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Whitney v. Wurtz

April 4, 2006

WHITNEY ET. AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
WURTZ ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.
WURTZ ET. AL., CROSS-CLAIMANTS,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES INC., CROSS-DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Patricia V. Trumbull United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING CROSS-DEFENDANTS AMERICAN AIRLINES INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

On April 4, 2006, the parties appeared before Magistrate Judge Patricia V. Trumbull for hearing on Cross-Defendant American Airlines Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn1

Based on the briefs and arguments presented, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Cross-Defendant American Airlines Inc.'s Motion for ORDER, Summary Judgment is GRANTED as discussed below.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises out of an employment dispute between Veriscape Inc. and certain employees. The First Amended Complaint is premised upon the alleged wrongful termination of employees by Defendants Veriscape Inc. and its Chief Executive Officer, Charles Wurtz. Plaintiff Whitney alleges he "has a physical disability" "as a result of a broken neck." Plaintiff Whitney was allegedly promised certain accommodations in light of his disability. Plaintiff Whitney alleges that Defendants failed to consider his disability. Some of these failures included requiring Plaintiff Whitney to travel to Toronto, New Orleans, Anaheim and Phoenix. Defendants Veriscape's and Wurtz's alleged failure to take all reasonable steps to accommodate Plaintiff Whitney's disability underpins the first cause of action- for damages pursuant to California Government Code § 12940.

The instant cross-claim ensued from the wrongful termination action. Defendants/Cross-Claimants are seeking indemnification for Whitney's claim against them. Cross-Claimants state that any liability that they may be found to have due to Plaintiffs' allegations are secondary to that of American Airlines Inc.. Cross-Claimants assert that Cross-Defendant American Airlines Inc. is liable under equitable indemnity because Plaintiff Whitney was "in an area where he had to negotiate aisles, and did not have free access to bathrooms, or if such bathrooms were not equipped to accommodate passengers with disabilities, the primary liability is with such airlines and they are required to indemnify cross-claimants." As a result of his inability to negotiate aisles, Plaintiff Whitney soiled his diapers.

Cross-Defendant American argues that Plaintiff Whitney does not, and cannot in good faith, allege that any conduct by American caused him any damages. Cross-Defendant American argues that it cannot be liable to Plaintiff Whitney for damages pursuant to California Government Code § 12940. Cross-Defendant argues that viewing the record in a light most favorable to Cross-Claimants, that there is no genuine issue of material fact. American further argues that no rational trier of fact could find for Cross-Claimant.

II. STANDARD FOR MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

The purpose of summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses." Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). To obtain summary judgment, a party must demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists for trial, and that based on the undisputed facts he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id., at 322.

The moving party "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323. If the moving party meets its initial burden, then the non-moving party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." FED.R.CIV.PRO., Rule 56(e).

The moving party in not required to negate the elements of the non-moving party's case on which the non-moving party bears the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. On the contrary, "regardless of whether the moving party accompanies its summary judgment motion with affidavits, the motion may, and should, be granted so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for the entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Ibid. Thus, the moving party need only assert that the non-moving party will not be able to meet its burden at trial in order to put the non-moving party to its proof. The non-moving party cannot defeat such a motion for summary judgment simply by alleging a factual dispute between the parties. To preclude summary judgment, the non-moving party must bring forth material facts, i.e., "facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

If the non-moving party shows that it cannot, for reasons stated, present by affidavit facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may either deny or continue the motion to allow additional discovery. FED.R.CIV.PRO., Rule 56(f). However, "[t]he burden is on the party seeking additional discovery to proffer sufficient facts to show that the evidence sought exists, and that it would prevent summary judgment." See Chance v. Pac-Tel Teletrac Inc., 242 F.3d 1151, 1161 n. 6 (9th Cir. 2001).

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 501 U.S. 496, 520 (1991); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 588 (1986).However, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 588.

It is the court's responsibility "to determine whether the 'specific facts' set forth by the non-moving party, coupled with undisputed background or contextual facts, are such that a rational or reasonable jury might return a verdict in its favor based on that evidence." T.W. Elec. Service v. Pacific Elec. Contractors, 809 F.2d 626, 630-31 (9th Cir. 1987). "[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is 'genuine,' that is if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. However, "[w]here the record taken ...


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