should only be granted in a clear case, and the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that no material issue of fact remains. The record must be reviewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
A tractor-trailer jackknifed on the interstate in an attempt to avoid colliding with a vehicle during a rainstorm. As traffic began to backup, a power line fell and landed on two stopped vehicles. State troopers arrived on the scene to direct traffic, and power company employees began removing the power line. Two hours later, another tractor-trailer collided with a vehicle stopped in traffic from the first accident. Plaintiffs' vehicle was stopped behind the second accident. Plaintiffs' vehicle was struck from behind by a delivery truck and they were injured. Plaintiffs filed a negligence action against defendants, the drivers of all the vehicles involved, the state, and the power company. The trial court found that the passage of time between the accidents and plaintiffs' injuries was not continuous and active, that the delivery truck driver's negligence was the cause of the injuries and that the state was immune from liability. The trail court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. On appeal, the court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the state, but reversed the trial court order that granted summary judgment to the other defendants.
Did the trial court err in granting summary judgment in favor of defendants without determining the issue of causation for plaintiffs’ injuries?
The issue of causation for plaintiffs' injuries should have been decided by the trier of fact. The mere existence of negligence and the occurrence of injury were insufficient to impose liability upon anyone as there remains to be proved the link of causation.