KH&K wins Summary Judgment in District Court in Nevada — Court Rejects Plaintiffs’ Theories in their Entirety

On May 31, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Mahan granted Penske’s Motion for Summary Judgment in the case of Fernandez, et al. v. Penske Truck Leasing.  The case was handled at KH&K by , and involved allegations by Plaintiffs Rodolfo Fernandez and Anthony Allen that Penske improperly reported its trucks as stolen, causing Messrs. Fernandez and Allen to be arrested while driving the trucks as independent contractors or employees of Penske’s customer, Mainline Transportation.

Penske brought a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that it had a contractual right to report the vehicles as stolen following Mainline’s repeated failure to make payments on their rented trucks, or to return the trucks as requested by Penske.   Plaintiffs were apparently uninformed about their company’s failure to make payments, but were driving the rented trucks for Mainline at the time Penske reported the vehicles as stolen.  As such, when police in Nevada spotted the vehicles, they were arrested.

Plaintiffs sued Penske for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress; however, the Court held that Penske did not, as a matter of law, breach any duty to the drivers.  The Court specifically held that Penske “property reported the truck stolen after (i) Mainline defaulted on its payments; (ii) Penske warned Mainline that it could report the truck stolen; (iii) Mainline failed to pay its outstanding debts as promised; and (iv) Penske warned Mainline a second time of its intent to report the truck stolen.”

The Court further held that Plaintiffs did not provide “any evidence” that Penske improperly or negligently reported the truck stolen.  Similarly, the court held that, as a matter of law, since Penske had a contractual right to report the vehicles as stolen, that it did not “act outside the bounds of decency or conduct itself in a manner as utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”  Thus, it could not be liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Accordingly, the Court granted Penske’s Motion for Summary Judgment.   Read the Order Granting MSJ.

In its Order, the Court also affirmed the Magistrate Judge’s Order denying Plaintiffs’ counsel’s motion to compel Penske witnesses (and its attorney) for deposition.  Plaintiffs’ served their Notice of Deposition on 11 days notice (without agreement), during the Christmas holidays, and for the last two days of discovery during the case.  Plaintiffs’ counsel also improperly scheduled the depositions in Las Vegas, despite the fact that the proper location for the corporate depositions would have been in Pennsylvania (where Penske’s corporate headquarters is located.)  Moreover, Plaintiffs’ counsel did not properly “meet and confer” as required under Rule 26-7 before filing a motion to compel.

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