United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. CAUTHRON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CR Operating Company, Inc. filed a Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment (Dkt. No. 55). Plaintiff filed a Brief in Opposition
(Dkt. No. 58) and Defendant filed a Reply (Dkt. No. 60). The
matter is fully briefed and the motion is now at issue.
early 2015, Andrew Kimble moved into Apple Creek Estates
and/or Apple Creek Apartments (hereafter “Apple Creek
Apartments”). Kimble continuously used his balcony to
smoke cigarettes and leaned against the balcony railing on
multiple occasions without issue. On January 25, 2016, Kimble
leaned against the railing and fell to the ground. Kimble
suffered numerous injuries when he fell from the second story
balcony including head, wrist, and back injuries with the
potential for future surgery to correct additional medical
issues. Kimble underwent multiple surgeries and missed months
of work as a result of the fall.
Vinod Gupta owns Apple Creek Apartments through Apple Creek
Estates, LLC. Dr. Vinod Gupta and his wife, Chandra Gupta,
are the only shareholders of CR Operating Company, Inc.,
which is the management and operating company for Apple Creek
Estates and/or Apple Creek Apartments.
brought claims for negligence and gross negligence against
Defendant, CR Operating Company, Inc., d/b/a Apple Creek
Apartments and Apple Creek Estates, L.L.C. Plaintiff also
seeks to recover punitive damages from Defendants. Plaintiff
argues Defendants recklessly disregarded Plaintiff's
rights from which malice and evil intent can be inferred.
Defendant CR Operating Company, Inc., seeks partial summary
judgment on Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages.
Summary Judgment Standard
policy goal and primary principle of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is
“to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims
or defenses.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 sets the standard
for summary judgment:
A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim
or defense- or the part of each claim or defense-on which
summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary
judgment if 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).
judgment is appropriate “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
Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “[T]his standard provides
that the mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). It is also well
established that the “party seeking summary judgment
always bears the initial responsibility of informing the
district court of the basis for its motion . . . which it
believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at
322. “As to materiality, the substantive law will
identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts
that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
“When 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., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (footnote omitted).
“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. 1998).
outset of this analysis, this Court notes that Defendant
Apple Creek Estates, LLC, is the owner of Apple Creek
Apartments. CR Operating Co., Inc. is functioning as a
management company for the landowner, Defendant Apple Creek
Estates, LLC. (Mem. Op. and Order, Dkt. No. 61.) This Court
will limit its inquiry to discuss whether there is competent
evidence from which a reasonable jury could find reckless
disregard, sufficient to support an inference of evil intent
and malice on the part of moving Defendant.
damages are “generally considered to be an element of
recovery of the underlying cause of action; it does not
constitute a separate cause of action.” Rodebush v.
Okla. Nursing Homes, Ltd.,1993 OK 160, ¶ 21, 867
P.2d 1241, 1247. Under 23 Okla. Stat. § 9.1,
“Plaintiffs seek punitive damages pursuant to 23 Okla.
Stat. § 9.1 which allows such a recovery where the jury
finds by “clear and convincing evidence” that
“the defendant has been guilty of reckless disregard
for the rights of ...