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Level 3 Communications, Inc v. Lidco Imperial Valley

October 11, 2012

LEVEL 3 COMMUNICATIONS, INC.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
LIDCO IMPERIAL VALLEY, INC.,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barry Ted Moskowitz, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING TRIAL DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JURY

Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment regarding liability (Doc. 35) and Defendant's motion for a jury trial (Doc. 34). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court DENIES both motions.

I. PLAINTIFF'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION

a. Background

This lawsuit arises out of damage to Plaintiff's underground fiberoptic cable line caused by Defendant's excavation activities.

On October 6, 2000, Plaintiff entered an "Easement Agreement with Temporary Work Space" (the "Easement Agreement") with T. J. La Brucherie, Mary K. La Brucherie, and La Brucherie Ranch Inc., a California Corporation (collectively, "LBR"), pursuant to which LBR granted Plaintiff: a right of way and easement for (1) a one time right to construct and install a fiber optic system and (2) a perpetual right to operate, maintain, inspect, alter, upgrade, replace and remove such underground communications system ("System") as the Grantee may, from time to time, require, consisting of underground cables, wires, conduits, drains, and other underground facilities and equipment for similar uses, through, under and along a parcel of land ten feet (10') in width ("Easement") . . . together with:

(A) the right of ingress and egress over and across any adjacent real property owned or controlled by Grantor and the Easement and Temporary Work Space for the purpose of exercising the rights granted herein provided that such ingress and egress does not interfere with the Grantor's improvements or uses;

(B) the right to clear and keep cleared all trees, roots, brush and other obstructions from the surface and sub-surface of the Easement, and during construction or maintenance periods, to use additional areas adjacent to the Easement for ingress and egress.

(Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Facts ("SUF") Ex. 1.) In or around late 2000-early 2001, Plaintiff installed 12 underground conduits and a fiberoptic telecommunications cable pursuant to the easement.

On July 1, 2008, Defendant was excavating across the easement to install a drainage line for LBR. While excavating, Defendant damaged the conduits and severed the fiberoptic cable. Defendant did not have consent or permission from Plaintiff to excavate the easement or to contact the conduits or cable.

b. Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure if the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is material when, under the governing substantive law, it could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party establishes the absence of genuine issues of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth facts showing that a genuine issue of disputed fact remains. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 314. The nonmoving party cannot oppose a properly supported summary judgment motion by "rest[ing] on mere allegations or denials of his pleadings." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must view all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

c. Discussion

Plaintiff contends that it is entitled to summary judgment as to liability on its trespass claim, regardless of whether that claim is characterized as trespass to real property or trespass to chattels. For the purposes of resolving this motion, the Court presumes that Plaintiff has pleaded both theories of trespass in the alternative, and addresses each in turn. First, however, ...


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