United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.