Espinoza v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
Citation581 F.Supp.3d 1201
Docket NumberCase No. 2:17-cv-08412-FLA (JEMx)
Parties Rhonda ESPINOZA, Plaintiff, v. PRINCESS CRUISE LINES, LTD., et al., Defendants.
Decision Date25 January 2022

Aksana Moshaiv Coone, Law Offices of Aksana M. Coone, Los Angeles, CA, Charles D. Naylor, Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor APC, San Pedro, CA, Aaron Michael Brown, Dmitriy Aristov, California Trial Team PC, Long Beach, CA, for Plaintiff.

Jeffrey B. Maltzman, Maltzman and Partners PA, Encinitas, CA, Teresa Robin, Senior, Maltzman and Partners PA, Coral Gables, FL, for Defendant Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd.

David M. Gillen, Stephen M. Harber, McCune and Harber LLP, Los Angeles, CA, for Defendants Promotura Cultural Y. Gastronomica De Mexico SA de CV, Grupo Plexon.


FERNANDO L. AENLLE-ROCHA, United States District Judge


Before the court are motions for summary judgment by Defendants Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd. ("Princess"), Dkt. 76 ("Princess’ Motion"), and Promotora Cultural y Gastronomica De Mexico S.A. de C.V. dba Viva Tequila ("Promotora"), Dkt. 65 ("Promotora's Motion") (collectively, "Defendants’ Motions" or "Motions"). On August 13, 2021, the court found Defendants Princess and Promotora's Motions appropriate for resolution without oral argument and vacated the hearing set for August 20, 2021. Dkt. 92; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b) ; Local Rule 7-15.

For the reasons stated herein, the court DENIES Defendants’ Motions.


Plaintiff Rhonda Espinoza ("Plaintiff") boarded the cruise ship the Ruby Princess on November 19, 2016, which departed from Los Angeles, California for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Dkt. 71-1 (Plaintiff's Statement in Response to Promotora's Separate Statement, or "PSS to Promotora Mot.") at 2, ¶ 1; Dkt. 93-1 (Princess’ Amended Separate Statement, or "Princess Am. St.") ¶ 1.1 While the Ruby Princess was docked in Puerto Vallarta on November 22, 2016, Plaintiff and her husband exited the ship to participate in the Viva Tequila Tasting, Mariachi Show Beach and Lunch excursion ("Viva Tequila Tour"), an excursion operated by Defendants Promotora and Grupo Plexon.2 Dkt. 93-1 (Princess Am. St.) ¶¶ 2, 4-5.

The Viva Tequila Tour featured a visit to a tequila museum and a Folklorico performance at Teatro Vallarta, a local theater. Dkt. 71-1 (PSS to Promotora Mot.) at 21, ¶¶ 10, 12. On the tour, Plaintiff was offered and drank a small sample margarita and was then directed to enter the theater for the tequila tasting and Folklorico show. Id. at 21, ¶ 12. Plaintiff and her husband were each given a tray with three "small" samples of tequila. Id. at 21, ¶ 13; Dkt. 80 (Promotora Reply Separate Statement, "Promotora RSS") at 24, ¶ 13. Plaintiff drank the clear tequila sample, and only took a sip of the others. Dkt. 71-1 (PSS to Promotora Mot.) at 21, ¶ 13; Dkt. 80 (Promotora RSS) at 24, ¶ 13. After the show, the house lights were brought up, and, as she exited the row of seats and entered the center stairwell, Plaintiff slipped and fell, suffering injuries. Dkt. 71-1 (PSS to Promotora Mot.) at 21, ¶¶ 14-15.

Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this action on November 17, 2017 and asserted four causes of action: (1) "Negligence-General Maritime Law" as to Promotora and Grupo Plexon; (2) "Negligence-General Maritime Law" as to Princess; (3) "Apparent Agency or Agency by Estoppel-General Maritime Law" as to Princess; and (4) "Third Party Beneficiary Breach of Contract-General Maritime Law" as to Princess, Promotora, and Grupo Plexon. Dkt 1 ("Compl").

