United States District Court, D. Arizona
A. Teilborg, Senior United States District Judge.
before the Court are Plaintiffs Arturo Contreras and Jose
Torres's (“Plaintiffs”) Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment (Doc. 69) and Defendants Chester Brown
(“Defendant Brown”) and Legacy, Inc.'s
(“Defendant Legacy;” collectively
“Defendants”) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
(Doc. 121). The Court now rules on the motions.
October 16, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their pending Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 69). Defendants filed a timely
Response (Doc. 82) on November 15, 2018, and Plaintiffs then
filed a timely Reply (Doc. 96) on November 30, 2018.
February 20, 2019, Defendants filed their pending Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 121). Plaintiffs failed a
timely Response (Doc. 127) on March 21, 2019, and Defendants
then filed a timely Reply (Doc. 133) on April 5, 2019.
operative Complaint (Doc. 1-1) alleges the following causes
of action: (i) negligence, (ii) negligent entrustment, and
(iii) negligent hiring, training, and supervision. (Doc. 1-1
following facts are either undisputed or presented in the
light most favorable to Plaintiffs. On December 10, 2014,
Defendant Brown was involved in a rear-end collision with
Plaintiffs near Kingman, Arizona. (Doc. 69 at 2; Doc. 121-1
at 2). Defendant Brown was driving a loaded tractor-trailer
directly behind Plaintiffs' vehicle. (Doc. 69 at 2; Doc.
121 at 2). Plaintiff Torres was driving a 1994
Chevrolet Astro, in which Plaintiff Contreras was a
passenger. (Doc. 69 at 2; Doc. 121 at 2). As the parties
traveled on Interstate 40, two vehicles in front of the
parties stopped suddenly. (Doc. 69 at 2; Doc. 121 at 2).
Plaintiffs significantly slowed or stopped without impacting
the vehicles in front of them, but Defendant Brown was unable
to stop before colliding with the rear of Plaintiffs'
vehicle. (Doc. 69 at 2; Doc. 121 at 2). Both parties pulled
to the side of the road after the collision and later drove
away from the scene without further incident. (Doc. 121-3 at
12; Doc. 121-4 at 23). The Court will discuss other relevant
facts as necessary in the body of this Order.
judgment is appropriate when “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).
“A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is
genuinely disputed must support that assertion by . . .
citing to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits, or declarations, stipulations . . .
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials,
” or by “showing that materials cited do not
establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or
that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to
support the fact.” Id. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). Thus,
summary judgment is mandated “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.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
the movant bears the burden of demonstrating to the Court the
basis for the motion and the elements of the cause of action
upon which the non-movant will be unable to establish a
genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The
burden then shifts to the non-movant to establish the
existence of material fact. Id. A material fact is
any factual issue that may affect the outcome of the case
under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The non-movant
“must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts” by
“com[ing] forward with ‘specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial.'”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). A
dispute about a fact is “genuine” if the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
non-moving party. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at
248. The non-movant's bare assertions, standing alone,
are insufficient to create a material issue of fact and
defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 247-48.
However, in the summary judgment context, the Court construes
all disputed facts in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Ellison v. Robertson, 357 F.3d
1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 2004).
summary judgment stage, the Court's role is to determine
whether there is a genuine issue available for trial. There
is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence in
favor of the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict
for the non-moving party. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. at 249-50. “If the evidence is merely colorable,
or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be
granted.” Id. (citations omitted).
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Court will first address Defendants' Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment (Doc. 121). Defendants move for partial
summary judgment on Plaintiffs' direct negligence claims
against Defendant Legacy.
Legacy admits that, under the doctrine of respondeat
superior, it is vicariously liable for Defendant
Brown's actions because Defendant Brown was “acting
within the course and scope of his employment at the time of
the collision.” (Doc. 121 at 1). Defendants'
argument follows that, because Defendant Legacy concedes
vicarious liability, any direct liability claims against
Defendant Legacy are “subsumed” and rendered
superfluous by the vicarious liability claims. (Id.
at 3-4). Recently, the District of Arizona addressed this
argument-raised by the same Counsel, in a strikingly similar
context-and this Court need not reinvent that analysis:
[Defendants] cite 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 P.2d 1347 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1984);
Kassman v. Busfield Enterprises, Inc., 639 P.2d 353
(Ariz.Ct.App. 1981) (recognizing negligent hiring, training,
and supervision as a separate cause of action against an
Brill v. Lawrence Transp. Co., No.
