United States District Court, D. New Mexico
TONYA MICHELLE MALONE, as Personal Representative of the Estate of GERARD WATSON, Deceased, Plaintiff,
GARY EDEN, JACQUELINE R. FLETCHER, CRST EXPEDITED, INC., and XYZ CORP., Defendants.
J. Caruso and David E. Shelle, Caruso Law Offices P.C.,
Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Paul D. Barber and Nathan S.
Anderson, Barber & Borg LLC, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for
Chavez Ortega, Rodey Dickason Sloan Akin & Robb,
Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Defendant CRST.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT CRST
EXPEDITED INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
KELLY, JR. UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE
MATTER is before the court on (1) Defendant CRST Expedited
Inc.'s (CRST) Motion for Summary Judgment filed July 21,
2017 (ECF No. 86); (2) CRST's Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment on Plaintiff's Claim of Vicarious Liability for
the Actions of Jacqueline Fletcher filed July 21, 2017 (ECF
No. 87); (3) CRST's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
on Plaintiff's Claim for Punitive Damages filed July 21,
2017 (ECF No. 88); (4) CRST's Motion to Exclude Portions
of the Testimony of Whitney G. Morgan filed May 14, 2018 (ECF
No. 106); (5) Plaintiff's Motion to Strike or, in the
Alternative, for Leave to File Motion filed May 29, 2018 (ECF
No. 107); and (6) Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of
Time filed May 29, 2018 (ECF No. 108). Upon consideration
thereof, the court finds that CRST's initial motion for
summary judgment is well taken and should be granted; the
remaining motions should be denied as moot.
wrongful death case removed to federal court, Plaintiff, the
personal representative of the Estate of Gerard Watson,
Deceased, seeks compensatory and punitive damages associated
with a commercial motor vehicle accident that occurred on
June 22, 2013, resulting in the death of Mr. Watson.
Jacqueline Fletcher had an independent contractor agreement
with Defendant CRST to operate a commercial vehicle on
CRST's behalf, and Mr. Watson was her employee.
Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 2 (ECF No. 86). Ms. Fletcher and
Mr. Watson were driving a truck under lease from CRST,
transporting cargo to Ontario, California. Id. at
1-2. At some point during the trip, Ms. Fletcher picked up
her father, Gary Eden, and planned to drop him off at his
home in Phoenix, Arizona, on their way to California.
Id. Ms. Fletcher did not inform CRST of her plans to
pick up her father as a passenger, and she did not seek
permission for his presence in the truck, in violation of her
operating agreement with CRST. Id.
on the morning of June 22, the truck was involved in a
single-vehicle accident near Grants, New Mexico. Id.
At the time of the accident, Ms. Fletcher was logged as the
operator of the truck and Mr. Watson was asleep in the
truck's bunk bed. Id. Ms. Fletcher, however, was
not the driver during the crash - her father was driving and
caused the accident when he lost control of the truck.
Id. at 2. Ms. Fletcher's operating agreement
with CRST specifically prohibited her from permitting an
unauthorized third party to operate the truck. Def.'s Mot.
Summ. J., Ex. A (ECF No. 86-1); Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. at
2. Mr. Watson suffered severe injuries in the crash and died
at the scene of the accident. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 2.
Watson's mother, as the personal representative of Mr.
Watson's estate, sued Ms. Fletcher, Mr. Eden, and CRST
for his wrongful death on October 1, 2015.Complaint at 1
(ECF No. 1-1). CRST removed the case from New Mexico state
court on November 6, 2015. Def.'s Notice of Removal (ECF
motions are currently pending before the court. On July 21,
2017, CRST filed a motion for summary judgment on all of
Plaintiff's claims against it. (ECF No. 86). That same
day, as an alternative to a comprehensive summary judgment
order, CRST filed two alternative motions for partial summary
judgment - one on the issue of Plaintiff's vicarious
liability claim against CRST, and another on the issue of
Plaintiff's punitive damages claim against CRST. (ECF
Nos. 87 & 88). On May 14, 2018, CRST filed a motion to
exclude at trial portions of the testimony of plaintiff's
witness Whitney G. Morgan. (ECF No. 106). CRST filed a reply
on June 13, 2018, noting Plaintiff's failure to file a
response to its motion to exclude. (ECF No. 111). While
Plaintiff did not file a response to CRST's motion to
exclude testimony, Plaintiff did file two relevant motions.
On May 29, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to strike
CRST's motion to exclude, or in the alternative a motion
for leave to file a motion for partial summary judgment. (ECF
No. 107). Plaintiff also filed a motion for extension of time
to respond to CRST's motion to exclude testimony until
after the court rendered a decision on the motion to strike.
(ECF No. 108).
judgment is warranted “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). In applying this standard, the court
views the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Gutierrez v. Cobos, 841 F.3d 895,
900 (10th Cir. 2016).
the substantive law governing the motion, a federal district
court sitting in diversity applies the choice of law rules of
the forum jurisdiction - here, New Mexico state law. See
MidAmerica Constr. Mgmt., Inc. v. MasTec N. Am., Inc.,
436 F.3d 1257, 1260 (10th Cir. 2006). Under New Mexico choice
of law rules, the substantive law governing a tort action is
the law of the place where the wrong occurred. See
Terrazas v. Garland & Loman, Inc., 142 P.3d 374, 377
(N.M. Ct. App. 2006); see also Restatement (First)
of Conflict of Laws § 378 (Am. Law Inst. 1934)
(“The law of the place of wrong determines whether a
person has sustained a legal injury.”). Here, there is
no dispute that the place of wrong is New Mexico, and so New
Mexico tort law governs.
CRST's Motion ...