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Damasco v. United States

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

March 12, 2018





         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant United States of America's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff Editha Damasco's claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq. Dkt. #17. Neither party has requested oral argument and the Court does not find oral argument necessary to resolve Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Having considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.


         In the early hours of May 26, 2013, Plaintiff was struck by a United States Postal Service van driven by Deidre Stoddard. Dkt. #22-1. The collision took place at or near the intersection of International Boulevard and South 188th Street in SeaTac, Washington. Dkt. #22 at ¶ 3. Plaintiff was injured, suffering a broken left hip. Dkt. #24-1 at 18.

         At the time of the incident, Ms. Stoddard was nearing the end of her work day and was returning to her work facility, turning left onto northbound International Boulevard from eastbound South 188th Street. Dkt. #18-1 at 5, 7. The intersection was not overly dark and was fairly well lit as “it's a major intersection” and “[t]here's a lot of street lights there.” Id. at 8. Ms. Stoddard just missed the protected left turn and had to sit for a full light cycle. Id. at 7. While waiting, she observed a group of people cross west to east over International Boulevard to the north of South 188th Street and outside of the crosswalk. Id. at 10. Prior to making her turn, she also noticed a car on westbound South 188th Street waiting to make a right-hand turn onto International Boulevard. Id. at 7. Upon having a left turn arrow, Ms. Stoddard did not observe any pedestrians in the area, checked the traffic, began her left turn, saw her lane was clear, and glanced back to the car waiting on westbound South 188th Street. Id. at 7-8. When Ms. Stoddard looked back to her path of travel, “there was someone in front of my vehicle.” Id. 11. Ms. Stoddard swerved to the right, “brushed” Plaintiff, saw in her rearview mirror that Plaintiff had fallen in the inside lane of north International Boulevard, stopped, and observed Plaintiff lying 10-20 feet north of the crosswalk in the inside lane on north International Boulevard. Id. at 12. Ms. Stoddard went to help Plaintiff and later observed that her vehicle's left front turn signal and light cover were broken. Id. at 13-14. Ms. Stoddard maintains that Plaintiff “absolutely” was not in the crosswalk at the time of collision. Id. at 16.

         Plaintiff, 60 years old at the time, was just beginning her day and was walking to work from her apartment. Dkt. #18-2 at 4. It was still dark out and she was wearing a green hooded jacket and black pants. Id. at 3-5. She was not late and was walking from her apartment on the south side of South 188th Street to SeaTac airport. Dkt. #24-1 at 8-9. Plaintiff walked west to the southeast corner of the intersection of South 188th Street and International Boulevard and crossed north to the northeast corner of the intersection. Id. at 15-17. From there, Plaintiff intended to cross west over International Boulevard to the northwest corner of the intersection.[1]Id. Plaintiff indicates that she “always” pushes the button to activate the pedestrian “walk signal” and doesn't cross except for when she has a walk signal. Dkt. #18-2 at 6-7. However, Plaintiff does not recall if she hit the button that night or if she had a walk signal when she began crossing International Boulevard. Id. Plaintiff began crossing International Boulevard within the crosswalk, moving at a normal speed. Dkt. #24-1 at 10. Plaintiff was almost to the median dividing the northbound and southbound lanes of International Boulevard when she was struck. Id. at 12. Plaintiff did not see the Postal Service vehicle until “[i]t was already there” and “didn't notice it before.” Id. at 11-12. Plaintiff testifies that she was in the crosswalk and moving at a normal speed the entire time she was crossing International Boulevard prior to the collision. Id. During the collision, Plaintiff was “pushed away a bit from the” crosswalk. Id. at 13.

         Defendant seeks summary judgment on the basis that its driver owed Plaintiff no duty of care as she was crossing against a “do not walk signal, ” was outside of the crosswalk, and did not yield to Defendant's vehicle and further because Defendant did not have an opportunity to see Plaintiff and Plaintiff should have avoided the collision. Dkts. #17, 25. While noting that Plaintiff's testimony is contrary to its evidence, Defendant characterizes Plaintiff's evidence as “blatantly contradicted” and “improbable.” Dkt. #17 at 3.


         A. Standard of Review for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Material facts are those which might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In ruling on summary judgment, a court does not weigh evidence to determine the truth of the matter, but “only determine[s] whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Crane v. Conoco, Inc., 41 F.3d 547, 549 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. O'Melveny & Meyers, 969 F.2d 744, 747 (9th Cir. 1992)).

         On a motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence and draws inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Sullivan v. U.S. Dep't of the Navy, 365 F.3d 827, 832 (9th Cir.2004). However, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251. The non-moving party must make a “sufficient showing on [each] essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof” to survive summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         B. Federal Tort Claims Act

         The United States has waived its sovereign immunity and accepted liability “in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstance.” 28 U.S.C. § 2674. Likewise, the U.S. District Courts are provided exclusive jurisdiction over actions for damages “caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope” of employment. 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). The action must arise “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.” Id. Resultantly, ...

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