United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable Diane J. Humetewa United States District Judge
the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 50).Plaintiffs filed a Response (Doc. 53) and
Defendants filed a Reply (Doc. 55).
night of April 1, 2016, Plaintiff Beverly Debruyn
(“Mrs. Debruyn”) was driving south on Mohave Road
in Parker, Arizona, while her husband, Plaintiff John Debruyn
(“Mr. Debruyn”), was in the front passenger seat.
(Doc. 51 ¶ 1; Doc. 54 ¶ 1). Further south on Mohave
Road, Defendant Juan Hernandez (“Mr. Hernandez”),
operating a tractor with a baler in tow,  turned left from
Burns Street onto Mohave Road. (Doc. 51 ¶¶ 7-8, 21;
Doc. 54 ¶¶ 7-8, 21). Once on Mohave Road, Mr.
Hernandez proceeded south accelerating to the tractor's
top speed of eighteen miles per hour. (Doc. 51 ¶ 8; Doc.
54 ¶ 8). About half a mile south of Burns Road, at the
intersection of Fisher Road and Mohave Road,  Plaintiffs'
vehicle struck the tractor from behind with a pre-impact
speed of approximately fifty to fifty-five miles per hour.
(Doc. 51 ¶ 10; Doc. 54 ¶ 10). Plaintiffs did not
see the tractor before they collided with it. (Doc. 51 ¶
11; Doc. 54 ¶ 11). Plaintiffs and Mr. Hernandez were
transported by ambulance to La Paz Regional Hospital. (Doc.
51-7 at 4).
tractor, owned by Defendant Miguel Torres (“Mr.
Torres”) and Torres Farms II, LLC (“Torres
Farms”), was operated by Mr. Hernandez on April 1,
2016, as part of his employment for Torres Farms. (Doc. 51
¶¶ 7-8, 21; Doc. 54 ¶¶ 7-8, 21). Mr.
Hernandez has been an employee of Torres Farms since 1997,
but he learned to drive a tractor in 1994 while working for a
different farm. (Doc. 51 ¶ 21; Doc. 54 ¶ 21). Since
he was hired by Torres Farms, he has never been disciplined
for any activity and prior to the subject collision, he had
never been involved in any farm equipment collision. (Doc. 51
¶¶ 23, 24; Doc. 54 ¶¶ 23, 24).
April 5, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in Arizona
state court, naming Mr. Hernandez, Mr. Torres, Torres Farms,
and several fictitious individuals and entities as Defendants
(collectively “Defendants”). (Doc. 1-2 at 2-8).
In their four-count Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that: (1)
Mr. Hernandez negligently “failed to yield the right of
way” to Plaintiffs, which caused Plaintiffs'
vehicle to collide with the rear of the tractor operated by
Mr. Hernandez; (2) Mr. Hernandez “failed to yield the
right-of way [sic]” to Plaintiffs in violation of
A.R.S. § 28-856 and, therefore, Mr. Hernandez was
negligent per se; (3) Mr. Torres and Torres Farms
are vicariously liable for Mr. Hernandez's negligence and
negligence per se; and (4) Mr. Torres and Torres
Farms were negligent for hiring and retaining Mr. Hernandez
as an employee and for entrusting Mr. Hernandez with the
tractor. (Id. at 4-6). Plaintiffs have since
abandoned their negligent failure to yield theory and now
assert that Mr. Hernandez was negligently operating the
tractor on Mohave Road without lights on. (Doc. 55 at 6-7).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 56,
summary judgment is properly granted when: (1) 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 clearly entitled to prevail as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); 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). A fact is
“material” when, under the governing substantive
law, it could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine
dispute of material fact arises if “the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Id. In 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, and “all
inferences are to be drawn in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party.” Eisenberg, 815 F.2d at
1289; see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. 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 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).
Count One: Negligence
their Motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs'
negligence claim against Mr. Hernandez, Count One of the
Complaint, is limited to his failure to yield the
right-of-way to Plaintiffs. (Doc. 50 at 4). Plaintiffs,
however, contend that the Complaint must only provide notice
of the claims against Defendants and that their negligence
claim against Mr. Hernandez is broad enough to cover all
forms of negligently operating the tractor that resulted in
the collision. (Doc. 53 at 2, 4-6). In Count One, Plaintiffs
state that Mr. “Hernandez failed to yield the right of
way of [sic] Plaintiffs. . . . As a result of Defendants'
negligence, Plaintiff [sic] suffered injuries.” (Doc.
1-2 at 4-5).
Rule 8(a),  a claimant need not “set out in
detail the facts upon which he bases his claim.”
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). Rather the
complaint need only provide the defendant “fair notice
of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon
which it rests.” Id. However, in some cases it
is possible for a plaintiff to plead too much. Castillo
v. Norton, 219 F.R.D. 155, 162 (D. Ariz. 2003)
(“While a plaintiff is entitled to go beyond the
requirements of Rule 8 and plead additional facts, it is
well-established that if the plaintiff chooses to provide
additional facts, the plaintiff cannot prevent the defendant
from suggesting those same facts demonstrate the plaintiff is
not entitled to relief.”) (internal quotation and
citation omitted)); see also Romine v. Acxiom Corp.,
296 F.3d 701, 706 (8th Cir. 2002) (“While notice
pleading does not demand that a complaint expound the facts,
a plaintiff who does so is bound by such exposition.”)
(quotation omitted); Northern Trust Co. v. Peters,
69 F.3d 123, 129 (7th Cir. 1995) (“More is not
necessarily better under the Federal Rules; a party
‘can plead himself out of court by . . . alleging facts
which . . . demonstrate that he has no legal
claim.'”) (quoting Trevino v. Union Pac. R.R.
Co., 916 F.2d 1230, 1234 (7th Cir. 1990)).
Count One, Plaintiffs specifically plead that Mr.
“Hernandez failed to yield the right of way of [sic]
Plaintiffs.” (Doc. 1-2 at 4-5). Count One is devoid of
any other facts or allegations to support a broad and general
negligence claim. Thus, despite Plaintiffs' contention
that Count One is broad enough to cover all forms of
negligent operation of the tractor, the Court finds that
Plaintiffs are bound to the specific theory of negligence
that they plead. In other words, Plaintiffs limited their
negligence claim by specifically pleading that it was Mr.
Hernandez's failure to yield the right-of-way that caused
have failed to provide any evidence demonstrating that Mr.
Hernandez failed to yield the right-of-way to Plaintiffs. In
fact, Plaintiffs state that they are no longer
“advancing a theory that [Mr.] Hernandez was leaving
Fisher Road and therefore failed to yield to Plaintiffs
traveling on Mohave Road.” (Doc. 53 at 5). Accordingly,
Plaintiffs' negligence ...