United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
KENNETH PIGOTT, ET AL.
KAYLA HEATH, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
L. C. FELDMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the defendants' motion for partial summary
judgment to dismiss the plaintiffs' punitive damages
claims. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.
a car accident case. The defendants' motion presents the
question whether Arizona's law of punitive damages
applies in a Louisiana lawsuit arising from a Louisiana
collision between citizens of Louisiana and Mississippi. It
collision occurred in fall 2017. At the time, Kayla Heath was
driving an 18-wheeler in the left lane of Highway 21 in
Bogalusa, Louisiana. She was working for Swift
Transportation, hauling Wal-Mart cargo from Swift's
Robert, Louisiana terminal. Kenneth Pigott was driving a
sedan in the right lane, and Dehendric Bickham was riding
along. Heath's 18-wheeler moved into the right lane and
struck Pigott's sedan. This lawsuit followed.
and Bickham sued Heath and Swift in state court. They said
that Heath's negligence caused the collision and that
Swift was vicariously liable. In response, Heath and Swift
removed the case based on diversity jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
and Bickham are citizens of Louisiana. Heath is a citizen of
Mississippi. Swift is a limited liability company with one
member: a Delaware corporation with a principal place of
business in Arizona.
this Court, Pigott and Bickham moved to amend their complaint
to add claims of independent negligence against Swift. Swift
originally said it did not oppose. But it soon realized the
amendment contained a claim not discussed: a claim for
punitive damages under Arizona law. Upon review of that
claim, Swift reversed course and opposed the amendment.
proposed amendment, Pigott and Bickham said Swift negligently
hired, trained, and supervised Heath. They alleged no facts
to support the application of Arizona law to any claim; yet
they purported to allege an Arizona-law punitive damages
Due to the high likelihood that the conduct of Swift
Transportation Co. of Arizona, L.L.C. would injure Plaintiffs
and/or persons in Plaintiffs' position, Plaintiffs herein
assert a claim for punitive damages under Arizona law.
United States Magistrate Judge allowed the amendment over
Swift's objection. Swift appeals that ruling and moves
for partial summary judgment dismissing the Arizona-law
punitive damages claim. Pigott and Bickham oppose. Because a
ruling in favor of Swift on its motion for partial summary
judgment would moot its appeal, the Court considers the
judgment is proper if the record discloses 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). A dispute is
“genuine” if “the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). A fact is “material” if it
“might affect the outcome of the suit.”
Id. at 248.
non-movant will bear the burden of proof at trial, “the
movant may merely point to an absence of evidence, thus
shifting to the non-movant the burden of demonstrating by
competent summary judgment proof that there is an issue of
material fact warranting trial.” In re La. Crawfish
Producers, 852 F.3d 456, 462 (5th Cir. 2017) (citation
Court emphasizes that the mere argued existence of a factual
dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported
motion. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Nor do
“[u]nsubstantiated assertions, improbable inferences,
and unsupported speculation[.]” Brown v. City of
Houston, Tex., 337 F.3d 539, 541 (5th Cir. 2003).
Ultimately, to avoid summary judgment, the non-movant
“must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with
specific facts indicating a genuine issue for trial.”
LeMaire v. La. Dep't of Transp. & Dev., 480
F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2007).
deciding whether a fact issue exists, the Court views the
facts and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the non-movant. See Midwest Feeders, Inc. v.
Bank of Franklin, 886 F.3d 507, 513 (5th Cir. 2018). The
Court “resolve[s] factual controversies in favor of the
nonmoving party, ” but “only where there is an
actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted
evidence of contradictory facts.” Antoine v. First
Student, Inc., 713 F.3d 824, 830 (5th Cir. 2013)
and Bickham fail to submit “evidence of contradictory
facts.” Antoine, 713 F.3d at 830. In fact,
they offer no summary-judgment evidence to controvert
any of the properly-supported assertions of fact
contained in Swift and Heath's Local Civil Rule 56.1
statement. So, Swift and Heath's
properly-supported assertions of fact are deemed undisputed
for purposes of the motion. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
moving to the merits, the Court considers an issue of summary
judgment procedure. Pigott and Bickham invoke Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 56(d) and contend that summary judgment is
premature because discovery is not complete. They ask the
Court to deny or continue summary judgment.
Court may deny or continue summary judgment if the parties
opposing summary judgment show “by affidavit or
declaration that, for specified reasons, [they] cannot
present facts essential to justify [their] opposition.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). The parties opposing summary judgment
“may not simply rely on vague assertions that
additional discovery will produce needed, but unspecified
facts.” Am. Family Life Assur. Co. of Columbus v.
Biles, 714 F.3d 887, 894 (5th Cir. 2013). They must
instead “set forth a plausible basis for believing that
specified facts, susceptible of collection within a