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Gilbert v. Spirit Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 1, 2014

LELA GILBERT, et al., Plaintiff(s),
v.
SPIRIT AIRLINES, INC., et al., Defendant(s)

ORDER

JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court is defendant Spirit Airlines Inc.'s ("Spirit") motion for summary judgment. (Doc. #41). Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition (doc. #48), and Spirit filed a reply (doc. #54).

I. Background

In the instant action, plaintiffs Lela, Aundrea, Rodrick, and Jamii Gilbert seek to recover damages based on injuries allegedly caused by Spirit's conduct prior to the death of their mother Joan Gilbert ("decedent").

On December 14, 2011, decedent was a passenger on a Spirit flight from Detroit, Michigan to Las Vegas, Nevada. While the flight was en route, decedent suffered cardiac arrest and lost consciousness. Decedent was immediately attended to by Spirit staff as well as three nurses who happened to be passengers on the flight. The nurses employed an AED machine, but did not administer a shock because the machine indicated decedent's heart was in an unshockable rhythm. The nurses administered CPR until the plane made an emergency landing in Omaha, Nebraska.

After the plane landed, decedent was attended to by paramedics from the Omaha Fire Department. These paramedics did not administer a shock, as they determined that decedent's heart was in an unshockable rhythm. Decedent was rushed to the Creighton University Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead.

Plaintiffs bring claims for negligence, wrongful death based on negligence, negligent entrustment, and negligent infliction of emotional distress, all based on their initial presumption that Spirit did not provide an AED machine to resuscitate decedent on the plane.

II. Legal Standard

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A principal purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. "When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case." C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To demonstrate the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987).

In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.

At summary judgment, a court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The evidence of the nonmovant is "to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is ...


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