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Hernandez v. Vanveen

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 29, 2017

PETER VANVEEN, et al., Defendant(s).


         Presently before the court is defendants Case Peter VanVeen (“VanVeen”), an individual, and Case VanVeen, dba Lazevee Farms, Inc.'s (collectively, “defendants”) motion for partial summary judgment on plaintiff's third, fourth, and fifth causes of action. (ECF No. 139). Plaintiff Maria Garcia Hernandez filed a non-opposition response to the motion (ECF No. 148).

         Also before the court is defendants' motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages. (ECF No. 140). Plaintiff filed a response (ECF No. 149), to which defendants replied (ECF No. 152).

         Also before the court is plaintiff's motion to strike defendants' affirmative defenses of fraud. (ECF No. 141). Defendants filed a response (ECF No. 146), to which plaintiff replied (ECF No. 147).

         I. Facts

         On December 18, 2012, defendant VanVeen, while driving a tractor-trailer (“truck”) on I-15 near the Charleston exit, struck a car driven by Ricardo Hernandez (“the Dodge”). (ECF No. 149 at 42, 49). Ricardo Hernandez's wife, Maria Garcia Hernandez, was in the front passenger seat of the Dodge.

         The initial impact consisted of the front of the truck colliding into the back of the Dodge. (ECF No. 149 at 42, 49). The first impact did not halt the momentum of the truck, and it continued down the highway. (ECF No. 149 at 2). While passing the Dodge, the left side of the truck scraped the right side of Dodge. Id. Mr. Hernandez claims that the Dodge initially stalled, but that he was able to get the engine to start up again. (ECF No. 142-2 at 3). He resumed driving with the stated purpose of obtaining the truck's license plate number.[1] Id. Thereafter, a second collision occurred, when VanVeen attempted to merge to the left lane and the Dodge was in VanVeen's “blind spot.” (ECF No. 149 at 25, 42, 50).

         Shortly after the second collision, both cars ended up parked on the left-side median of I-15, with the truck parked in front of the Dodge. (ECF No. 149 at 35).

         II. Legal Standard

         i. Summary judgment

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow summary judgment when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and 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).

         For purposes of summary judgment, disputed factual issues should be construed in favor of the non-moving party. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed., 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). However, to be entitled to a denial of summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id.

         In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. The moving party must first satisfy its initial burden. “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).

         By 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 non-moving 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 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 ...

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