Sublett v. Hipps

In Sublett v. Hipps, 330 Ark. 58, 952 S.W.2d 140 (1997) Tammy Sublett was traveling south on Interstate 430 in Little Rock when she struck a pickup truck driven by Sharon Hipps from the rear. Sublett sued on a theory of negligence alleging that Hipps abruptly moved in front of her and decelerated rapidly. When her deposition was taken Sublett conceded: (1) that appellee Hipps did not cut her off, although traffic ahead was already stopped; (2) that there was approximately fifty feet between their vehicles when Hipps entered her lane; (3) that she had already applied her brakes when Hipps signaled to enter her lane; (4) that she briefly took her foot off the brake pedal to contemplate a maneuver into the next lane but did not attempt to do so; (5) that she subsequently applied more pressure to the brakes and began sliding on the wet pavement; (6) that there was adequate space for Hipps' vehicle to pull into her lane; (7) that she was not aware of anything Hipps did wrong. On these facts the supreme court held that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment. The supreme court affirmed an order granting summary judgment in favor of defendants in a personal injury action involving a rear-end collision. The summary judgment motion in that case was based on the plaintiff Sublett's deposition testimony in which she admitted, among other things, that she was not aware of anything that Hipps did wrong in connection with the accident. Hipps contended in her summary-judgment motion that Sublett's version of the events as set forth in her deposition testimony presented no genuine issue of material fact and directly refuted allegations in her complaint. Hipps also contended that Sublett's admission that she was not aware of anything that Hipps did wrong established that Sublett was the sole proximate cause of her accident and damages. Justice Robert Brown, writing for the supreme court, addressed the effect of those admissions as follows: Sublett admits that Hipps did not cut her off when she changed lanes and further that Hipps did nothing wrong. These drastic admissions, which contradict her complaint, not only fail to create a genuine issue of material fact under Ark. R. Civ. P. 56(c), but they appear to concede lack of fault on Hipp's sicpart. We have affirmed grants of summary judgment in the past when the plaintiff/appellant makes a pivotal admission that goes to the heart of the case. See, e.g., Bushong v. Garman Co., 311 Ark. 228, 843 S.W.2d 807 (1992); King v. Jackson, 302 Ark. 540, 790 S.W.2d 904 (1990).