CV-17-01766-PHX-JJT, 2018 WL 6696815, at *2 (D. Ariz. Dec.
20, 2018); see also Salazar v. Flores, No.
CV-16-08201-PCT-SPL, 2019 WL 1254661, at *2 (D. Ariz. Mar.
18, 2019) (holding-consistent with Brill-that
“[b]ecause the Court finds that Quinonez
applies, Plaintiff is permitted to bring both vicarious
liability and direct negligence claims under Arizona
a result, the Court finds that Lewis is not
controlling in this matter and Arizona law allows
Plaintiff[s] to allege direct liability claims in addition to
claims of vicarious liability.” See Brill,
2018 WL 6696815, at *2. Accordingly, Defendants are not
entitled to partial summary judgment on this theory.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' direct negligence
claims against Defendant Legacy lack sufficient evidence to
survive summary judgment. (Doc. 121 at 7).
establish a negligent entrustment claim under Arizona law,
Plaintiffs must prove the following elements:
(1) that Defendant[s] owned or controlled a vehicle; (2)
Defendant[s] gave the driver permission to operate a vehicle;
(3) the driver, by virtue of his physical or mental
condition, was incompetent to drive safely; (4) the
Defendant[s] knew or should have known that the driver, by
virtue of his physical or mental condition, was incompetent
to drive safely; (5) causation; and (6) damages.
Acuna v. Kroack, 128 P.3d 221, 227 (Ariz.Ct.App.
2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
matter, the undisputed fact that “[Defendant] Brown was
operating his tractor-trailer under the motor carrier
authority of [Defendant] Legacy” at the time of the
accident satisfies the first two elements of negligent
entrustment. (See Doc. 121 at 11). Defendants argue
that Plaintiffs cannot satisfy the next three elements of
negligent entrustment. (Id. at 10-11). Specifically,
Defendants contend that Plaintiffs have not set forth
evidence that: (1) “[Defendant] Brown was incompetent
either physically or mentally to operate a
tractor-trailer;” (2) “[Defendant] Legacy had
reason to believe that [Defendant] Brown was
incompetent;” or (3) that there is a “causal
connection” between Defendant Legacy's alleged
negligence and Plaintiffs' injuries. (Id. at 11;
Doc. 133 at 5).
counter that, “[a]t the time of the crash, [Defendant]
Brown was diabetic” and “also suffered from high
blood sugar;” taking daily medication to control both
conditions. (Doc. 127 at 4). Even so, Plaintiffs do not cite
any regulation or other authority that demonstrates these
conditions render Defendant Brown incompetent to operate a
tractor-trailer or otherwise disqualify Defendant Brown from
holding a commercial driver's license. (See Doc.
133 at 2). Conversely, Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Regulations (FMCSRs) provide that “an individual with
diabetes mellitus treated with insulin for control must be
medically examined and certified by a medical examiner as
physically qualified;” and “a person is
physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if
that person . . . [h]as no current clinical diagnosis of high
blood pressure likely to interfere with ability to operate a
commercial motor vehicle safely.” 49 C.F.R. §
391.46 (regarding diabetes); 49 C.F.R. § 391.41
(regarding high blood pressure).
Defendant Brown held a valid Department of Transportation
medical certificate at the time of the collision.
(See Doc. 133-1). Defendant Brown's
“Medical Examination Report” notes that his
diabetes was controlled by pills-not insulin-and his blood
pressure also met the required standards to maintain his
certification. (Id. at 2-3). Thus, the Court finds
that Defendant Brown was physically qualified and properly
licensed to operate a commercial motor vehicle at the time of
the collision. Moreover, Plaintiffs do not argue that
Defendant Brown suffered from any mental condition that would
render him incompetent to drive safely. (See
generally Doc. 127). Accordingly, Plaintiffs cannot
satisfy the third element of a negligent entrustment claim
(or the subsequent elements, which are based on Defendant
Brown's competency). Thus, Defendants are entitled to
summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claim for negligent
Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision
Defendants move for summary judgment on Plaintiffs'
remaining direct negligence claim for negligent hiring,