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Holzhauer v. Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 12, 2015

MARY HOLZHAUER, Plaintiff,
v.
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE HIGHWAY & TRANSPORTATION DISTRICT, Defendant.

ORDER 1) DENYING DISTRICT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND 2) DENYING RHOADES'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Re: ECF Nos. 51, 54

JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

On February 16, 2013, a speedboat operated by Harry Holzhauer ("Decedent") collided with the Golden Gate Ferry. David Rhoades ("Rhoades"), the speedboat's owner, was also on board the boat at the time of the collision. Holzhauer was killed as a result of the accident and Rhoades suffered serious injuries. Plaintiff Mary Holzhauer ("Holzhauer"), acting individually and as the personal representative of her deceased husband, brought this action against Defendant Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District ("the District") and Rhoades. ECF No. 9. Rhoades asserted cross-claims against the District and a counter-claim against Holzhauer. ECF No. 30.

Currently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by the District. ECF No. 54. Also before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Rhoades against the claims asserted against him by Holzhauer. ECF No. 51.

I. Background

A. Factual Background[1]

On February 16, 2013, Decedent and Rhoades went on a boat ride in the San Francisco Bay on a Chaparral power boat owned by Rhoades. Rhoades Declaration, ECF No. 51-1. The weather was sunny and boat traffic was "normal." Id. at ¶ 10.

Decedent was operating the speedboat as the two returned to the vicinity of Rhoades's home. Rhoades states that he had seen Decedent operate his boat previously and that Decedent represented to Rhoades that he had previously owned and operated his own powerboat. Id. at ¶ 6-7. Rhoades states that Decedent appeared competent to operate the boat on the day of the collision and "knew and followed the rules of the road" prior to the collision. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 9. Holzhauer contends that Decedent's boating experience was not as extensive as alleged by Rhoades. Although Decedent had taken "a boating class, and joined a sailing club in the 1980s, " he was less familiar with powerboats of the kind owned by Rhoades. ECF No. 60-3 at ¶ 3. Holzhauer's declaration admits that Decedent "bought a power boat" in the mid-1990s, but states the boat was "a slow cruising boat, not a speed boat" and "was rarely used." Id. at ¶ 4.

Prior to the collision, Rhoades' suggested that Decedent could "make a U-turn" to spend some more time on the water before returning to land. ECF No. 54-1 at 27. Although the actions immediately leading to the collision are unclear, the powerboat collided with the side of the Golden Gate Ferry. Rhoades was not paying attention to the boat's movements, but was viewing the San Francisco skyline immediately prior to the collision and therefore only saw the ferry for a "fraction of a second" before the speedboat collided with it. Id. at 32-33.

Alex Teitelbaum, a passenger on the ferry at the time of the collision, testified that he saw the powerboat was initially parallel to the ferry. Id. at 33. Teitelbaum saw the powerboat appear to turn right towards the ferry and that the powerboat appeared to accelerate. Id. at 28. Teitelbaum states that, while the powerboat was approaching the ferry, the powerboat's operator was looking over his left shoulder, away from the direction in which he was directing the powerboat. Id.

B. Jurisdiction

The Court has jurisdiction over these actions under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1333.

C. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is proper 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). See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). A dispute is genuine only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact finder to find for the non-moving party, and material only if the disputed fact might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). The court must draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Johnson, 623 F.3d at 1018. However, unsupported conjecture or conclusory ...


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