Promotora filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on July 16, 2021. Dkt. 65. Princess filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on August 4, 2021. Dkt. 76. On August 13, 2021, Princess filed a Notice of Withdrawal, in which it withdrew the portions of its Motion pertaining to Plaintiff's second cause of action for negligence. Dkt. 89. Having found ambiguity in the extent of the withdrawal, the court ordered Princess to file amended versions of its Motion, memorandum of points and authorities, and separate statement of undisputed facts with stricken text that Princess intended the court not consider. Dkt. 92. Princess timely filed its amended materials on August 17, 2021. Dkts. 93, 93-1 (Princess Am. St.), 93-2 (Amended Memorandum or "Princess Am. Mem.").


Plaintiff and Defendants Princess and Promotora filed objections to evidence used in support of the party's moving or opposing papers. Dkts. 74, 81, 84, 88. In moving for or opposing a summary judgment motion, "[a] party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2).

After reviewing the parties’ arguments, the court finds each objecting party fails to establish the opposing party's evidence "cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence" at trial. See id. While objections to evidence may be cognizable at trial, on a motion for summary judgment, the court is concerned only with the admissibility of the relevant facts at trial, and not the form of these facts as presented in the motions. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2) advisory committee's note to 2010 amendment ("Subdivision (c)(2) provides that a party may object that material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence. The objection functions much as an objection at trial, adjusted for the pretrial setting."); Fraser v. Goodale , 342 F.3d 1032, 1036 (9th Cir. 2003) ("At the summary judgment stage, we do not focus on the admissibility of the evidence's form. We instead focus on the admissibility of its contents."); Block v. City of L.A. , 253 F.3d 410, 418-19 (9th Cir. 2001) ("To survive summary judgment, a party does not necessarily have to produce evidence in a form that would be admissible at trial, as long as the party satisfies the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56."); Fonseca v. Sysco Food Servs. of Ariz., Inc. , 374 F.3d 840, 846 (9th Cir. 2004) (finding "declarations that do contain hearsay are admissible for summary judgment purposes because they could be presented in an admissible form at trial") (quotation marks omitted).

Thus, the court DENIES all objections to all evidence on which the court relies in ruling on the parties’ motions. The court further DENIES AS MOOT all of Defendants’ objections to evidence on which the court does not rely herein.

The court further declines to consider Princess’ Supplemental Declaration of Lisa Banner, Dkt. 82, offered for the first time with Princess’ Reply in support of its Motion. Zamani v. Carnes , 491 F.3d 990, 997 (9th Cir. 2007) ("The district court need not consider arguments raised for the first time in a reply brief"). Thus, the court DENIES AS MOOT Plaintiff's objections to the Banner Declaration and exhibits thereto, Dkt. 88.


Summary judgment is appropriate where "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). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying relevant portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a fact or facts necessary for one or more essential elements of each claim upon which the moving party seeks judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Facts are "material" only if dispute about them may affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Id.

If the moving party meets its initial burden, the opposing party must then set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial to defeat the motion. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248-49, 106 S.Ct. 2505 ; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), (e). Summary judgment must be granted for the moving party if the nonmoving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The court must decide whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law in light of the facts presented by the nonmoving party, along with any undisputed facts. See T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n , 809 F.2d 626, 630-31 & n. 3 (9th Cir. 1987). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.’ " Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

When deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts ... must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Id. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348. "If the nonmoving party produces direct evidence of a material fact, the court may not assess the credibility of this evidence nor weigh against it any conflicting evidence presented by the moving party. ... Inferences from the nonmoving party's ‘specific facts’ as to other material facts, however, may be drawn only if they are reasonable in view of other undisputed background or contextual facts and only if such inferences are otherwise permissible under the governing substantive law." T.W. Elec. , 809 F.2d at 631-32. "[S]ummary judgment should not be granted where contradictory inferences may reasonably be drawn from undisputed evidentiary facts...." Hollingsworth Solderless Terminal Co. v. Turley , 622 F.2d 1324, 1335 (9th Cir. 1980). The nonmoving party, however, must not simply rely on the pleadings and must do more than make "conclusory allegations [in] an affidavit." Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife...

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