IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS FOR THE STATE OF DELAWARE
IN AND FOR NEW CASTLE COUNTY
WALTER CARROW, JR., CMX INC.,
EDWARD SLAUGHTER, JR.
D/B/A ED SLAUGHTER’S NEW &
USED AUTO PARTS,
C.A. No. U408-05-062
October 18, 2010
December 2, 2010
DECISION AFTER TRIAL
Richard L. Abbott, Esquire, Hockessin, Delaware, Attorney for Plaintiffs
Nicholas M. Krayer, Esquire, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Defendants
This is a breach of contract and negligence action. Walter Carrow Jr. and CMX,
Inc. (“Carrow”) filed this lawsuit against Edward Slaughter Jr. d/b/a Ed Slaughter’s New
and Used Auto Parts (“Slaughter”). The Court reserved its decision after the trial. The
parties submitted post-trial memoranda. This is the Court’s decision after trial in favor of
Carrow is a tractor-trailer operator with twenty-eight years experience operating
commercial vehicles, and has experience as a mechanic performing routine maintenance
on tractor-trailers. Thus, Carrow has significant experience operating tractor-trailers;
inspecting tractors and the trailers he personally hooked up to his tractor; and he is
familiar with federal inspection guidelines for tractor-trailers. Carrow emphasized the
importance of pre-trip inspections, including the need to ensure that the trailer is properly
attached to the tractor and that the pin assembly of the trailer is secure. Carrow also
emphasized the importance of annual Department of Transportation (“D.O.T.”)
inspections, as well as the importance of affixing annual D.O.T. inspection stickers in
easily-seen locations on the both the tractor and the trailer.
Slaughter operates a business in Dover, Delaware known as Ed Slaughter’s New
& Used Auto Parts. Among other things, he purchases cars, crushes them, and sells the
crushed cars for scrap. In addition to the machinery used to crush cars, Slaughter owns a
trailer used to haul the crushed cars. Slaughter’s brother John Slaughter is a commercial
truck driver who drives a tractor-trailer and hauls freight, including hauling
approximately 25 loads of crushed cars for Slaughter during the period March 2006 to
On or about July 9, 2007, Slaughter had a load of crushed cars to be hauled to a
scrap yard in Philadelphia. John Slaughter was unavailable to haul the load. Slaughter’s
wife, Melanie Slaughter, contacted Carrow and asked Carrow to haul the load of crushed
Carrow and Melanie Slaughter had a relationship prior to her marriage with
Slaughter, and Carrow is the father of Melanie Slaughter’s youngest child. In other
words, the parties are not strangers. Indeed, Slaughter’s testimony that he has “good”
relationship with Carrow was not disputed.
At the time of the incident which gave rise to this lawsuit: (i) Carrow owned a
1998 Volvo tractor through CMX, Inc., a Delaware corporation, which is wholly owned
by Carrow; (ii) Carrow leased his tractor to Daily Express and agreed to haul freight
exclusively for Daily Express; and (iii) Daily Express insured Carrow’s tractor and Daily
Express trailers attached to Carrow’s tractor.
When Carrow agreed with Melanie
Slaughter to haul a load of crushed cars from Slaughter’s business premises in Dover to a
scrap yard in Philadelphia, Carrow knew he was not authorized by Daily Express to pull
that load and knew that it violated his exclusive contract with Daily Express to do so.
Also, Carrow told Melanie Slaughter that he was not insured to haul the load.
When Carrow arrived at Slaughter’s business, he met briefly with Slaughter; they
agreed on a price of $350.00 cash; and Slaughter paid Carrow in advance. The trailer
was already loaded with the crushed cars that were strapped down.
The load was
consistent with Carrow’s expectations. Carrow was satisfied with the way in which the
crushed cars were loaded and secured.
John Slaughter testified that a load of crushed cars is “top heavy.” Carrow
testified on cross-examination that it was a heavy load which could be affected by the
center of gravity. He also conceded, when asked on cross-examination, that in general it
could be a difficult load to pull because of how high the load is, which in turn raised the
center of gravity. However, in Carrow’s experience with high and heavy loads, it was “a
good load.” There was approximately 44,000 pounds of crushed cars on the trailer.
