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Bellamy v. Ameri-Pride, Inc., Case No. 2D12-2120 (2nd DCA)

In Bellamy, the Second DCA reversed a summary judgment entered in favor of the defense in an case arising from an auto accident. Bellamy was rear ended by a vehicle that was owned by Ameri-Pride and driven by Cesar Calihua. Bellamy sued Ameri-Pride, which defended by denying Calihua was its employee and alleging that Calihua had stolen the vehicle. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Ameri-Pride based on an affidavit from Ameri-Pride’s president asserting that Calihua had never been employed by the company, had stolen the vehicle, and had no authority to operate the vehicle.

The Second DCA, however, found that facts in the record supported an inference that Calihua was driving the vehicle with Ameri-Pride’s knowledge and consent, notwithstanding Ameri-Pride’s contention otherwise. Bellamy submitted an affidavit alleging that Calihua had given the investigating officer a business card which had Ameri-Pride’s logo and information printed on it. The business card also included the name of the company’s director of operations, who later acknowledged to Bellamy that he knew of the accident and offered a sum of money to settle the claim. The police report also stated that Calihua produced an insurance card after the accident showing Ameri-Pride’s insurance carrier and policy number. Bellamy also filed the deposition of an employee of Ameri-Pride, who explained that the company offered hired workers for cash without doing any background search or requesting identification or driver’s licenses. The individual further explained that the company gave these cash workers access to company vehicles, and would generally falsely state the vehicle had been stolen if a claim is made following an accident. As such, the trial court found that several facts in the record created material issues of fact which precluded summary judgment.

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