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Miller v. C.H. Robinson Wholesale Corp.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 26, 2019

ALLEN M. MILLER, Plaintiff,



         I. SUMMARY

         This action concerns a motor vehicle accident involving a commercial semi-tractor trailer that rendered Plaintiff Allen M. Miller (“Miller”) a quadriplegic. Before the Court are Miller's motion for determination and approval of good faith settlement under Nevada Revised Statute § 17.245 (“GFS Motion”) (ECF No. 90) and Defendant C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.'s (“Robinson”) motion for fees and nontaxable costs pursuant to Nev. R. Civ. P. 68 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 68 (“Fees & Costs Motion”) (ECF No. 86). For the reasons provided below, the Court grants Miller's GFS Motion and denies Robinson's Fees & Costs Motion.[1]


         The detailed facts of this case may be found in (ECF No. 84).

         Pertinent here, Defendants Ronel R. Singh, Rheas Trans, Inc. and Kuwar Singh dba RT Service (“RT Service”) (collectively, “Settling Defendants”) reached a settlement with Miller for $750, 000. (ECF No. 90-1; ECF No. 94-4.) These parties entered their /// settlement agreement (“Agreement”) in spring 2018. (Id.) Per the Agreement, Miller agrees to release Settling Defendants from liability. (ECF No. 90-1.) The settling parties submit that the $750, 000 is the limit of the Settling Defendants' insurance policy. (ECF No. 90 at 2; ECF No. 90-2.) Non-settling Defendant, Robinson-the freight broker that selected RT Services to haul the commercial load at the time of the accident-does not oppose “the [GFS Motion] being granted.” (ECF No. 92.)

         In May 2018, Robinson also extended an offer of judgment (“Offer”) to Miller via its counsel and pursuant to Nev. R. Civ. P. 68 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 68. (ECF No. 86 at 15, 21, 23-25.) In addition to offering Miller a settlement of $500, 001.00, Robinson's letter offering settlement (“Offer Letter”) extensively provided its legal position. (See generally id.) The Offer Letter particularly detailed Robinson's position that, inter alia, Miller's negligent hiring claim “will be dismissed . . . because it is preempted by federal law.” (Id. at 18; see Id. at 18-20.) The Offer Letter informed Miller that Robinson intended to raise its preemption claims and arguments in its forthcoming motion for judgment on the pleadings (“JOP Motion”). (Id. at 20.) Robinson provided that because after discovery it became “abundantly clear” that Miller had no cognizable claim against it, it was extending the Offer before filing the motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Id. at 21-22.) Robinson also informed that in light of its offer and should it prevail on the JOP Motion, Robinson would seek an award of costs and fees from the date of the Offer. (Id. at 22.) Miller did not accept the Offer. (ECF No. 94-1.)

         Robinson then filed its JOP Motion in July 2018 (ECF No. 59), which this Court granted (ECF No. 84). Robinson thereafter filed the instant Fees & Costs Motion. (ECF No. 86.)

         III. GFS MOTION (ECF NO. 90)

         In Nevada, it is within the considerable discretion of a court-considering the relevant facts available-to determine whether a settlement was made in good faith under NRS § 17.245. Velsicol Chem. Corp. v. Davidson, 811 P.2d 561, 563 (Nev. 1991). Where a defendant settles with plaintiffs in good faith, it cannot be held liable by its codefendants in tort for contribution or equitable indemnity. Otak Nev., LLC v. Eight Jud. Dist. Ct., 312 P.3d 491, 496 (Nev. 2013) (referencing NRS § 17.245(b) (1)). This result is inherent in NRS § 17.245's goal to “encourage settlements.” In Re MGM Grand Hotel Fire Litigation, 570 F.Supp. 913, 927 (D. Nev. 1983)

         The following factors are relevant to a court's good faith determination: “[t]he amount paid in settlement, the allocation of the settlement among plaintiffs, the insurance policy limits of settling defendants, the financial condition of settling defendants, and the existence of collusion, fraud or tortious conduct aimed to injure the interests of non-settling defendants.” Id. (internal quotation and citation omitted). A court may also consider “the merits of any contribution or equitable indemnity claims against the settling defendant.” Otak Nev., LLC, 312 P.3d at 496 (citation omitted). Moreover, the court is not limited to these factors in making its discretionary determination. Velsicol Chem., 811 P.2d at 563 (declining to adopt the “California rule” mandating consideration of any specific factors). In the process of the court's determination, “[a] non-settling party is fully protected by its ability to present counter-affidavits or evidence at a hearing on the issue of ‘good faith.'” In Re MGM Grand Hotel Fire Litigation, 570 F.Supp. at 927.

         In its discretion, the Court grants the GFS Motion. Paramount in the Court's decision to grant the GFS Motion is that Non-settling Defendant Robinson does not oppose the granting of the motion. (ECF No. 92.) Under Local Rule 7-2(d) “[t]he failure of an opposing party to file points and authorities in response to any motion except a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 or a motion for attorney's fees, constitutes consent to the granting of the motion.” See LR 7-2(d). Further, it is uncontested that the $750, 000 settlement here is the policy limit of Settling Defendants' insurance. Thus, the Settling Defendants' financial condition supersedes any consideration of apportionment of liability among the Defendants. Moreover, the latter has been rendered irrelevant in this case because the Court granted Robinson's JOP Motion. Lastly, the Court finds no evidence of collusion, fraud or tortious conduct by the settling parties as against Robinson. Accordingly, the /// Court determines that Miller and Settling Defendants reached settlement in good faith and therefore grants the GFS Motion.[2]

         IV. FEES & COSTS MOTION (ECF NO. 86)

         Robinson requests an award of fees in the amount of $126, 501.25 and nontaxable costs in the amount of $95, 839.03. (ECF No. 86 at 12.) As Robinson indicates, it cannot recover its fees and costs based on the Offer under Fed.R.Civ.P. 68 given it obtained judgment in its favor (ECF No. 86 at 6), in light of the Supreme Court's strict application of the rule. See Delta Air Lines, Inc. v. August,450 U.S. 346, 352 (1981). However, fees and costs are generally available under Nev. R. Civ. P. 68. See Beattie v. Thomas, 668 P.2d 268, 274 (Nev. 1983) (disagreeing with Delta Air Lines, Inc. and ruling that Nev. R. Civ. P. ...

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