Carrow hooked up the tractor to the trailer by lining it up and backing it in to
make sure that the pin assembly latched to the tractor. Carrow attached the air and
electric lines. To ensure that the trailer was properly hitched to his tractor and that the
trailer brakes worked properly, Carrow put his tractor in gear, drove forward, applied his
brakes and then released his brakes. The purpose was to “tug against the coupling
assembly to test it.” Carrow was satisfied with how the pin assembly held and how the
Carrow also performed a pre-trip visual inspection: he “walk[ed] around,”
checked the lights and “ducked down” to visually inspect the coupling assembly which
was “well-greased.” Carrow did not see any rusting and had no concerns about the
coupling assembly. Carrow did not crawl under the trailer. According to Carrow, the
purpose of a pre-trip visual inspection was to check anything “obvious.” Carrow testified
that he was not required to crawl under the trailer because “that is what an annual
[D.O.T.] inspection is for.”
Nevertheless, despite his detailed testimony on direct examination about the
importance of regular D.O.T. inspections consistent with federal regulations and the need
for a clearly-posted and current D.O.T. inspection sticker, Carrow conceded on crossexamination that he knew the trailer did not have a D.O.T. inspection sticker. Carrow
also agreed that he should not have hauled the trailer under those circumstances.
Carrow’s pre-trip visual inspection revealed that the trailer had a “soft tire” which
was the only thing that needed attention. Slaughter and Carrow agreed that Carrow
would “stop at Mike’s” and get the tire fixed before continuing on to Philadelphia. At
Mike’s, the trailer was “jacked up” and the tire was fixed. Carrow did not inspect under
the trailer while it was lifted on a jack.
After getting the tire fixed, Carrow continued driving the tractor-trailer to the
salvage yard where he intended to weigh in, unload the trailer, weigh out, and return the
ticket and the trailer to Slaughter. Carrow testified that he knew where the salvage yard
was located; knew how to get there; and was familiar with the area. Nevertheless,
Carrow took a wrong turn from an exit ramp and had to circle back.
The road was uneven due to trolley tracks in both directions.
introduced as exhibits showed vehicles tilting to the right while going around the curve in
the road. Carrow stated that “the whole rig felt funny” as he was going around the curve
and it “did not feel right.” When Carrow “looked in the side view mirror,” he “saw the
wheels of the trailer in the air.” Carrow tried to compensate by cutting over to the right
but it was too late. The trailer tipped over onto its right side and brought the tractor down
with it. Carrow conceded that if the load is high and the tractor is traveling too fast, then
it could tip. He also conceded that his speed might have been a contributing factor in the
Carrow and his passenger exited the tractor by climbing out the front windshield.
The coupling assembly did not fail. The tractor was still attached to the trailer when they
both tipped over. The tractor and the trailer were on their sides, but “no vehicles came
off the trailer.” The cargo was still securely tied down and no cables were broken.
Carrow further testified that he could see the underside of the trailer. Despite such
visibility, Carrow testified that he did not inspect the tractor or the trailer at the scene of
Emergency vehicles responded to the accident site. The crushed automobiles
were released from the trailer by cutting the cables and allowing the crushed vehicles to
fall to the ground. The crushed automobiles were loaded onto two flatbed trucks and
towed away. The tractor was removed from the scene by a tow truck. A dumpster was
brought to the scene and spilled oil, fuel and debris were cleaned up. Substantial costs
were incurred to right the tractor and the trailer; to tow and store them; and to clean up
the resulting trash on the roadway.
Carrow, Slaughter and Melanie Slaughter testified regarding trips to court and
payments of various fines. However, the evidence was inconclusive regarding whether
Carrow received any citations for moving violations. The evidence was also unclear
regarding citations paid by Slaughter related to the condition or inspection-status of the
trailer. The Court finds that the testimony of the witnesses on the subject of the citations
issued and fines paid to be unreliable. No findings are made and the Court does not rely
upon any alleged facts related to citations to make its rulings.
This Court must decide two issues: (1) whether Slaughter is liable under breach of
contract; and (2) whether Slaughter is liable for negligence, including Plaintiffs' theories
of negligence per se and res ipsa loquitur. It is the duty of the Court to weigh the
evidence that is presented. Carrow bears the burden to prove his case by a preponderance
of the evidence. The side on which the greater weight of the evidence is found is the side
on which the preponderance of the evidence exists.1
Reynolds v. Reynolds, 237 A.2d 708, 711 (Del. 1967).
BREACH OF CONTRACT
To state a claim for breach of contract, Carrow must establish three elements by a
preponderance of the evidence. First, Carrow must prove that a contract existed. Second,
Carrow must establish that Slaughter breached an obligation imposed by the contract.
