United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER ON THE PARTIES' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the parties' motions for
summary judgment. Dkt. ## 17, 20. For the reasons below, the
Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion and
DENIES Defendant's motion.
August 10, 2013, at approximately 8:45 am, a three-vehicle
military convoy traveled on State Route 18 (SR 18) toward the
Yakima Training Center. Dkt. # 19, ¶ 3. The section of
SR 18 relevant to this dispute consists of two lanes in each
direction, separated by a median. Dkt. # 18-4 at 6. The
convey traveled in the right lane at approximately 55 miles
per hour. Dkt. # 19, ¶ 6. A semi-tractor trailer driven
by Plaintiff on SR 18 changed lanes and split the lead
military vehicle from the two trailing vehicles. Id.
As traffic crested a rise near the SE 231st Street
exit, the truck commander in the lead military vehicle,
Sergeant (Sgt.) Charles Rolando, noticed a pickup truck
towing a horse trailer stopped in the right lane.
Id., ¶7. A woman stood in the roadway near the
pickup truck, waving her arms at the oncoming vehicles.
Rolando instructed Private Second Class (PV2) Licoray
Randolph, who was driving the lead vehicle, to stop
immediately. Id., ¶ 9. Randolph applied the
brakes and brought the lead vehicle to a sudden stop
approximately ten feet from the woman and the trailer.
Id., ¶ 10. Plaintiff also saw the pickup truck
and was able to come to an abrupt stop roughly one and a half
car lengths behind the lead military vehicle. Dkt. # 21-1 at
4. The second vehicle in the convoy, which was directly
behind Plaintiff, was driven by Specialist Sean Reeves. Dkt.
# 19, ¶ 5. Traveling roughly 50 yards behind Plaintiff,
Reeves noticed the brake lights come on Plaintiff's
truck, but did not realize immediately how quickly she was
decelerating. Dkt. # 21-3 at 7. Once he did, Reeves
determined that he would be unable to stop his vehicle in
time to avoid a collision. Id.; Dkt. # 18-4 at 7. He
looked to his left mirror and attempted to change lanes, but
could not do so because of the speed of traffic. Id.
at 7-8. He then looked to his right, in order to pull onto
the shoulder, but realized there was not enough room because
of a guardrail. Id. Before he could fully stop,
Reeves hit the back of Plaintiff's semi-tractor trailer.
Dkt. # 21-3 at 7-8.
28, 2017, Plaintiff filed this action against the United
States (“the government”) for damages relating to
the accident under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Dkt. #
1. In April 2018, the parties filed cross-motions for summary
judgment, which are now before the Court. Dkt. ## 17, 20.
judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving
party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving
party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must
affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact
could find other than for the moving party. Soremekun v.
Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir.
2007). On an issue where the nonmoving party will bear the
burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely
by pointing out to the district court that there is an
absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's
case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving
party meets the initial burden, the opposing party must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of
fact for trial in order to defeat the motion. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The court
must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51 (2000).
the court need not, and will not, “scour the record in
search of a genuine issue of triable fact.” Keenan
v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see
also White v. McDonnel-Douglas Corp., 904 F.2d 456, 458
(8th Cir. 1990) (the court need not “speculate on which
portion of the record the nonmoving party relies, nor is it
obliged to wade through and search the entire record for some
specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's
claim”). The opposing party must present significant
and probative evidence to support its claim or defense.
Intel Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co.,
952 F.2d 1551, 1558 (9th Cir. 1991). Uncorroborated
allegations and “self-serving testimony” will not
create a genuine issue of material fact. Villiarimo v.
Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir.
2002); T.W. Elec. Serv. v. Pac Elec. Contractors
Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).
the principle of sovereign immunity, the United States cannot
be sued for damages without its consent. Cominotto v.
United States, 802 F.2d 1127, 1129 (9th Cir. 1986)
(citing United States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206, 212
(1983)). The FTCA waives the government's sovereign
immunity for tort claims arising out of negligent conduct of
government employees acting within the scope of their
employment. Terbush v. United States, 516 F.3d 1125,
1128 (9th Cir. 2008). Therefore, the government can be sued
“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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). Plaintiff
claims that the government is liable under the FTCA for the
negligence of Specialist Sean Reeves in causing the accident.
Dkt. # 20.
Washington law, where two cars are traveling in the same
direction, the primary duty of avoiding a collision rests
with the following driver. Miller v. Cody, 252 P.2d
303, 305 (Wash. 1953). In the absence of an emergency or
unusual conditions, the following driver is negligent if he
runs into the car ahead. Id. Furthermore, the
following driver is not necessarily excused even in the event
of an emergency: it is his duty to keep such distance from
the car ahead and maintain such observation of that car that
an emergency stop may be safely made. Id.
government argues that the “emergency doctrine”
applies and negates any breach of the duty of care. Dkt. # 17
at 6. The essential element invoking the emergency doctrine
is confrontation by a sudden peril requiring an instinctive
reaction. Seholm v. Hamilton, 419 P.2d 328, 331
(1966). It applies when a person has been placed in a
position of peril and must make an instinctive choice between
courses of action after the peril has arisen. See Brown
v. Spokane County Fire Prot. Dist. No. 1, 668 P.2d 571,
577 (1983) (citing Sandberg v. Spoelstra, 285 P.2d
564 (Wash. 1955)). “ ‘The doctrine excuses an
unfortunate human choice of action that would be subject to
criticism as negligent were it not that the party ...