SUNBELT v. GULF COAST
82 So.3d 1196 (2012)
SUNBELT ENVIRONMENTAL, INC., and Greenwich Insurance Company, a/s/o Sunbelt Environmental, Inc., Appellants/Cross-Appellees,
GULF COAST TRUCK & EQUIPMENT COMPANY, INC. and Wastequip Manufacturing Company, LLC, d/b/a Accurate Industries of Louisiana, Inc., Appellees/Cross-Appellants.
District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District.
March 19, 2012.
Alan R. Horky of Fuller, Johnson, Kehoe, Horky & Rettig, LLC, Pensacola, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant Gulf Truck & Equipment Company, Inc.
VAN NORTWICK, J.
Sunbelt Environmental, Inc. (Sunbelt), and Greenwich Insurance Company challenge a final summary judgment entered in favor of appellees, Gulf Coast Truck & Equipment Company, Inc. (Gulf Coast) and Wastequip Manufacturing Company, LLC (Wastequip), the defendants below. Gulf Coast and Wastequip cross-appeal. Because genuine issues of material fact remain, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Our reversal of the final summary judgment renders moot the issues raised on cross-appeal.
In the early morning of November 2, 2006, Clifford Smith was riding a bicycle
on State Road 281 in Escambia County. Since the road lacked a bicycle lane, Smith was riding in the lane of traffic alongside the white boundary line. His bicycle was not equipped with a light; and Smith wore neither a helmet nor reflective clothing. He was wearing headphones. As a result, he did not hear the garbage truck which came from behind and struck him causing horrific injury. Smith survived, and, along with his wife, brought suit against the owner of the garbage truck, appellant Sunbelt. That action was settled before trial. Sunbelt filed a third party complaint against appellees, Gulf Coast, the manufacturer of the truck, and Wastequip, the installer of the tarping device which was placed on the truck to prevent debris from disbursing from the bed. Sunbelt's complaint against Gulf Coast and Wastequip raised five causes of action: (1) contribution based on negligence of Gulf Coast, (2) contribution based on negligence of Wastequip (the successor to the original installer, Accurate Industries), (3) strict liability of Gulf Coast, (4) strict liability of Wastequip (as successor to Accurate Industries), and (5) breach of implied warranty of merchantability by Wastequip (as successor to Accurate Industries). The gravamen of the complaint was that the tarp unit which was installed on the truck involved in the accident rendered the truck wider than both federal and state law allow. Sunbelt asserts that the arm which extended and retracted the tarp caused the width of the truck to be too wide and that this arm caught the clothing of the cyclist, thereby causing the accident.
Following the receipt of responsive pleadings to Sunbelt's complaint and after some discovery, Gulf Coast and Wastequip jointly moved for summary judgment. Among other things, they alleged that the negligent acts of Sunbelt's driver violated sections 316.083 and 316.185, Florida Statutes (2006), by failing to pass at a safe distance of "not less than 3 feet" and in failing to decrease his speed as necessary in order to avoid colliding with Smith. They further alleged that these acts constituted "an unforeseeable, efficient, and intervening cause that was independent of, and not set in motion by, any alleged negligence" of Gulf Coast or Wastequip. They also asserted that Sunbelt failed to produce any record evidence that there was a defect in the vehicle; a flaw in the installation, design or manufacture of the vehicle or tarp arm; or a defect which caused or contributed to the accident. Further, they contend there is no record evidence that the tarp unit was in substantially the same condition at the time of the accident as it was at the time of delivery some six years earlier.
Sunbelt opposed the motion for summary judgment, asserting that the tarping system, as installed, increased the overall width of the vehicle beyond the legal limit. Sunbelt argued that a piece of the cyclist's clothing was found on a bolt of the tarp arm suggesting that it was indeed the arm which made contact with the cyclist. Sunbelt also moved for a partial summary judgment in its favor.
Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order on the respective motions. The trial court made the following findings:
Sunbelt Environmental, Inc. (Sunbelt) purchased a flatbed truck from Gulf Coast Truck and Equipment in the year 2000 for use as a trash receptacle retrieval device. As part of the purchase, a tarp system was installed by Wastequip Manufacturing, in order to ensure that the refuse once picked up did not disburse onto the highway creating a possibly dangerous situation. The facts are undisputed that the flatbed truck, without the attached tarping unit, measured
a width of 96" and with the tarping unit attached measured a total width of 108" as the unit's "side component" extended out 6" on each side for an added 12". Unfortunately, an accident occurred wherein the sides of the tarp unit hit a bicyclist and his arm was amputated. A settlement was approved between Sunbelt and the bicyclist and Sunbelt is now suing Gulf Coast Truck and Wastequip for subrogation [sic] alleging that the tarping unit was improperly placed on the flatbed when it was allowed to extend 6" from each side as opposed to 3" from each side. Gulf Coast and Wastequip argue that the statutes are clear that a truck may have a width of 102" so that the additional 3" on each side did not make the truck illegal and therefore they should not be held liable for any damages.