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GeoMetWatch Corp. v. Hall

United States District Court, D. Utah

February 12, 2019

GEOMETWATCH CORP., a Nevada corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
ALAN E. HALL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING AWSF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JILL N. PARRISH UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Before the court is a motion for summary judgment filed on July 20, 2018, by defendant Advanced Weather Systems Foundation (“AWSF”). (ECF No. 600). Plaintiff GeoMetWatch Corporation (“GeoMet”) responded in opposition on October 15, 2018. (ECF No. 763). AWSF filed a reply on December 3, 2018. (ECF No. 818). For the reasons below, the motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 27, 2018, this court issued a memorandum decision and order (the “Damages Order”)[1] granting partial summary judgment to defendants Alan E. Hall, Tempus Global Data, Inc. (“Tempus”), and Island Park Group of Companies, LLC (the “Hall Defendants”) on grounds that GeoMet's damages theories were impermissibly speculative. (ECF No. 811). In that order, the court held that GeoMet could not establish that it suffered damages without relying on speculation or conjecture. Specifically, the court reviewed GeoMet's damages theories and concluded that none can provide a basis for recovery “because they each rely on the occurrence of one or more contingencies that cannot be established absent speculation.” (ECF No. 811 at 19).

         Pursuant to DUCivR 7-1(a)(4), AWSF joined the Hall Defendants' motion for summary judgment insofar as it argued that GeoMet could not prove damages causation. (ECF No. 607 at ii). AWSF argues, and the court agrees, that the reasoning of the Damages Order regarding GeoMet's causation theories applies with equal force to the claims asserted against AWSF. Thus, for the reasons explained in the court's Damages Order, AWSF is entitled to summary judgment on the issue of GeoMet's damages.

         But GeoMet also seeks nominal or statutory damages against AWSF under three counts asserting statutory violations. (ECF Nos. 788-48 at 13; 553 at 143). On February 4, 2019, this court issued a memorandum decision and order (the “Immunity Order”) granting in part and denying in part AWSF's motion for summary judgment based on governmental immunity. In relevant part, that order found AWSF immune under the Utah Governmental Immunity Act from GeoMet's claims asserting violations of state statutes (i.e., Utah's Truth in Advertising Act and Utah's Unfair Practices Act). (ECF No. 825). Thus, the court has already entered summary judgment in favor of AWSF on both of these claims. However, GeoMet's claim against AWSF for violations of the federal Lanham Act, under which GeoMet seeks only nominal damages, is not affected by either the Damages Order or the Immunity Order. The court therefore turns to that claim. On the basis of the parties' memoranda, applicable law, and for the reasons explained below, AWSF is also entitled to summary judgment on GeoMet's Lanham Act claim.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “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). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the movant has met this burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (citation omitted). To do so, the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         When the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, that party must “go beyond the pleadings” and designate specific facts so as to “make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an essential element to that party's case.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. “[T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment . . . 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.” “[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249. And, “[t]o defeat a motion for summary judgment, evidence, including testimony, must be based on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or surmise.” Pioneer Ctrs. Holding Co. Emp. Stock Ownership Plan & Tr. v. Alerus Fin., N.A., 858 F.3d 1324, 1334 (10th Cir. 2017) (quoting Bones v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 366 F.3d 869, 875 (10th Cir. 2004)).

         Finally, summary judgment is not a “disfavored procedural shortcut” but rather “an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole” that is designed “to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 1).

         III.ANALYSIS

         A. AWSF is Entitled to Summary Judgment on GeoMet's Lanham Act Claim

         To prevail on a false advertising claim under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), a plaintiff must prove:

(1) that the defendant made material false or misleading representations of fact in connection with the commercial advertising or promotion of its product; (2) in commerce; (3) that are either likely to cause confusion or mistake as to (a) the origin, association or approval of the product with or by another, or (b) ...

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