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Peppard v. Decker

May 19, 1997

DAVID A. PEPPARD, RESPONDENT,
v.
RUSSELL DECKER AND JANE DOE DECKER, A MARITAL COMMUNITY, AND DAVID P. AND JANE DOE SCHRAG, A MARITAL COMMUNITY, AND DR. PEPPER BOTTLING COMPANY, INC., A WASHINGTON CORPORATION, AND ABC CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS, THRIFTY RENT-A-CAR SYSTEMS, INC., AN OKLAHOMA CORPORATION, PACIFIC NORTHWEST RENTAL & LEASING, A WASHINGTON CORPORATION, APPELLANTS.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-2-12425-1. Date filed: 02/13/96. Judge signing: Hon. James W. Bates Jr.

PER CURIAM. -- David Peppard was injured when the car he was driving was rear-ended as part of a "chain reaction" accident on Interstate 5.

Peppard sued the other two drivers involved in the collision as well as their employers. The trial court later granted partial summary judgment in two orders which in essence determined that, as a matter of law, the driver of the middle or "sandwiched" vehicle, Russell Decker, was solely at fault for Peppard's injuries, and that named defendants Thrifty Rent-A-Car Systems, Inc. (Thrifty) and Pacific Northwest Rental & Leasing (PNRL) were vicariously liable for Decker's negligence. PNRL and Thrifty appeal, arguing that the trial court erred by (1) concluding there were no genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the driver of the third vehicle and his employer were also liable for the accident, (2) considering arguments raised for the first time in Peppard's reply memorandum, and (3) concluding there were no genuine issues raised regarding whether Decker was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. We disagree with the first and third contentions, and refuse to consider the second. Accordingly, we affirm.

FACTS

On June 18, 1991, Peppard was driving south on Interstate 5 in Seattle. David Schrag, who was driving a Dr. Pepper truck, was following approximately four or five car lengths behind in the same lane of traffic.

The vehicle driven by Decker then pulled into the lane between Peppard and Schrag. Moments later, Schrag collided with the rear end of Decker's car and knocked it forward into the car driven by Peppard. Following the accident, Peppard commenced this action for damages sustained in the accident, alleging negligence on the part of the other two drivers.

Peppard named as defendants Schrag and his employer Dr. Pepper Bottling Company, Inc., and Decker and his alleged employers "Thrifty Rent-A-Car Systems, Inc., Pacific Northwest Rental & Leasing, or ABC Corporation."

Peppard alleged, among other things, that Decker was acting "within his scope of employment for Defendant Thrifty Rent-A-Car and/or Pacific NW Rental and/or ABC Corporation . . . when he negligently allowed the vehicle [he was driving] to collide with the automobile operated by [Peppard]."

In their answer, defendants Schrag and Dr. Pepper denied that Schrag was in any way negligent. Defendants Decker, Thrifty, and PNRL filed an answer in which they denied allegations that Decker was negligent or that he was acting within the scope of his employment. The scope of employment allegation was denied simply "because of lack of sufficient information."

Defendants Schrag and Dr. Pepper later moved for summary judgment on the ground that Decker's negligence was the sole proximate cause of

Peppard's injuries. The court granted the motion and dismissed with prejudice all of the claims against Schrag and Dr. Pepper. A subsequent motion for reconsideration was denied. The court later granted Peppard's motion for partial summary judgment and held that the remaining defendants were liable for all damages proximately caused to Peppard by the motor vehicle accident. Judgment was thereafter entered in favor of Peppard and against defendants Thrifty and PNRL in the total amount of $285,391.75. *fn1

This appeal followed.

ANALYSIS

Appellants PNRL and Thrifty contend the trial court erred in granting the two orders of partial summary judgment. In reviewing a summary judgment order, our inquiry is the same as that of the court below. *fn2

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving ...


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