United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT ON PUNITIVE DAMAGES
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Defendant National Railroad
Passenger Corporation d/b/a Amtrak's
(“Amtrak”) motion for summary judgment on
punitive damages. Dkt. 57. The Court has considered the
pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion
and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion
for the reasons stated herein.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
the third motion for summary judgment on punitive damages
arising from the same train accident. See Garza v.
Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., C18-5106BHS, 2019 WL
4849489 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 1, 2019)
(“Garza”); Wilmotte v. Nat'l
R.R. Passenger Corp., C18-0086BHS, 2019 WL 3767133 (W.D.
Wash. Aug. 9, 2019) (“Wilmotte”).
Because those citations provide a detailed version of the
facts, the Court will only briefly address the procedural
history of this matter.
January 9, 2018, Plaintiff Cecilia Goetz
(“Goetz”) filed a complaint for damages in King
County Superior Court for the State of Washington. Dkt. 1-2.
Goetz seeks actual and punitive damages. Id. On
January 22, 2018, Amtrak removed the matter. Dkt. 1.
August 21, 2019, Amtrak filed a motion for summary judgment.
Dkt. 57. On September 9, 2019, Goetz responded. Dkt.
On September 13, 2019, Amtrak replied. Dkt. 62.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is proper only 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). The moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law when the nonmoving party fails to make a
sufficient showing on an essential element of a claim in the
case on which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
There is no genuine issue of fact for trial where the record,
taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)
(nonmoving party must present specific, significant probative
evidence, not simply “some metaphysical doubt”).
See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Conversely, a
genuine dispute over a material fact exists if there is
sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute,
requiring a judge or jury to resolve the differing versions
of the truth. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 253 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac.
Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir.
determination of the existence of a material fact is often a
close question. The Court must consider the substantive
evidentiary burden that the nonmoving party must meet at
trial-e.g., a preponderance of the evidence in most civil
cases. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254; T.W. Elec.
Serv., Inc., 809 F.2d at 630. The Court must resolve any
factual issues of controversy in favor of the nonmoving party
only when the facts specifically attested by that party
contradict facts specifically attested by the moving party.
The nonmoving party may not merely state that it will
discredit the moving party's evidence at trial, in the
hopes that evidence can be developed at trial to support the
claim. T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc., 809 F.2d at 630
(relying on Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). Conclusory,
nonspecific statements in affidavits are not sufficient, and
missing facts will not be presumed. Lujan v. Nat'l
Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888-89 (1990).
resolving conflict of law tort questions, Washington has
abandoned the lex loci delicti rule and follows the
Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws' most
significant relationship test.” Singh v. Edwards
Lifesciences Corp., 151 Wn.App. 137, 143 (2009) (citing
Johnson v. Spider Staging Corp., 87 Wn.2d 577, 580
(1976)). This is a two-step inquiry involving a weighing of
the parties' contacts with the two jurisdictions and
then, if the contacts are evenly balanced, evaluating the
public policies and governmental interests of the concerned
states. Id. at 143-44 (citing Johnson, 87
Wn.2d at 58-82). “Washington courts have held that
these same choice of law principles apply to the issue of
punitive damages.” Id. at 144-45 (examining
Kammerer v. W. Gear Corp., 96 Wn.2d 416 (1981);
Barr v. Interbay Citizens Bank of Tampa, Fla., 96
Wn.2d 692 (1981)).
determining which jurisdiction has the most significant
relationship to a particular issue, which in this case is the
availability of punitive damages, the Court weighs “(a)
the place where the injury occurred, (b) the place where the
conduct causing the injury occurred, (c) the domicile,
residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of
business of the parties, and (d) the place where the
relationship, if any, between the parties is centered.”
Id. at 143 (citing Johnson, 87 Wn.2d at
581). Although the Court should consider each category of
contacts, the Court starts with the general
“presumption that in personal injury cases, the law of
the place of the injury applies . . . .”
Zenaida-Garcia v. Recovery Sys. Tech., Inc., 128
Wn.App. 256, 261-62 (2005).
case, as in Garza and Wilmotte, the
significant dispute involves the place where the conduct
causing the injury occurred. Goetz fails to provide any
additional evidence or argument that persuades the Court that
Delaware law should apply. This is not a situation in which
the majority of relevant decisions or omissions clearly
occurred in another state. For example, in Singh,
the defendant discovered the error in its software in
California, and it made the decision not to recall the
product in California. 151 Wn.App. at 146-47. Even though the
injury occurred in Washington, the court held that California
law applied because “the conduct that serves as the