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Mafua v. McKenzie

United States District Court, D. Utah

October 21, 2019

SIOLIMI MAFUA, Plaintiff
v.
KENT B. MCKENZIE; KLOEPFER, INC.; and DOES I-X, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT KLOEPFER, INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          HOWARD C. NIELSON, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Siolimi Mafua was injured when a commercial truck driven by Defendant Kent B. McKenzie collided into the rear of Plaintiff's vehicle. McKenzie failed to notice that traffic in front of him had slowed, and he collided with Mafua while traveling more than seventy miles per hour. McKenzie is employed by Defendant Kloepfer, Inc.

         Plaintiff alleges that Kloepfer is vicariously liable for McKenzie's negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that Kloepfer is liable for its own negligence in hiring and supervising McKenzie and in entrusting him with a company truck. Kloepfer has moved for summary judgment on each of Plaintiff's claims. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's respondeat superior and negligent hiring claims but denies the motion as to the negligent supervision and negligent entrustment claims.

         I.

         Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff (the nonmoving party), see Garrison v. Gambro, Inc., 428 F.3d 933, 935 (10th Cir. 2005), the facts are as follows.

         On December 15, 2017, McKenzie was traveling southbound on I-15. Pl. Comp. at ¶¶ 8. McKenzie was driving a Ford F-350 pickup truck owned by Kloepfer. Pl. Comp. at ¶¶ 12 and 16; McKenzie Depo. at 68:19-69:23 (“Defendant's Exhibit 1”). McKenzie failed to notice that traffic had slowed because of congestion and hit Plaintiff's vehicle from behind while traveling more than 70 miles per hour. Pl. Comp. at ¶ 13; Pl. Opp. Mot. at ¶ 28.

         At the time of the I-15 collision, McKenzie was not performing work for Kloepfer. Def. Ex. 1 at 58-61 He was driving from Twin Falls, Idaho, to his daughter's house in Syracuse, Utah, to deliver personal Christmas presents. Id. at 59. McKenzie was able to use a company vehicle for this personal errand because of “special privileges” that allowed him, as well as other select Kloepfer employees, to drive company vehicles not only for work but also for unrestricted personal use. Def. Ex. 1 at 21:22-25; 22:1-24; and 23:9-24:14.

         Kloepfer did not suspend, terminate, or reprimand McKenzie following the collision. Def. Ex. 1 at 28:5-25; 119:9-13; and 125:10-17; Landrum Depo. at 29:20-24 and 31:7-9 (“Defendant's Exhibit 2”). Kloepfer did withhold a six-month, $100 safety bonus. Def. Ex. 1 at 28:5-25; Def. Ex. 2 at 29:20-24. Kloepfer repaired the F-350 (at the company's expense) and returned it to McKenzie, who retained his special driving privileges. Def. Ex. 1 at 28:5-25; 119:9-13; and 125:10-17. Kloepfer did not require McKenzie to be retrained or to take additional driver safety classes. Id. at 28:5-25; 119:9-13; and 125:10-17.

         Prior to the I-15 collision, Kloepfer knew that McKenzie had been involved in a series of moving violations, including a serious at-fault collision for which he received a traffic citation. Def. Ex. 1 at 27:17-28:4. The at-fault collision occurred on March 25, 2016. Id. McKenzie was driving the same company-owned F-350 truck and made an improper left turn, failing to yield to-and colliding with-an oncoming vehicle. Id. at 24:24-25:12 and 26:13-15. McKenzie's supervisor arrived on scene immediately following the accident. Id. at 27:17-28:4. McKenzie was cited by the authorities for failing to yield the right of way. Def. Ex. 1 at 25:4-14. After the March 2016 collision, Kloepfer withdrew a six-month, $100 safety bonus but took no further disciplinary action. Def. Ex. 1 at 28:5-25; Def. Ex. 2 at 29:20-24. Kloepfer did not require McKenzie to be retrained or to take additional safe driving classes. Def. Ex. 1 at 28:5-25; 119:9- 13; and 125:10-17. McKenzie received back the F-350 after it had been repaired by Kloepfer at the company's expense and retained his special driving privileges. Def. Ex. 1. at 28:5-25; 119:9- 13; and 125:10-17. Kloepfer was also aware that McKenzie had received citations for two additional moving violations. Oral Argument 6:06-6:48. At some point in 2016, McKenzie was cited for failing to stop at a stop sign. Pl. Ex. D: Idaho's Interactive Drivers License Record for Kent McKenzie. And on November 28, 2016, McKenzie was cited for speeding. Id.

         In addition to these moving violations, McKenzie had backed his company-owned F-350 truck into a light pole at a job site on May 14, 2014. Pl. Supplemental Ex. A (Dk. 27). This incident involved only a single vehicle and did not occur on a public roadway. Id. Kloepfer was of course aware of this incident prior to the I-15 collision as well. Id.

         II.

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party 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 must view the factual record and draw all reasonable inferences in the manner most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998).

         III.

         The parties agree that Utah law governs this diversity action. As noted above, Kloepfer seeks summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for (1) vicarious liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior, (2) negligent hiring, (3) negligent supervision and ...


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