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Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co. v. Plastics

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 12, 2014



ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.

This subrogation action arises out of damage caused to a residence and its contents when a water supply line failed. Pending before the court are two motions for summary judgment, two motions in limine, and a motion for spoliation sanctions.


Defendant Mercury Plastics, Inc. ("Mercury") designed, manufactured, marketed, and sold a plastic water supply line (the "Line") installed in a house owned by non-party Zarzand Galstain (the Insured") and located in Clark County, Nevada. ( See Compl. ¶¶ 3, 7, ECF No. 1-2, at 6). On or before June 20, 2012, the Line broke while the Insured was out of town, permitting water to leak into the house, which in turn caused substantial damage to the Insured's real and personal property. ( Id. ¶ 8). The Insured submitted insurance claims to Plaintiff Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Co. ("Allstate"), who paid over $800, 000 on the claim. ( Id. ¶¶ 10-11).

Allstate sued Mercury in Nevada state court under theories of strict liability and negligence on August 21, 2013. ( See id. 1). Two days later, Mercury sued Allstate in Ohio state court (the "Ohio Case") for a declaration that Allstate was not subrogated to any potential claims by the Insured, and that the Line was not defective, in any case. ( See Ohio Compl. ¶¶ 16-19, ECF No. 15-1, at 2). Allstate removed the Ohio Case on September 20, 2013. ( See Notice Removal, ECF No. 1 in Case No. 1:13-cv-2097, N.D. Ohio). Mercury removed the present case six days later. ( See Pet. Removal, ECF No. 1). Mercury asked the Court to stay the present case or transfer it to the Northern District of Ohio. The Court denied that motion because Allstate had not engaged in claim-splitting, because Allstate had in fact filed its case in state court in Nevada before Mercury filed its case in state court in Ohio, such that the first-to-file rule, if applied, would inure to the benefit of Allstate, and because none of the factors under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) favored transfer.

Allstate has asked the Court to grant it partial summary judgment as to damages, but not as to liability. Mercury has asked the Court to grant it summary judgment against all claims. Mercury has also filed two motions in limine and a motion for spoliation sanctions.


A. Summary Judgment

A court must grant summary judgment when "the movant shows 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). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See id. 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 uses a burden-shifting scheme:

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 and internal quotation marks 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 meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish 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 unsupported by facts. 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 Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.

At the summary judgment stage, 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, 477 U.S. at 249. 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 merely ...

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