Finally, Carrow must show that he incurred damages as a result of the breach.2
There is no dispute that a valid contract existed. Both parties conceded at trial
that an oral agreement existed whereby Carrow agreed to utilize his tractor to haul a load
for Slaughter, using Slaughter's trailer. Neither party disputes the legality of the verbal
Conversely, there is a dispute regarding the second element -- whether Slaughter
breached any duty or obligation imposed by the oral agreement. Carrow predicates the
contractual obligation owed to him upon the implied covenant of good faith and fair
dealing. Carrow argues that said covenant required that Slaughter act “in good faith to
provide an adequate and safe trailer for Carrow to utilize in order to transport the load he
was contracted to haul.”3 Carrow asserted at trial that Slaughter breached the covenant
by providing a trailer that was poorly maintained, not properly inspected and that had a
defective trailer hitch thereby causing an accident that resulted in damages to Carrow.
Slaughter contends that Carrow failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that
Slaughter breached any such covenant.
Under Delaware law, “every contract includes an implied covenant of good faith
and fair dealing -- a promise of faithfulness to an agreed upon common purpose and
VLIW Technology, LLC v. Hewlett-Packard, Co., 840 A.2d 606, 612 (Del. 2003).
Plaintiff’s Complaint, ¶ 23.
consistency with the justified expectations of the other party.”4 In Nemec v. Shrader, the
Delaware Supreme Court explained that
[t]he implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing involves a ‘cautious
enterprise,’ inferring contractual terms to handle developments or
contractual gaps that the asserting party pleads neither party anticipated.
‘[O]ne generally cannot base a claim for breach of the implied covenant
on conduct authorized by the agreement.’ We will only imply contract
terms when the party asserting the implied covenant proves that the other
party has acted arbitrarily or unreasonably, thereby frustrating the fruits of
the bargain that the asserting party reasonably expected.
conducting this analysis, we must assess the parties' reasonable
expectations at the time of contracting and not rewrite the contract to
appease a party who later wishes to rewrite a contract he now believes to
have been a bad deal. Parties have a right to enter into good and bad
contracts, the law enforces both.5
The Delaware Supreme Court recognizes that an occasional need will arise for a
Court to imply contract terms to fulfill the parties' “reasonable expectations” at the time
of contracting.6 However, the Court has cautioned that this “quasi-reformation . . .
‘should be [a] rare and fact-intensive exercise,’ governed solely by ‘issues of compelling
This Court agrees that an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing existed,
as it does in every Delaware contract. Notwithstanding that finding, the Court concludes
that Carrow failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Slaughter breached
any contractual obligation to Carrow, implied or otherwise.
In order to decide if
Slaughter breached the implied covenant, this Court must assess the “parties' reasonable
Superior Vision Services, Inc. v. Reliastar Life Insurance Co., Noble, V.C., 2006 WL
4782393, at *5 (Del. Ch. 2006) (citation omitted).
991 A.2d 1120, 1125-26 (Del. 2010) (citations omitted) (emphasis provided).
Id. at 1126 (citation omitted); Dunlap v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 878 A.2d 434, 442
(Del. 2005) (citations omitted).
Dunlap, 878 A.2d at 442 (citing Cincinnati SMSA Ltd. Pshp. V. Cincinnati Bell Cellular
Sys. Co., 708 A.2d 989, 992-93 (Del. 1998)).
expectations” at the time of contracting.8
The implied covenant only applies to
circumstances that “could not have been anticipated, not developments that the parties
simply failed to consider.”9
The Court finds that Carrow failed to prove any cognizable claim for a breach of
the implied covenant. At the time of contracting, the parties’ reasonable expectations
were that Carrow would haul the load that Slaughter loaded and secured, using
Slaughter's trailer. The parties did not discuss the quality of the equipment on the trailer,
and there was no discussion regarding the maintenance and/or inspection history of the
trailer. Two sophisticated parties negotiated the contract terms. Slaughter paid Carrow
in full; Carrow inspected the trailer and its load and found it to be in good working order;
and then used it to haul a load of crushed cars. The Court further finds that Slaughter did
not act arbitrarily or unreasonably. Slaughter presented the trailer to Carrow “as is” and
made no promises, assurances or misrepresentations that the trailer was inspected and/or
in perfect working order.
No evidence was presented that showed the pin assembly was defective or rusted
prior to the accident. Evidence at trial further demonstrated that the pin plate on the
trailer remained attached during and after the accident. Carrow testified that he visually
inspected the pin assembly after the accident when the trailer was in the storage yard.
