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Ellis v. Larson Motors Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

October 20, 2017

KATHRYN A ELLIS, as trustee on behalf of GREGORY CORLISS, CHAPTER 7 Bankruptcy No. 15-43566 Plaintiff.
v.
LARSON MOTORS INC., dba LARSON POWER SPORTS, ROBERT LARSON, SR., EDWIN DEVI, JENNIFER LARSON, Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RONALD B. LEIGHTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Dkt. 29]. Plaintiff Gregory Corliss alleges his supervisor at Larson Power Sports repeatedly harassed, discriminated, and ultimately retaliated by firing him during his brief employment as a sales associate at Defendants' boat dealership in 2013. Defendants contend Corliss was terminated after several unexcused absences from work and move for partial summary judgment on Corliss's race discrimination, hostile work environment, and negligent supervision claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Parties

         Defendant Larson Motors Inc. d/b/a Larson Power Boats/Sports Northwest (Larson Power Sports) is a boat and ATV dealership located in Fife, WA. Defendant Edwin Devi is the General Manager of Larson Power Sports and served as Corliss's supervisor during his employment. Defendant Rob Larson, Sr. is the owner of Larson Motors Inc.

         Plaintiff Gregory Corliss is a former sales associate at Larson Power Sports. Plaintiff Kathryn A. Ellis is a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee and brings the present lawsuit on behalf of Corliss.

         B. Factual Background

         Corliss was employed at Larson Power Sports for approximately three and half months from April 2013 to July 2013. Corliss alleges that he was the victim of relentless sexual, religious, and racial harassment by Devi during this period. Corliss asserts that he was fired by Devi in retaliation for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), while Defendants maintain that Corliss was terminated after several unexcused absences and for harassing a customer.

         C. Procedural Background

         Corliss filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2015 and listed his claims against Defendants as an asset. The bankruptcy trustee initiated this lawsuit on Corliss's behalf. Corliss alleges seven claims for relief based on federal and Washington law: (1) race discrimination; (2) sexual harassment; (3) religious discrimination; (4) hostile work environment; (5) retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim; (6) retaliation for filing a discrimination claim with the EEOC; and (7) negligent supervision and retention. Dkt. 2. The Court has sufficient information to rule on the motion and oral argument will not aid in rendering a decision.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In determining whether an issue of fact exists, the Court must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50 (1986); Bagdadi v. Nazar, 84 F.3d 1194, 1197 (9th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact exists where there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable factfinder to find for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The inquiry is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251-52. The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there is no evidence which supports an element essential to the nonmovant's claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the movant has met this burden, the nonmoving party then must show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. If the nonmoving party fails to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact, “the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendants move for summary judgment on Corliss's race discrimination, hostile work environment, and negligent supervision claims.[1] ...


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