United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE SARA LIOI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is the motion of defendant Liquid Transport
Corporation and defendant Isaias Castellanos for partial
summary judgment (Doc. No. 31 [“Mot.”]).
Plaintiffs filed their opposition (Doc. No. 38
[“Opp'n”]) and defendants filed a reply (Doc.
No. 39 [“Reply”]). For the reasons discussed
herein, defendants' motion for partial summary judgment
is granted in part and denied in part.
case stems from a motor vehicle accident between plaintiff
Tracy Braho (“Braho”) and defendant Isaias
Castellanos, Jr. (“Castellanos”). On November 18,
2014, Braho was driving eastbound, from Akron to
Pennsylvania, on Interstate 76. (Doc. 35, Deposition of Tracy
Braho [“Braho Dep.”] at 332-35.) On that night,
heavy snowing negatively affected driving conditions.
(Id. at 335.) Drivers had slowed down on the
interstate because of the weather conditions. (Id.
7:15 P.M., Braho was driving in the left lane, closest to the
median, around mile marker forty-eight. (Id. at
336.) Around that same time, Castellanos was driving next to
her in the right lane, pulling a liquid tanker for defendant
Liquid Transport Corporation [“LTC”].
(Id. at 339.) At that point, Castellanos moved over
into the left lane. (Id. at 339-40) The back-left
side of Castellanos's tanker made contact with the right
side of Braho's car. (Id. at 340.)
the accident, both drivers stopped at the next exit.
(Id. at 343.) A police officer arrived on the scene
and cited Castellanos for a lane violation. (Id.
352; Doc. No. 39-2, Castellanos Accident Report.) Braho was
able to driver her car home after the accident and did not
seek medical attention. (Id. at 351-53, 355.) Braho
testified that she began to suffer adverse physical symptoms
the next day, November 19, 2014. (Id. at 365.) On
that day, while at work, Braho started experiencing headaches
and a stiff neck and back. The next day, November 20, 2014,
Braho went to the hospital for her symptoms. (Id.)
At the hospital, Braho was diagnosed with a “cervical
strain.” (Id. at 367.) On a second trip to the
emergency room on November 30, 2014, Braho was diagnosed with
“post-concussion syndrome.” (Id. at
369-70.) Despite treatments and surgeries, Braho has
continued to experience body stiffness and headaches since
the accident. (Id. at 392.)
and her husband, plaintiff Ronald Braho
(“Ronald”), filed the instant case against LTC
and Castellanos. Braho alleges negligence against
Castellanos, and vicarious liability, strict liability, and
negligence against LTC. Further, Ronald alleges a loss of
consortium claim against both defendants. Plaintiffs seek
compensatory and punitive damages.
defendants moved for partial summary judgment on
plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages against both
defendants, and on plaintiffs' negligent hiring claim
against LTC. The motion is fully briefed and ripe for the
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), when a motion for summary judgment is
properly made and supported, it shall be granted “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.”
opposing party may not rely on allegations or denials in its
own pleading; rather, by affidavits or by materials in the
record, the opposing party must set out specific facts
showing a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).
Affidavits or declarations filed in support of, or in
opposition to, a motion for summary judgment “must be
made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be
admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or
declarant is competent to testify on the matters
stated.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). A movant is not
required to file affidavits or other similar materials
negating a claim on which its opponent bears the burden of
proof, so long as the movant relies upon the absence of the
essential element in the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d
reviewing summary judgment motions, the Court must view the
evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party to
determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists.
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157,
90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970); White v. Turfway
Park Racing Ass'n, 909 F.2d 941, 943-44 (6th Cir.
1990), impliedly overruled on other grounds by Salve
Regina Coll. v. Russell, 499 U.S. 225, 111 S.Ct. 1217,
113 L.Ed.2d 190 (1991). A fact is “material” only
if its resolution will affect the outcome of the lawsuit.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
Determination of whether a factual issue is
“genuine” requires consideration of the
applicable evidentiary standards. Thus, in most civil cases
the Court must decide “whether reasonable jurors could
find by a preponderance of the evidence that the [nonmoving
party] is entitled to a verdict[.]” Id. at
judgment is appropriate whenever the nonmoving party 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.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Moreover, “[t]he
trial court no longer has the duty to search the entire
record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford &
Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479-80 (6th Cir. 1989) (citing
Frito-Lay, Inc. v. Willoughby, 863 F.2d 1029, 1034
(D.C. Cir. 1988)). The nonmoving party is under an
affirmative duty to point out specific facts in the record as
it has been established that create a genuine issue of
material fact. Fulson v. City of Columbus, 801
F.Supp. 1, 4 (S.D. Ohio 1992). The nonmoving party must show
“more than a scintilla of evidence” to overcome
summary judgment; it is not enough for the nonmoving party to
show that there is some “metaphysical doubt” as
to material facts. Id.
their motion, defendants seek summary judgment as to
plaintiffs' claims for (1) negligent hiring, training,
and retention, and (2) punitive damages. (Mot. at 230-31.)
law recognizes the tort of negligent hiring. Byrd v.
Faber, 565 N.E.2d 584, 589-90 (Ohio 1991). To establish
a negligent hiring claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate: (1)
the existence of an employment relationship; (2) the
employee's incompetence; (3) the employer's actual or
constructive knowledge of such incompetence; (4) the
employee's act or omission causing the plaintiff's
injuries; and (5) the employer's negligence in hiring or
retaining the employee as the proximate cause of the
plaintiff's injuries. Plotner v. Swanton Local. Bd.
of Educ., 85 F.Supp.2d 747, 755 (N.D. Ohio 2000) (citing
Staten v. Ohio Exterminating Co., Inc., 704 N.E.2d
621, 623 (Ohio 1997)).
primary issue in a negligent hiring case is whether the
employer knew, or should have known, of the employee's
criminal or tortious propensities. Stephens v. A-Able
Rents Co., 654 N.E.2d 1315, 1319 (Ohio Ct. App. 1995)
(citing Byrd, 565 N.E.2d at 590). The plaintiff must
focus on what the employer knew, not just what the employee
did. Id. (citing Byrd). “If the
plaintiff shows facts indicating the employee had a past
history of criminal or tortious conduct about which the
employer knew or should have known, summary judgment is
improper and a question of fact is raised.”
Id. Further, “[w]hen determining the
foreseeability of a criminal act, a court must look at the
totality of the circumstances, and only when the
circumstances are somewhat overwhelming can an ...