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Godfrey v. Metropolitan Council

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

August 5, 2013

Carolyn Godfrey, Appellant,
v.
Metropolitan Council, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CV-12-1614

Carolyn Godfrey, St. Paul, Minnesota (pro se appellant)

David Oskie, Oskie, Hamilton & Sofio, P.A., St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Chutich, Presiding Judge; Smith, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.[*]

SMITH, Judge

We affirm the dismissal of appellant's negligence claim for personal injuries sustained as a passenger on respondent's bus because appellant admitted on the record that respondent's action was not the proximate cause of her injuries.

FACTS

Appellant Carolyn Godfrey boarded respondent Metropolitan Council's (the council) bus 407, which proceeded eastbound on University Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota. While in transit, the bus came to a sudden stop that propelled Godfrey forward and knocked her unconscious. Godfrey sustained injuries and filed a complaint, alleging that the "carelessness and negligence" of respondent's bus driver caused her injuries. The council filed an answer, arguing that the vehicle's sudden stop was the "unavoidable" result of a third party's actions "over whom [the council] had no control." In an affidavit, the bus driver stated: "[A] yellow cab passed me on the left and then made a sudden, unsignaled right turn. . . . I had to brake hard to avoid a collision."

The council moved for summary judgment, contending that Godfrey had no evidence to sustain a negligence claim. In interrogatory and deposition responses, Godfrey testified that (1) the bus made a sudden stop; (2) she could not see out the windshield when the accident occurred; (3) she had little memory of the accident; (4) she had "no knowledge" to dispute the bus driver's recollection of the accident; and (5) she was unaware of any law the bus driver violated. The council argued that the culmination of these admissions established that Godfrey failed to demonstrate a causal connection between the actions of the bus driver and her injuries.

The district court heard argument on the motion for summary judgment.[1] The district court outlined the undisputed facts regarding the vehicle accident. The council then argued that "[Godfrey has] to be able to show duty and breach and causal fault, and [she] can't do it. So we could try this case, but I think a directed verdict would be inevitable, and I think that this is exactly what summary judgment is for." The district court proceeded to have the following exchange with Godfrey:

THE COURT: I need to hear something that will allow me to keep your case alive. So far, the submissions you have given me haven't. . . . What did the bus company do that was negligent and was a direct cause of your injuries.
GODFREY: [The bus driver] continued to drive about a mile after I was knocked unconscious. The accident happened at Hamline and University. When the ambulance took me off the bus, it was at ...

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