Friday, October 19, 2012

Santiago v. First Students Inc. case brief

Santiago v. First Students Inc. (2004)
839 A.2d 550

Procedural History
•    Plaintiff school bus passenger appealed a decision of the Providence County Superior Court (Rhode Island), which granted summary judgment to defendant bus company in the passenger’s action for negligence in which she claimed that she was injured in a phantom bus crash with an unidentified car on an unknown date at an unspecified location with no witnesses.

Facts
•    The passenger, who at the time was in the eighth grade, 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. The passenger 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. The passenger did not see the collision occur and was unable to offer any details about it. The trial court held that the passenger had failed to provide any evidence of the bus company’s negligence, and on appeal the court agreed

Rule
•    Summary judgment for defendant is appropriate where a plaintiff alleges negligence, but offers almost no evidence to support the claim, so that assigning negligence to defendant would cross the line of reasonable inference to rank speculation.

Application
•    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.
•    The mere occurrence of an accident, without more, does not warrant an inference that a defendant has been negligent. Rather, a party’s negligence must affirmatively be established by competent evidence and may not be based on conjecture or speculation.

Holding
•    The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.


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