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Salazar v. Flores

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 18, 2019

Mario Salazar, Plaintiff,
v.
Arturo Flores, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE STEVEN P. LOGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Mario Salazar filed suit against Defendants Arturo Flores and Lily Transportation for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision (Doc. 1). Defendants now move for partial summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for negligent entrustment and negligent hiring, supervision, and training (collectively “negligent entrustment” or the “negligent entrustment claims”) (Docs. 44, 48, 49). The Court rules as follows.

         I. Background

         In May 2014, Plaintiff was sleeping in his truck, parked in a lot next to a service station in Wikieup, Arizona (Doc. 45 at ¶ 1; Doc. 47 at ¶ 1). Defendant Flores, who was operating a commercial vehicle leased to Defendant Lily Transportation, entered that same parking area and collided with Plaintiff's right rear bumper (Doc. 45 at ¶¶ 2-3; Doc. 47 at ¶¶ 2-3). Plaintiff filed a four-count complaint alleging: (1) negligence; (2) vicarious liability; (3) negligent entrustment; and (4) negligent hiring, supervision, and training.

         Defendants argue that because Lily Transportation has admitted that Flores was operating his vehicle within in the course and scope of his employment, Plaintiff's direct negligence claims against Lily Transportation (the negligent entrustment claims) are subsumed by Plaintiff's vicarious liability claim (Doc. 44 at 2-6). Defendants further argue there is no dispute of material fact as to negligent entrustment, as Plaintiff has failed to disclose any witnesses or evidence to support its claims (Doc. 44 at 6-7).

         II. Legal Standard

         A court shall grant summary judgment if the pleadings and supporting documents, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, “show[] that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Material facts are those facts “that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact arises when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. If the movant meets its burden, “its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, “the nonmoving party must come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 587 (citation omitted).

         III. Analysis

         A. Direct Negligence Claims

         Defendants argue that because Lily Transportation has admitted that Flores was operating his vehicle within in the course and scope of his employment, under Arizona law, Plaintiff's negligent entrustment claims are subsumed within the claim for vicarious liability. Defendants' argument is based on the Arizona Supreme Court case of Lewis v. Southern Pacific Company, which found that Arizona does not recognize claims of negligent entrustment separate and apart from vicarious liability:

If the defendant employees were actually negligent at the time of the accident and proximately caused the accident, this is sufficient to establish the [employer's] liability. But the failure of an employer to hire only competent and experienced employees does not of itself constitute an independent ground of actionable negligence.

425 P.2d 840, 841 (Ariz. 1967). Since Lewis, however, subsequent cases decided by the Arizona Court of Appeals have found Lewis' holding “no longer represents the law in Arizona on this subject.” Quinonez in re Quinonez v. Andersen, 144 Ariz. 193, 197 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1984); cf. Pruitt v. Pavelin, 685 P.2d 1347 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1984) (reading Lewis narrowly); see also Brill v. Lawrence Transp. Co., No. CV-17-01766-PHX-JJT, 2018 WL 6696815, at *2 (D. Ariz. Dec. 20, 2018) (“[T]he Court finds that Lewis is not controlling in this matter and Arizona law allows Plaintiff to allege direct liability claims in addition to claims of vicarious liability.”); Ford v. Barnas, No. CV-17-02688, 2018 WL 5312912, at *7 (D. Ariz. Oct. 26, 2018) (finding Quinonez, and not Lewis, to be controlling); Russell v. Flores, No. CV-14-02474-TUC-RM (EJM), 2017 WL 564969, at *6 (D. Ariz. Jan. 10, 2017) (“While Lewis has not been explicitly overruled, as Plaintiff correctly notes, ‘no published decision has cited to Lewis since Quinonez.'”). The Court agrees.

         First, the Court finds Lewis to be distinguishable as the employees in that case were not found negligent, and as a result, any direct negligence by the employer in hiring those employees could not be a proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. 425 P.2d at 841. The Court is also not persuaded by Defendants' limited reading of Quinonez as only allowing both claims to proceed when there is a viable punitive damages claim. ...


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