United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MARTIN L. CARSWELL, Plaintiff,
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.
HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on two motions for summary
judgment. Plaintiff Martin Carswell has moved for summary
judgment on the issue of liability for injuries resulting
from a motorcycle collision with a federal employee. Dkt. #
19. The Government does not oppose a finding of liability,
but rather moves for summary judgment on the issue of
damages, requesting that the Court impose a cap on
Plaintiff's recovery prior to trial. Dkt. # 17. For the
reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion
for summary judgment and DENIES the Government's motion
for summary judgment.
following facts are undisputed. On September 28, 2012,
Plaintiff was operating his motorcycle on East Marginal Way
South in Seattle when he was struck by a car driven by Robert
Diamond, an employee of the Defense Information Systems
Agency (“DISA”). Diamond was turning left from
the left turning lane and failed to yield to oncoming
traffic. The Seattle police investigator assigned to the
scene concluded that Diamond was solely at fault for the
collision and cited Diamond for failing to yield the
right-of-way to oncoming traffic, a violation of Washington
state statute. See RCWA 46.61.185.
result of the collision, Plaintiff suffered injury to his
left leg, ankle, and foot. Immediately after the accident,
Plaintiff underwent multiple surgeries to repair the damage.
Plaintiff filed an administrative claim with the U.S. Army in
November 2013 seeking $2, 002, 580.67 in both property and
personal injury damages. Plaintiff timely filed this lawsuit
on August 15, 2015. During the discovery stage of this suit,
Plaintiff updated his damages estimate to include future
medical costs and loss of future earning capacity, bringing
the estimated total to $4, 000, 000 to $6, 000, 000.
Government does not dispute Diamond was negligent in causing
the collision resulting in Plaintiff's injuries, and it
does not oppose a finding of liability at this juncture.
However, the Government has filed a motion for summary
judgment seeking an order limiting Plaintiff's recovery
to the amount of damages claimed in his administrative
complaint. The Government also seeks an order requiring
Plaintiff to reduce all future economic damages to present
value, which Plaintiff does not oppose.
judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving
party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving
party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must
affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact
could find other than for the moving party. Soremekun v.
Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir.
2007). On an issue where the nonmoving party will bear the
burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely
by pointing out to the district court that there is an
absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's
case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving
party meets the initial burden, the opposing party must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of
fact for trial in order to defeat the motion. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The court
must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51 (2000).
the Court need not, and will not, “scour the record in
search of a genuine issue of triable fact.” Keenan
v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see
also White v. McDonnell-Douglas Corp., 904 F.2d 456, 458
(8th Cir. 1990) (the Court need not “speculate on which
portion of the record the nonmoving party relies, nor is it
obliged to wade through and search the entire record for some
specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's
claim”). The opposing party must present significant
and probative evidence to support its claim or defense.
Intel Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 952
F.2d 1551, 1558 (9th Cir. 1991). Uncorroborated allegations
and “self-serving testimony” will not create a
genuine issue of material fact. Villiarimo v. Aloha
Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002);
T.W. Elec. Serv. V. Pac Elec. Contractors Ass'n,
809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).
The United States is liable for Diamond's negligence
in causing the collision with Plaintiff.
undisputed that Diamond, a federal employee acting within the
scope of his employment, caused the collision resulting in
Plaintiff's injuries. However, even though the Government
does not oppose a finding of liability, the Court must
conduct an independent review of the record under Rule 56 to
determine whether the motion and supporting materials entitle
Plaintiff to summary judgment. See Heinemann v.
Satterberg, 731 F.3d 914, 917 (9th Cir. 2013);
the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), the Government can be
sued “under circumstances where the United States, if a
private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance
with the law of the place where the act or omission
occurred.” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). The FTCA holds
the Government “vicariously liable for negligent acts
and omission of its employees while performing their duties
in the scope of their employment.” Keone v. United
States, 2014 WL 6632344, at *5 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 21,
2014); 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b). The extent of the United
States' liability under the FTCA is governed by reference
to substantive state law. Molzof v. United States,
502 U.S. 301, 305 (1992); 28 U.S.C. § 2674.
Washington law, negligence “requires duty, breach, and
resultant injury; and the breach of duty must also be shown
to be the proximate cause of the injury.” Hartley
v. State, 698 P.2d 77, 82-83 (Wash.1985). To establish
proximate cause, a plaintiff must prove: (1) cause in fact,
meaning that the injury would not have occurred but for the
claimed negligence, and (2) legal causation, meaning that the
cause produced the injury in a direct sequence. Id.
Under Washington law, all drivers possess a duty to exercise
ordinary care while operating a motor vehicle. Robison v.
Simard, 360 P.2d 153, 154 (Wash. App. 1961). ...