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Tarr v. USF Reddaway, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 1, 2018

WILLIAM TARR, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Connor William Tarr, Plaintiff,
v.
USF REDDAWAY, INC., an Oregon corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN United States Senior District Judge

         Magistrate Judge Paul Papak issued Findings and Recommendation (F&R, #66) on November 7, 2017, in which he recommends the Court grant in part and deny in part Defendant USF Reddaway, Inc.'s Motion (#53) for Partial Summary Judgment. Both Defendant USF Reddaway and Plaintiff William Tarr, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Connor William Tarr, filed timely Objections to the Findings and Recommendation. The matter is now before this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b).

         When any party objects to any portion of the Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendation, the district court must make a de novo determination of that portion of the Magistrate Judge's report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). See also Dawson v. Marshall, 561 F.3d 930, 932 (9th Cir. 2009); United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003)(en banc).

         Plaintiff s son, Connor, was killed while riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle that was struck from behind at high speed by a semi-truck driven by Defendant's employee within the course and scope of his employment. The accident occurred in California. Plaintiff, a resident of the State of Washington, filed this action against Defendant, an Oregon corporation.[1]

         Plaintiff alleges Defendant was negligent in hiring its employee-driver, failing to train and to supervise its employee, failing to incorporate an adeguate safety system allowing realtime monitoring of the speed of its trucks, and is vicariously liable pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior for its employee's negligence in driving at an unsafe speed and with impaired alertness as a result of fatigue.

         Defendant moves for partial summary judgment against Plaintiff's claims and contends (1) Oregon law applies under choice-of-law statutes, and, therefore, Plaintiff's noneconomic damages are capped at $500, 000 pursuant to Oregon Revised Statutes § 13.710(1}; (2} Plaintiff has presented insufficient evidence to support a claim for punitive damages; and (3) Plaintiff may not recover economic damages in federal court for lost future earnings from a cannabis business on the ground that cannabis is illegal under federal law.

         The Magistrate Judge recommends this Court find that California law applies under the Oregon choice-of-law statute, and, therefore, the cap on noneconomic damages under Oregon law would not apply. The Magistrate Judge also recommends this Court find Plaintiff should be allowed to seek recovery of economic damages based on projected profits from his cannabis business. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge recommends this Court deny Defendant's Motion as to these issues.

         The Magistrate Judge also recommends this Court find Plaintiff has failed as a matter of law to present evidence that would support an award of punitive damages, and, accordingly, he recommends this Court grant Defendant's Motion as to this issue.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant contends the Magistrate Judge erred in his Findings and Recommendation by concluding that California law applies in this action and that Plaintiff is allowed to seek economic damages based on Plaintiff's cannabis business.

         Plaintiff, in turn, contends the Magistrate Judge improperly weighed the evidence when he recommended this Court should dismiss Plaintiff's punitive damages claim.

         I. Choice of Law

         The Oregon choice-of-law statute, Oregon Revised Statutes § 15.440 (3), provides:

If the injured person and the person whose conduct caused the injury were domiciled in different states and the laws of those states on the disputed issues would produce a different outcome, the law of ...

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