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Bradley v. Blake

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

April 25, 2019

JENNIFER BRADLEY, a married woman, individually, Plaintiff,
v.
DENNIS BLAKE and BONNIE BLAKE, husband and wife, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          ROBERT J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment Dismissal. Dkt. 13. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the file herein.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. FACTS

         On June 17, 2015, around 3:00 p.m., the Plaintiff, Jennifer Bradley, and her daughters were in a vehicle driven by the Defendant Dennis Blake, the Ms. Bradley's uncle. Dkt. 15-2, at 1. They were returning from a hiking trip on Washington State Route 119 (“SR 119”), when Ms.

         Bradley noticed the car “started to drift off the roadway to the right, almost colliding with mailboxes and construction equipment.” Id., at 2. In a Declaration filed in opposition to the motion, Ms. Bradley states that “[a] short time later, the car . . . went off SR 119 to the left, going through a ditch and then returning to the roadway.” Id. According to Ms. Bradley, she “asked Dennis Blake what happened, and he stated that he fell asleep and lost control of his vehicle.” Id. In his Declaration, Mr. Blake acknowledges that, immediately after the accident, in response to her question of what happened, he said, “‘I guess' or ‘I think' ‘I fell asleep.” Dkt. 16-1, at 2. Mr. Blake states that he then called Ms. Bradley's husband, to let him know about the accident, and to tell him that the children were not harmed, but that Ms. Bradley had some back pain. Id. During that conversation, Mr. Blake also told Mr. Bradley that he “guessed that [he] had fallen asleep.” Id. In opposition to the motion, Mr. Bradley filed a declaration, in which he states that Mr. Blake “told [him] that [Mr. Blake] fell asleep while driving and lost control of his car.” Dkt. 15-3, at 2.

         After speaking with the Bradleys, Mr. Blake got out of the vehicle for the first time and noticed that he had “blown out” the front right tire. Dkt. 13, at 15. Mr. Blake states that this was “unexpected” because these tires were purchased nine months before the accident (on September 25, 2014), had a 90, 000 mile warranty, and had been driven less than 10, 000 miles. Dkt. 13, at 5-7 and 9.

         Washington State Patrol Trooper James Snow testified that when he arrived at the scene of the accident, he noticed that the vehicle had a flat tire on the front right side. Dkt. 13, at 12. After speaking to Mr. Blake, who told him he lost control after blowing a tire and then struck a culvert, Trooper Snow “walked up and [he] looked at the scene, and everything seemed to mesh up with what [Mr. Blake] told [him].” Id. Trooper Snow testified that, “You could see a cut in the road prior to leaving the roadway that's conclusive with the rim being in contact with the road.” Id. In his police report, Trooper Snow indicated that the vehicle's “right front tire failed, the driver over corrected and straddled the colvert [sic] and drove into the ditch on the left shoulder.” Id., at 18. He testified that he felt that the vehicle had a tire failure based on the “rim marks on the road.” Id., at 14.

         B. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 11, 2018, the Plaintiff filed this case, asserting this Court has diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and asserts a negligence claim against the Defendants. Dkt. 1. She seeks damages, prejudgment interest on all liquidated sums, and costs. Id.

         The discovery deadline is May 28, 2019, dispositive motions, if any, are due by June 25, 2019, and the trial is set to begin on September 23, 2019. Dkt. 10.

         C. PENDING MOTION

         The Defendants now move for summary judgment, arguing that the Plaintiff cannot point to evidence that Mr. Blake was negligent because the clear cause of the accident was the tire failure. Dkt. 13. The Plaintiff opposes the motion, and argues that whether Mr. Blake fell asleep (and so breached his duty of care) and whether his breach or the tire failure caused the accident are both in dispute. Dkt. 15. In reply, the Defendants note that Mr. Blake told Ms. and Mr. Bradley that he “guessed he fell asleep” not that he did fall asleep, and after he saw the tire, he realized that the tire failed, causing the accident. Dkt. 16. They argue that the Plaintiff's case should be dismissed because she does not have competent evidence that he breached a duty of care (he fell asleep) or that his breach caused the accident. Id.

         II. ...


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