United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
V. EAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court are Defendants' Motion and Brief for
Partial Summary Judgment on Punitive Damage Claim (Dkt. # 41)
and plaintiff's opposed motion to stay or hold in
abeyance defendants' motion for partial summary judgment
(Dkt. # 43). Defendants argue that there is no evidence
showing that David Johnston acted with reckless disregard for
the rights of others when he was involved in an automobile
accident with plaintiff William Raborn. Dkt. # 41. Plaintiff
claims that he needs to conduct additional discovery before
he can fully respond to defendants' motion, and he asks
the Court to stay its ruling on defendants' motion until
discovery is completed. Dkt. # 43.
February 26, 2014, Johnston was driving a tractor trailer for
his employer, Covenant Transport, Inc. (Covenant), and he had
parked at a travel plaza near Big Cabin, Oklahoma. Dkt. #
41-3, at 2, 4. Johnston had a commercial driver's license
(CDL). Dkt. # 41-2. Johnston conducted a pre-trip inspection
before he left the travel plaza and this took about 15 to 17
minutes. Dkt. # 41-3, at 5. Johnston's wife, Nora
Johnston, was a passenger in the tractor trailer, and she
confirmed that he did a pre-trip inspection. Dkt. # 41-4, at
4. Johnston was not aware that his tractor trailer had any
mechanical difficulties. Dkt. # 41-3, at 3.
was attempting to make a left turn out of the travel plaza
and onto northbound Highway 69, and there were vehicles
headed northbound and southbound on the highway. Id.
at 6. Highway 69 is a two lane highway in both directions.
Dkt. # 41-5, at 4. Johnston waited about two minutes until he
believed that the traffic was clear in both directions, and
he states that there was nothing impairing his visibility.
Dkt. # 41-3, at 8-9. Johnston pulled out into the highway to
make a left turn into the inside lane of northbound Highway
69 and he observed another tractor trailer heading northbound
on Highway 69, but at the time Johnston began his left turn
the other tractor trailer was in the outside lane.
Id. at 10. Raborn was driving the other tractor
trailer. Johnston claims that he was constantly checking his
surroundings as he pulled onto the highway and he believed
the inside lane was clear as he was pulling onto Highway 69.
Id. at 12-13. As Johnston pulled into the inside
lane of northbound Highway 69, the other tractor trailer
changed lanes and collided with Johnston's tractor
trailer. Id. at 10-11. Johnston testified in his
deposition that he had no opportunity to avoid the collision
at the point that Raborn changed lanes. Id. at 14.
Raborn states that he accelerated immediately before the
collision in an attempt to avoid the collision, but he could
not have changed lanes because there was a vehicle next to
him in the outside lane. Dkt. # 41-6, at 2-3.
February 2, 2016, Raborn filed this case in Craig County
District Court alleging negligence claims against Johnston,
Covenant, and Covenant's insurer, Marsh USA, Inc. Dkt. #
2-1. Raborn alleged that Covenant was liable for
Johnston's conduct under the doctrine of respondeat
superior, and he also alleged that Covenant was directly
liable for “negligently hiring, training, supervising
and retaining” Johnston. Id. at 3. Covenant
removed the case to the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Oklahoma. Dkt. # 2. Covenant filed a
motion to transfer venue, because Craig County is located
within the Northern District of Oklahoma and Covenant
mistakenly removed the case to the wrong judicial district.
Dkt. # 5. The case was transferred to the United States
District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. Dkt. #
17. Covenant filed an answer (Dkt. # 9) and admitted that
Johnston was acting within the scope of his employment at the
time of the accident. Covenant filed a motion to dismiss
plaintiff's direct negligence claim against it, because
claims of direct negligence are not viable against an
employer that has admitted that it is vicariously liable for
the acts of an employee as a matter of Oklahoma law. Dkt. #
11, at 7. Raborn did not file a response to Covenant's
motion to dismiss, and the Court dismissed Raborn's claim
of direct negligence against Covenant. Dkt. # 23. Raborn has
voluntarily dismissed his claims against Marsh USA, Inc. Dkt.
judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is appropriate where
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23
(1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 250 (1986); Kendall v. Watkins, 998 F.2d 848,
850 (10th Cir. 1993). The plain language of Rule 56(c)
mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time
for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to
make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 317. “Summary judgment
procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural
shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules
as a whole, which are designed ‘to secure the just,
speedy and inexpensive determination of every
action.'” Id. at 327.
the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its
opponent must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the
record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of
fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no
‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
586-87 (1986) (citations omitted). “The mere existence
of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's
position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on
which the [trier of fact] could reasonably find for the
plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. In
essence, the inquiry for the Court is “whether the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at
250. In its review, the Court construes the record in the
light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.
Garratt v. Walker, 164 F.3d 1249, 1251 (10th Cir.
argue that plaintiff has no evidence that would support an
award of punitive damages under Oklahoma law, and defendants
ask the Court to enter partial summary judgment in favor of
defendants on the issue of punitive damages. Dkt. # 41, at 5.
Plaintiff asks the Court to defer ruling on defendants'
motion until plaintiff has had an opportunity to conduct
additional discovery. Dkt. # 43. In the alternative,
plaintiff argues that the issue of punitive damages is
fact-intensive and he asks the Court to deny defendants'
motion for partial summary judgment. Id. at 6-7.
asks the Court to stay its ruling on defendants' motion
for partial summary judgment, because the parties have not
completed discovery and plaintiff cannot fully respond to
defendants' motion without taking depositions of
Covenant's corporate representative under Fed.R.Civ.P.
30(b)(6) and Johnston's driving trainer, Levi Shelley.
Dkt. # 43, at 2. Defendants respond that plaintiff has had
ample time to conduct discovery, and plaintiff is not
entitled to relief under Rule 56(d) because the additional