United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR
B. Leighton United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant United States
Department of Agriculture Forest Service's Motion for
Summary Judgment. Plaintiff Quentin Reaume was an employee
of a subcontractor hired to cut trees on Forest Service land
and was injured when a dead tree (called a
“snag”) fell on his foot. He seeks to hold the
Forest Service liable for his injury because it allegedly
refused to allow loggers like Reaume to cut down such
hazardous trees located on the boundary of the timber sale
Service argues that it cannot be liable for Reaume's
injury because it owed no duty to Reaume. Forest Service
contends that as an employee of a subcontractor, Reaume was
owed no duty because Forest Service did not retain control
over safety and on-site operation at Reaume's worksite.
Forest Service also argues that it owed no duty to Reaume as
an invitee because Reaume did not encounter a latent danger
and Forest Service had no reason to expect Reaume would be
harmed. Reaume did not respond to Forest Service's
following reasons, Forest Service's Motion for Summary
Judgment is GRANTED.
United States, through Defendant Forest Service, awarded a
timber sale to Gamble Bay Timber and Construction Inc. Forest
Service and Gamble Bay agreed that Gamble Bay was to
purchase, cut, and remove timber that was marked in orange
paint in the sale area. The contract also states that Gamble
Bay was to assume “all responsibility for compliance
with safety requirements” for its employees. In
addition to the timber sale contract, Forest Service and
Gamble Bay also entered an agreement that authorized Gamble
Bay to cut additional trees in the sale area for safety or
Bay then contracted with Fugarwee Timber Inc. to cut the
timber. Plaintiff Quentin Reaume was an employee of Fugarwee
Timber Inc. Prior to Reaume cutting trees in the sale area,
Reaume's employer allegedly notified the contracting
officer from Forest Service, Jana Carlson, that
“additional hazardous trees” needed to be cut to
avoid the hazard posed by snags that could fall on workers.
Reaume alleges that the only way to avoid the snag hazard was
to cut the additional boundary trees.
Complaint states that Carlson did not authorize additional
cutting. She also allegedly informed Reaume's employer
that it would be in breach of their contract if additional
trees were cut. Reaume claims that after Carlson's
refusal to permit additional cutting, Reaume continued his
work in the area that remained dangerous. He was then struck
in the foot by a falling snag on the boundary of the work
contract between Forest Service and Gamble Bay states that
boundary trees outside of the sale area shall not be cut. It
also states that “if logging safety is jeopardized,
snags may be felled and then left in the stand.” The
Department of Labor and Industries documentation indicates
that Reaume's management at Fugarwee had been told by
Forest Service that Fugarwee workers could cut down snags
that posed a threat to safety, although they also may have
understood the contract to prohibit cutting boundary trees.
filed this action under the Federal Tort Claims Act in
January of 2018. The Complaint claims that Reaume's foot
injury was a proximate result of Forest Service's
negligence, although it does not explain exactly what this
negligence consisted of. Reaume claims that Forest Service
failed its duty to protect him, focusing on the allegation
that Forest Service had a contractual right to authorize
additional cutting but declined to do so.
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
LibertyLobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50
(1986) (emphasis added); 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 ...