According to Carrow, the pin assembly was rusted. However, Carrow conceded that he
did not see any rust on the pin assembly during his pre-trip visual inspection. Rather, he
testified it was “well-greased” at the time of his inspection. Slaughter and John Slaughter
testified that the pin assembly was not rusted prior to the accident.
Nemec, 991 A.2d 1125-26 (citation omitted).
Id. (citations omitted).
The Court finds that Carrow failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence
that the pin assembly was rusted before the accident. The Court rejects the testimony of
Carrow regarding the condition of the pin assembly after the accident as inadequate to
meet his burden of proof regarding the condition of the pin assembly before the accident.
Carrow failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Slaughter breached the
implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
This Court cannot use hindsight to judicially rewrite the contract terms, nor will
this Court invoke the covenant's protections absent proof by a preponderance of the
evidence that Slaughter acted in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner; that the
developments could not have been reasonably anticipated by either party at the time of
contract; or that Carrow was in a position of unequal bargaining power and otherwise
exploited by Slaughter. Indeed, this Court finds to the contrary.
Carrow was a seasoned tractor-trailer driver, who knew full well that the trailer
had not been inspected consistent with D.O.T. regulations.
Carrow was also a
sophisticated and experienced party to the contract. He and Slaughter both understood
the terms of the agreement. Carrow was aware that risks were inherent in undertaking
this task. Carrow knew he had no insurance for the job. Carrow stated to Slaughter’s
wife that Carrow’s employer, Daily Express, would not provide insurance in the event of
an accident due to the exclusivity provision of his employment contract.
knowingly assented to the terms of the agreement.
The Court will not make a better agreement for Carrow than he made for himself.
Accordingly, the Court finds that Carrow failed to prove that Slaughter breached any
obligation, implied or otherwise, by a preponderance of the evidence. Because the Court
concludes that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to show that Defendants breached
any contractual obligation, the Court need not reach the third prong of the analysis as to
whether damages are due and owing.
To establish a cause of action for negligence, a plaintiff must prove each element
by a preponderance of the evidence. First, the plaintiff must show that a duty existed for
the defendant to conform to a specific standard of care. Second, the plaintiff must
establish that the defendant breached that duty of care. Third, it is the plaintiff’s burden
to prove that the breach proximately caused the plaintiff's harm. Finally, the plaintiff
must demonstrate harm.10
The Court finds that Slaughter owed a duty to Carrow to furnish the trailer in
good working order, including an intact, non-rusted pin assembly. Notwithstanding said
duty, this Court concludes that Carrow did not establish by a preponderance of the
evidence that Slaughter breached the duty of care he owed to Carrow.
Carrow argues that Slaughter breached his duty of care by providing a trailer that
was poorly maintained, not properly inspected, and that had a defective trailer hitch;
however, there was no record evidence that the pin assembly was rusted prior to the
accident. Slaughter and John Slaughter both denied that the pin assembly was rusted
prior to the accident. Carrow submitted nothing beyond speculation and/or conjecture to
The evidence presented does not support a finding of a defective condition on the
trailer prior to the accident, and there was no evidence presented that Slaughter failed to
Jones v. Crawford, 1 A.3d 299, 302 (Del. 2010) (citation omitted).
maintain the trailer or keep it in good working order. Accordingly, Carrow failed to
prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Slaughter breached any duty of care owed
as to the condition of the trailer. Carrow's claim for negligence fails.
NEGLIGENCE PER SE
Alternatively, Carrow argued at trial that Slaughter's failure to comply with
federal regulations to have the trailer inspected annually by the D.O.T. constitutes
negligence as a matter of law or negligence per se. Specifically, Carrow claims that
Slaughter’s failure to inspect and/or maintain the trailer pursuant to federal regulations
resulted in a defective trailer hitch that failed, and that Slaughter’s non-compliance
proximately caused Carrow's harm.
Carrow is correct that Delaware law provides that the violation of a statute, or a
regulation having the force of a statute, enacted for the safety of others, may constitute
negligence per se.11 However, the statutory violation alone does not establish liability.12
To be actionable, the Plaintiff must establish a causal connection between the statutory
violation and the injury alleged.13 Specifically, Carrow has the burden of proof to
establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Slaughter’s statutory violation
proximately caused the harm alleged.
Delaware recognizes the traditional “but for” definition of proximate cause.14 A
proximate cause is defined as “one which in ‘natural and continuous sequence, unbroken
by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury and without which the result
Price v. Blood Bank of Delaware, Inc., 790 A.2d 1203, 1212-1213 (Del. 2002).
