United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
REBECCA L. HARRINGTON and STEVEN W. HARRINGTON, individually and as a marital community composed thereof, Plaintiffs,
SAFEWAY, INC., a foreign corporation; REYES COCA-COLA BOTTLILNG, LLC, fka BCI COCA-COLA BOTTLING COMPANY OF LOS ANGELES, LLC, a foreign limited liability company; COHO DISTRIBUTING, LLC a foreign limited liability company; and JONES DOES 1-5, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING BCI COCA-COLA BOTTLING COMPANY OF LOS
ANGELES, LLC'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
BARBARA JACOBS ROTHSTEIN U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on a Motion for Summary
Judgment filed by Defendant BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Company of
Los Angeles, LLC, (“BCI”), seeking an order
dismissing it from this case. BCI argues that Plaintiffs
Rebecca Harrington and Steven Harrington
(“Plaintiffs”) have failed to point to evidence
of any negligence on the part of BCI, and that it is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. Having reviewed the briefs
filed in support of and opposition to the motion, and the
evidence in the record, the Court holds as follows.
case was removed from Snohomish County Superior Court on
September 13, 2018. In their original Complaint, Plaintiffs
named only Defendant Safeway, Inc., and John Does 1-5,
alleging that Rebecca Harrington was injured in a Safeway
store in Snohomish, Washington. Harrington claims she removed
an item from a shelf, apparently loosening a glass bottle of
Coca-Cola, which fell to the floor. The glass bottle
allegedly shattered on impact, sending shards of glass that
lacerated Rebecca's ankle. In its Answer, Safeway
asserted that Plaintiffs' injuries, if any, were caused
by third parties, including BCI, “which sold, supplied
and stocked the subject products on the shelves of the
Defendant's store which Plaintiffs claim were in a
hazardous condition.” Dkt No. 7, ¶ 4.
subsequently (and twice) amended their original Complaint,
naming BCI, among others, as an additional defendant. The
Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) alleges
“Defendant Safeway has identified [BCI] . . . as the
supplier of Coca-Cola products on the shelves of Safeway
Store Number 1076 at all material times hereto.” Dkt.
No. 25, ¶ 1.3. The only additional allegations relating
to BCI in the SAC is that BCI “was hired by Safeway to
supply and stock Safeway shelves at Store Number 1076 with
Coca-Cola, ” and that “Defendant Safeway avers,
by way of an affirmative defense, that [BCI] bears
responsibility for its acts, omissions, or negligence in
stocking the Safeway shelves.” Id., ¶
4.3. In their Opposition to BCI's Motion, Plaintiffs
quote their expert as having testified that BCI's
“stocking of the shelves did not rise to the industry
standard of providing safe shelf storage of product for
retrieval by customers.” Pls.' Opp. at 7, citing
Dec. of Tim Wiese, Dkt. No. 49.
Summary Judgment Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that a court should grant
summary judgment when the moving party demonstrates
“that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c); see also Porter v.
Cal. Dep't of Corr., 419 F.3d 885, 891 (9th
Cir.2005); Addisu v. Fred Meyer, Inc., 198 F.3d
1130, 1134 (9th Cir.2000). A main purpose of summary judgment
is to dispose of factually unsupported claims and defenses.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24
(1986). Once the moving party has carried its burden under
Rule 56, the nonmoving party “must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial”
and may not rely on the mere allegations in the pleadings.
Porter, 419 F.3d at 891, quoting Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986).
BCI Fails to Meet Its Burden of Demonstrating an Absence of
Genuine Issue of Material Fact
seeks dismissal from this case, arguing that Plaintiffs have
failed to produce evidence supporting several essential
elements of their negligence claim against BCI. BCI argues
that Plaintiffs do not “expressly or directly allege
negligence against BCI, ” pointing out that the only
allegations in the SAC relating to BCI state merely that
“Safeway avers” that BCI bears responsibility for
Plaintiffs' injuries. Mot. at 3.
overlooks, however, the testimony of Plaintiffs' Expert
Tim Wiese, who submits in a declaration the following:
Through my experience and training in retail operations, it
is clear to me that the Safeway store itself, as well as its
vendors, supply and install safety racking/fencing/feeder
systems to help with product organization and safety of
storing product correctly on the shelves. This is an industry
standard in many retail and grocery companies, and the
systems are used in other Safeway stores and other markets.
Neither Safeway nor Reyes/BCI Coca-Cola complied with the
industry standard regarding safety of product display which
directly led to the situation wherein products packed too
tightly caused an adjacent product to fall when a product was
removed from the shelf.
Decl. of Tim Wiese at 2-3, Dkt. No. 49, emphasis added. The
Court holds that this assertion-bolstered by averments by
Safeway that BCI is to blame for how the shelves were
stocked-is sufficient to create a genuine issue of material
fact as to whether ...