United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROBERT D. HUBER, JR., Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION SETTING FORTH FINDINGS OF FACT AND
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
S. CHUTKAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Robert Huber sued the United States, pursuant to the Federal
Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b) and 2671,
et seq. ("FTCA"), for damages arising from
injuries that he allegedly sustained when a Government
Services Administration ("GSA") vehicle hit his
vehicle while driving across Memorial Bridge on May 14, 2012.
The government filed a counterclaim, claiming that
Huber's negligence was the cause of the accident.
court conducted a five-day bench trial from January 22, 2018
through January 26, 2018, and the parties filed proposed
findings of fact and conclusions of law on March 28, 2018.
ECF Nos. 47 and 48.
upon the evidence presented at trial and submitted by the
parties, the court makes the findings of fact and conclusions
of law set forth below. Based on these findings of fact and
conclusions of law, the court concludes that Plaintiff has
sustained his burden of proof on his negligence claim, and
enters judgment in favor of Plaintiff.
the court finds that Plaintiff has carried his burden of
establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the
driver of the GSA vehicle acted negligently in causing the
collision between the GSA vehicle and Plaintiffs vehicle. The
court also finds that Plaintiff has established by a
preponderance of the evidence that the accident was the
proximate cause of at least some of his injuries, and that
the government has not carried its burden on its
counterclaim. However, because the parties submitted
insufficient evidence and briefings on the issue of damages,
the court orders the parties to submit supplemental briefing
on this issue. Plaintiffs brief is due on May 16, 2019,
Defendant's response is due on June 17, 2019, and
Plaintiffs reply is due on July 1, 2019.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Circumstances Surrounding the Accident
The witnesses and their credibility
1. Five witnesses testified about the facts and circumstances
surrounding the accident: (i) Plaintiff Robert Huber; (ii)
GSA vehicle driver Ernest Gilbert; (iii) GSA vehicle
passenger Paul Chapman; (iv) Plaintiffs collision expert
David Plant; and (v) Defendant's collision expert Dennis
2. The court finds that Robert Huber's testimony about
the accident was credible.
3. The court finds that Paul Chapman's testimony about
the accident was credible.
4. The court finds that Ernest Gilbert's testimony about
the accident was not credible because he admitted he had a
poor recollection of the events in question, and that lack of
recollection was apparent in his testimony.
5. The court finds that David Plant's testimony was
6. The court finds that Dennis Guenther's testimony was
only partially credible.
court makes the following findings of fact regarding the May
14, 2012 accident.
1. Plaintiff Robert Huber was driving his Toyota SUV from his
home in Silver Spring, Maryland to work at Ronald Reagan
Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, having
left home at approximately 10:00 a.m. Tr. 76:18-77:22.
2. GSA vehicle driver Ernest Gilbert and passenger Paul
Chapman were test driving a route for the Joint Improvised
Explosive Device Defeat Organization ("JIEDDO")
from the JIEDDO office in Arlington, Virginia to the area
around 23rd Street Northwest in Washington, DC and back. At
the time of the accident, Gilbert and Chapman were returning
to the JIEDDO office. Tr. 386:10-17.
3. At approximately 11:00 a.m., the GSA vehicle and
Huber's vehicle collided on the traffic circle west of
Memorial Bridge in Washington, DC. PI. Ex. 3; Tr.
4. At the time of the accident, the roads were wet. Tr.
78:11, 342:10, 385:5.
5. At the time of the accident, Huber's vehicle was
traveling at approximately 30 miles per hour in the far left
lane. Tr. 79:2, 88:1.
6. Huber was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the
accident. Tr. 98:21-23.
7. The GSA vehicle was traveling one lane to the right of
Huber's vehicle. Tr. 348:11-13.
8. A solid white line separated the lanes in which
Huber's vehicle and the GSA vehicle were traveling. PI.
9. Immediately before the accident, Chapman was looking at
traffic on his Blackberry device. However, he noticed that
Huber's vehicle had come from the rear left-hand side of
the GSA vehicle. Tr. 387:17-18, 400:23-401:1.
10. Dr. Plant's Monte Carlo analysis shows that
immediately prior to the accident both vehicles were crossing
Memorial Bridge towards Memorial Circle. Tr. 157:10-17.
11. This means that Huber was not subject to a Yield sign,
which applies only to traffic coming around Memorial Circle.
12. The accident involved an impact between the left side of
the GSA vehicle and the right side of Huber's vehicle as
the GSA vehicle changed lanes. Tr. 84:22-85:8, 400:25-401:1.
The damage to both vehicles was ...