United States District Court, W.D. Washington
GEORGE BENNETT and MARTHA BENNETT, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.
C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the motion for partial
summary judgment by Defendant the United States of America
(Dkt. No. 15). Having thoroughly considered the motion and
the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument
unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons
November 1, 2013, Plaintiff George Bennett's vehicle
collided with a government vehicle driven by a Homeland
Security Investigations agent. (Dkt. No. 16-1 at 4.)
Plaintiffs allege that the collision was negligently caused
by the government agent and that, as a result, Bennett
incurred “medical costs of about $100, 000.”
(Dkt. No. 1 at 4-5.)
to the United States, Plaintiffs have identified two
categories of injuries that allegedly resulted from the
collision: (1) aggravation of Bennett's pre-existing neck
injury, which required surgery in April 2015, and (2)
gallstone pancreatitis, which was caused by a coughing fit,
which in turn was caused by dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
Bennett developed after the surgery. (Dkt. No. 15 at 1-2.)
United States moved for partial summary judgment, arguing
that Plaintiffs fail to show that any action by the United
States was the proximate cause of Bennett's gallstone
pancreatitis. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiffs did not respond
to the motion.
Summary Judgment Standard
Court shall grant summary judgment if the moving party shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In making such a determination, the
Court must view the facts and justifiable inferences to be
drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made
and supported, the opposing party must present specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Material facts are
those that may affect the outcome of the case, and a dispute
about a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient
evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the
non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49.
Ultimately, summary judgment is appropriate 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, 324 (1986).
establish a cause of action for negligence, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty,
(2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) damages resulted,
and (4) the defendant's breach proximately caused the
damages. Tincani v. Inland Empire Zoological
Soc'y, 875 P.2d 621, 624 (Wash. 1994). Washington
law recognizes two elements of proximate cause: cause-in-fact
and legal causation. Hartley v. State, 698 P.2d 77,
82 (Wash. 1985). “Cause in fact refers to the
‘but for' consequences of an act-the physical
connection between an act and an injury.” Id.
at 83. Cause-in-fact is a question for the trier of fact
unless “but one reasonable conclusion is
possible.” Id. Legal causation is a question
of law that asks whether, as a matter of policy, a
defendant's act should give rise to liability.
establish causation, medical testimony must be sufficiently
definite to establish that the defendant's act
“probably” or “more likely than not”
caused the plaintiff's injuries. O'Donoghue v.
Riggs, 440 P.2d 823, 830 (Wash. 1968). The opinion must
not be speculative or conclusory and it must have adequate
foundation. Safeco Ins. v. McGrath, 817 P.2d 861,
865 (Wash.Ct.App. 1991).
under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, an expert witness must be
qualified by “knowledge, skill, experience, training,
or education, ” and may testify “if (1) the
testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the
testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods,
and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods
reliably to the facts of the case.” This
“knowledge” must be based on “more than
subjective belief or unsupported speculation.”
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579,
590 (1993). Under this rule, the Court assesses
“whether the reasoning or ...