United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable John J. Tuchi United States District Judge
issue is Defendants William Smith and Lawrence Transportation
Company's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 70,
Mot.), to which Plaintiff Jay Brill filed a Response (Doc.
73, Resp.), and Defendants filed a Reply (Doc. 77, Reply).
The Court resolves Defendants' Motion without oral
argument. See LRCiv 7.2(f).
William Smith was employed as a truck driver by Defendant
Lawrence Transportation Company. In the three years prior to
his employment with Lawrence, Smith committed three moving
violations and had two preventable accidents. Despite these
incidents, representatives of Lawrence deemed him qualified
for the truck driver position during the hiring process.
February 21, 2017, Plaintiff and Smith were involved in a
collision on Avenue 7E in Yuma County, Arizona. Avenue 7E is
a roadway consisting of two lanes heading westbound and two
lanes heading eastbound, separated by a center turn lane. At
the time of the collision, Smith was operating a trailer and
truck in the course and scope of his employment with
Lawrence. While driving eastbound, Smith realized he was
driving in the wrong direction, and he pulled onto the
shoulder of the roadway. After speaking with his dispatcher
and realizing he needed to drive westbound, he executed a
U-turn across all five lanes of Avenue 7E. At the same time,
Plaintiff was heading eastbound, and his motorcycle collided
with Smith's trailer. According to Lawrence's company
policy, Smith was required to maintain logs detailing the
performance of his duties and submit them at the end of
specified periods of time. However, the logs pertaining to
this trip are unaccounted for.
Complaint (Doc. 1-1 at 5-9, Compl.), Plaintiff seeks damages
for injuries caused by the alleged negligence of Smith and
Lawrence, as well as punitive damages. Lawrence now moves for
partial summary judgment on Plaintiff's punitive damages
claim and on any direct negligence claims against it.
Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary
judgment is appropriate when: (1) the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact; and (2) after
viewing the evidence most favorably to the non-moving party,
the movant is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322-23 (1986); Eisenberg v. Ins. Co. of N. Am.,
815 F.2d 1285, 1288-89 (9th Cir. 1987). Under this standard,
“[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under governing [substantive] law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). A “genuine issue” of material fact arises
only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must
regard as true the non-moving party's evidence, if it is
supported by affidavits or other evidentiary material.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Eisenberg, 815
F.2d at 1289. However, the non-moving party may not merely
rest on its pleadings; it must produce some significant
probative evidence tending to contradict the moving
party's allegations, thereby creating a material question
of fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57 (holding that
the plaintiff must present affirmative evidence in order to
defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment);
First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co.,
391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968).
summary judgment motion cannot be defeated by relying solely
on conclusory allegations unsupported by factual data.”
Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989).
“Summary judgment must be entered ‘against a
party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.'” United States v. Carter, 906 F.2d
1375, 1376 (9th Cir. 1990) (quoting Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322).
Complaint, Plaintiff raises multiple claims alleging
negligence on the part of both Smith and Lawrence. Although
the negligence claims do not include specific theories of
negligence, direct liability theories such as negligent
hiring, entrustment, retention, training, and supervision on
the part of Lawrence may be inferred. As a result, Lawrence
has moved for partial summary judgment as to any potential
claims of negligent hiring, entrustment, retention, training,
and supervision that Plaintiff is raising. Lawrence admits
that, under the doctrine of respondeat superior, it
is vicariously liable for Smith's actions because Smith
was acting within the course and scope of his employment at
the time of the collision. (Mot. at 1-2.) However, Lawrence
argues that, because it has conceded vicarious liability, any
direct liability claims are subsumed and rendered superfluous
by the vicarious liability claims.
cites Lewis v. Southern Pacific Company, in which
the Arizona Supreme Court stated that “failure of an
employer to hire only competent and experienced employees
does not itself constitute an independent ground of
actionable negligence.” 425 P.2d 840, 841 (Ariz. 1967).
However, since Lewis, Arizona has adopted new
theories of joint and several liability and comparative
negligence. See A.R.S. § 12-2501. Additionally,
multiple subsequent cases decided by the Arizona Court of
Appeals have held that the holding in Lewis-that
negligent hiring and supervision is not an independent ground
of actionable negligence against the employer-is limited.
See Quinonez in re Quinonez v. Andersen, 696 P.2d
1342 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1984); Pruitt v. Pavelin, 685