Duphily v. Delaware Elec. Coop., Inc., 662 A.2d 821, 828 (Del. 1995) (citations
would not have occurred.’”15 Delaware courts have consistently ruled that there can be
more than one proximate cause of an accident or injury. 16
Carrow testified that the trailer lacked a D.O.T. sticker. Slaughter admitted that
the trailer had not been inspected consistent with D.O.T. regulations. By not having the
trailer inspected, Slaughter failed to comply with a federal regulation.
previously, non-compliance with the federal regulation is evidence of breach of a duty as
a matter of law. However, as stated above, such finding does not end this Court's
analysis. Even if the failure to have the trailer inspected breached a standard of care,
Delaware law still requires Carrow prove that the lack of inspection proximately caused
Carrow's harm. This Court finds that Carrow failed to prove by a preponderance of the
evidence that Slaughter’s failure to have the trailer inspected caused the accident.
When the issue of causation is presented in a context which is not a matter of
common knowledge, expert testimony may provide a sufficient basis for a finding of
causation; however, in the absence of such expert testimony it may not be made.17 Under
Delaware law, for expert testimony to be admissible, it must be both relevant and
reliable.18 A trial judge acts as a “gatekeeper” in assessing whether an expert's testimony
has “a reliable basis in the knowledge and experience of the relevant discipline.”19 Said
opinion must be based on the “methods and procedures of science,” not “subjective belief
Duphily, 662 A.2d at 828 (citing Culver v. Bennett, 588 A.2d 1094, 1097 (Del. 1991)).
Id. (citations omitted).
Money v. Manville Corp. Asbestos Disease Compensation Trust Fund, 596 A.2d 1372,
1376 (Del. 1991) (citing W. Keeton, Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts 269 (5th ed.
M.G. Bancorporation v. LeBeau, 737 A.2d 513, 521 (Del. 1999) (citing Daubert v.
Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993)).
Bowen v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Inc., 906 A.2d 787, 794 (Del. 2006)
or speculation.”20 Moreover, Delaware Rule of Evidence (“D.R.E.”) 702 states that “[i]f
scientific, technical or the specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand
the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by
knowledge, skill, experience, training or education may testify thereto in the form of an
opinion or otherwise.”
Plaintiffs' counsel proffered Carrow as an expert in maintenance, up-keep,
operation and inspection of tractors and trailers.
Plaintiff’s counsel also proffered
Carrow as an expert on the subject of causation; specifically to establish that the trailer's
pin assembly proximately caused the accident. Defense counsel argued that Carrow
lacked the requisite qualifications under D.R.E. 702. The party proffering the witness as
an expert has the burden to prove such qualification by a preponderance of the
Carrow produced no proof that he was certified by D.O.T. regarding D.O.T.
inspections, general maintenance of tractors and trailers, and pre-trip inspections.
However, based on Carrow’s extensive experience operating commercial vehicles and
performing routine maintenance, the Court allowed Carrow to present a lay opinion on
these subjects pursuant to D.R.E. 701. Under Delaware law,
testimony of a witness who possesses expertise in a certain area is not ipso facto
expert testimony. . . . [A] distinction is drawn between testimony based upon
one’s personal knowledge of the facts of the case, and testimony by a witness,
who has been properly qualified as an expert, in the form of ‘an opinion or
otherwise’ concerning a subject area relevant to the case. In short, a witness may
testify as to his or her own experience, knowledge and observation about the facts
of the case without giving ‘expert testimony’ as defined in the rules of evidence.22
Id. at 1210 (citing In Re TMI Litigation, 193 F.3d 613, 669 (3d Cir. 1999)).
Bowen, 906 A.2d at 795 (citations omitted).
Duphily, 662 A.2d at 835 (citations omitted).
On the other hand, after voir dire as well as argument from both parties, the Court
ruled at trial that Carrow was not qualified to testify as an expert under D.R.E. 702 on the
subject of causation. The Court found the testimony elicited during defense counsel's
voir dire to be dispositive. Carrow stated that he had no formal education or training as a
mechanic, or certifications in the field. He had not taken courses in engineering or
physics. Carrow possessed on-the-job experience but could cite only one time in his 28
years of experience that a pin assembly failed and in that instance Carrow did not inspect
that trailer or its assembly and did not investigate the accident. Carrow's only accident
reconstruction training was limited to 12 hours by fire instructors. Carrow was never
certified as an accident reconstruction expert. Carrow has not published any material in
the related fields.
