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Trantham v. Super T. Transport, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 30, 2018

ROGER TRANTHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
SUPER T. TRANSPORT, INC.; LAYNE WALTERS, individually; MANWEILER TRANSPORT, INC.; and PAUL HAMELIN, individually, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          LEWIS T. BABCOCK, JUDGE.

         This matter is before me on Defendants Manweiler Transport Inc. and Paul Hamelin's (“Moving Defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 59.) Defendants Super T. Transport, Inc. and Layne Walters (“Opposing Defendants”) filed a Response. (Defs.' Resp., ECF No. 60.) Plaintiff did not respond to Moving Defendants' Motion. For reasons explained below, I will not consider Opposing Defendants' Response on its merits. After consideration of the Motion, all proper related pleadings, and the case file, I grant Moving Defendants' Motion for the reasons set forth below.

         I. Background

         This action arises out of an accident involving three commercial motor vehicles on Interstate 25 near Highway 66. (Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 41 at 3-4; ECF No. 59 at 2-3; Ex. D to Reply to Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 61-3 at 2-3.) For the purposes of Moving Defendants' Motion, the following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         On a snowy day with limited visibility, all three vehicles were traveling northbound when Opposing Defendants' vehicle rear-ended Plaintiff's vehicle. (ECF No. 59 at 3; ECF No. 61-3 at 3-5.) Plaintiff avers in his Amended Complaint that Opposing Defendant Walter “slammed into the rear of Plaintiff's vehicle, ” but Plaintiff does not detail Moving Defendants' role in the accident which caused Plaintiff's alleged harm. (ECF No. 41 at 4.) Moving Defendants' vehicle subsequently rear-ended Opposing Defendants' vehicle. (ECF No. 61-3 at 4.) Moving Defendants' vehicle did not make contact with Plaintiff's vehicle. (Ex. B to Mot. Summ. J., ECF 59-2 at 144:24-145:1.) The force from the impact between Moving Defendants' and Opposing Defendants' vehicles did not cause a secondary impact between Plaintiff's and Opposing Defendants' vehicles. (ECF No. 59-2 142:6-9; ECF No. 61-3 at 5.)

         II. Standard of Review

         The purpose of a summary judgment motion under Rule 56 is to assess whether trial is necessary. White v. York Int'l Corp., 45 F.3d 357, 360 (10th Cir. 1995). Rule 56 provides that summary judgment shall be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, or affidavits show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A fact is material if its determination might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Roberts v. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Corp., 884 F.3d 967, 972 (10th Cir. 2018). Evidence and any reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. T.D. v. Patton, 868 F.3d 1209, 1219 (10th Cir. 2017).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Am. Movie Classics v. Rainbow Media Holdings, 508 Fed.Appx. 826, 829 (10th Cir. 2013) (quoting Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670-71 (10th Cir. 1998)). To meet this burden, movant need not disprove a nonmovant's claims; rather, it must “simply point[ ] out to the court a lack of evidence for the nonmovant on an essential element of the nonmovant's claim.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d at 670-71 (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). If it meets this initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, here Plaintiff, to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). If a plaintiff does not respond to a motion for summary judgment, it cannot rely solely on its complaint to counter supported assertions made by the moving party. Lopez-Bignotte v. Ontivero, 42 Fed.Appx. 404, 408 (10th Cir. 2002) (citing Parkinson v. The Calif. Co., 233 F.2d 432, 438 (10th Cir. 1956).

         In the case that the nonmoving party does not respond to the motion, the court may: (1) give an opportunity to properly support or address the fact; (2) consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion; (3) grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials--including the facts considered undisputed--show that the movant is entitled to it; or (4) issue any other appropriate order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). Thus, “the district court may not grant the motion without first examining the moving party's submission to determine if it has met its initial burden of demonstrating that no material issues of fact remain for trial and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Reed v. Bennett, 312 F.3d 1190, 1195 (10th Cir. 2002) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 161 (1970)).

         “If the evidence produced in support of the summary judgment motion does not meet this burden, ‘summary judgment must be denied even if no opposing evidentiary matter is presented.'” Id. (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. at 160) (emphasis in original). However, after accepting as true all material facts asserted and properly supported in the motion, the court should grant summary judgment if movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. (citing cases).

         III. Analysis

         A. The Effect of Opposing Defendants' Response

         Opposing Defendants responded to Moving Defendants' Motion but did not discuss the procedural posture of a co-defendant responding to another co-defendant's motion for summary judgment. In their Reply, Moving Defendants argued that Opposing Defendants have no standing to file a response because Moving Defendants' “requested dismissal does not impact Plaintiff's claims against [Opposing Defendants] or [Opposing Defendants'] defenses to such claims.” (Reply to Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 61 at 2.)

         To my knowledge, a federal appellate court has yet to address what should occur when a co-defendant responds to another co-defendant's motion for summary judgment when no crossclaims exist. However, many district courts have addressed the issue, to which there have been myriad outcomes. See D.F. by & through Amador v. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., No. 3:13-cv-00331-GPC-KSC, 2017 WL 4922814, at *11-12 (S.D. Cal. Oct. 30, 2017) (collecting cases). The court in D.F. summarized that the courts not allowing an opposing co-defendant to respond “have relied on the idea that forcing a plaintiff to prosecute a trial, against that plaintiff's wishes, is ‘contrary to the principle of Rule 56 that trials (or ...


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