Therefore, the Court did not permit Carrow to offer expert testimony on the
subject of causation because he lacked the requisite knowledge, skill, experience, training
or education to be qualified as an expert under Daubert.23 Carrow could not articulate a
reliable scientific methodology as required under Daubert to support his conclusions.24
To determine whether an expert’s “principles and methodology” are rooted in science
and derived from scientific method, the U.S. Supreme Court has identified several factors
for a court to consider: (1) whether a theory or technique has been tested; (2) whether it
has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) whether a technique had a high
known or potential rate of error and whether there are standards controlling its operation;
and (4) whether the theory or technique enjoys general acceptance within a relevant
scientific community. Bowen, 906 A.2d at 794 (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590-94).
The Delaware Supreme Court has noted that these factors are not a “definitive checklist
or test” but rather each inquiry must be made in light of the facts of a particular case. Id.
D.R.E. 702 “imposes a special obligation upon a trial judge to ‘ensure that any and all
testimony…is not only relevant, but reliable.’ The trial judge must decide whether an
expert’s testimony ‘has a reliable basis in the knowledge and experience of [the relevant]
discipline.’ The foci of a Daubert analysis are the principles and methodology’ used in
formulating an expert’s testimony, not on the expert’s resultant conclusions.” Bowen,
Carrow’s testimony lacked any reliable underlying methodology and sufficient facts and
data to support his opinion. Because no competent evidence was presented on the issue
of causation, the Court cannot conclude that the accident was caused by Slaughter’s
failure to have the trailer inspected or that it was caused by Slaughter’s failure to properly
maintain the trailer. Accordingly, Carrow’s claim for negligence per se fails.
RES IPSA LOQUITUR
The Supreme Court of Delaware set forth the definitive standard for res ipsa
loquitur in General Motors Corp. v. Dillon as follows:
if the particular manner in which the plaintiff shows the injury to have
occurred is so unaccountable that the only fair inference of the cause was
the negligence of the defendant, or, stated another way, if the manner in
which the injury occurred would lead reasonable persons to conclude that
it would not have happened in the absence of some negligence on the part
of the defendant, then the doctrine of [r]es ipsa loquitur is properly
applicable to establish the negligence of the defendant. 25
Delaware courts have further found that
[u]nder the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, five elements must be shown: (1)
‘the occurrence is one that does not normally happen if proper care is
exercised by the person who has management and control over the
circumstances leading up to it; (2) the facts warrant an inference of
negligence of such force so as to call for an explanation or rebuttal from
the defendant; (3) the cause of the injury must have been under the
management or control of the defendant at the time the negligence likely
occurred; and (4) where the injured party participated in events leading up
to the occurrence, his or her own conduct must be excluded as a
responsible cause; (5) there must be a causal connection between the
defendant's act or omission and the accident.’26
906 A.2d at 794 (citing M.G. Bancorporation, 737 A.2d at 521) (quoting Daubert, 509
U.S. at 589).
367 A.2d 1020, 1023 (Del. 1976).
Daniels v. Ranshaw, C.A. No. 05-04-0179AP, 2007 WL 1248433, at *2 (Del. Com. Pl.
March 20, 2007) (citations omitted).
In this case, this Court cannot infer from the record that this accident would not
have happened absent Slaughter’s negligence. Based upon the evidence presented, this
Court finds the accident would have happened regardless of whether the trailer had been
inspected pursuant to D.O.T. regulations. Carrow’s testimony indicated that the truck
started to lean and, once he realized that, he tried to correct it by moving to the right of
the roadway but was unsuccessful.
Carrow stated at the scene that he might have
prevented the accident by driving more slowly. Thus, there were other reasons for the
tractor and trailer to have tipped, all of which preclude this Court from excluding Carrow
as a cause.
Moreover, as discussed previously, Carrow failed to prove any causal
connection between the lack of D.O.T. inspection and the accident.
Res ipsa loquitur translates to “the thing speaks for itself.” That is not the case
here. This Court finds that other factors contributed to the accident. Accordingly,
Carrow’s claim for negligence based on a theory of res ipsa loquitur fails.
Based on the findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Court concludes that
Plaintiffs have not met their burden of proof to establish Defendants’ liability under
theories of breach of contract or negligence. Therefore, Judgment is hereby entered on
behalf of Defendants and against Plaintiffs.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Andrea L. Rocanelli
The Honorable Andrea L. Rocanelli