United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION GRANTING GALLA'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge
Galla moves for summary judgment on the basis that he is not
a proper party to this lawsuit. (Docket Entry No. 39 at
¶ 2). Based on a careful review of the motion, response,
and reply, the record evidence, and the applicable law, the
motion for summary judgment is granted, and final judgment is
entered by separate order. The reasons are explained below.
case arises out of a motor vehicle accident on October 9,
2015 between the plaintiff, Krystal Berry, and the now
deceased driver and defendant, Albin Golla. Golla failed to
yield the right of way, drove through a stop sign, and hit
was 87 in October 2015. He was a member of the Missionaries
of Mary, a Catholic missionary order. Members of the
Missionaries of Mary do not receive income. Any income from
their charitable work or any money they receive-including
Social Security benefits-is paid directly to the Missionaries
of Mary, which in turn covers its members' living
expenses as they arise. Golla's only income was through
Social Security, paid to the Missionaries of Mary bank
sued both Golla and the Missionaries of Mary in Texas state
court in August 2017, alleging negligence as to Golla and
vicarious liability as to the Missionaries of Mary. The
Missionaries timely removed, and the court denied Berry's
motion to remand. (Docket Entry Nos. 1, 3, 7).
died on January 5, 2018. On January 19, 2018, Golla's
counsel filed a suggestion of death, and the court ordered
Berry to substitute the proper party within 90 days, under
Rule 25 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket
Entry Nos. 20, 21). Berry filed a motion to substitute John
Galla for Golla on April 5, 2018, which the court granted.
(Docket Entry Nos. 32, 33). Galla is Golla's nephew and
presumed closest living relative. (Docket Entry No. 44 at
¶ 10). Galla moved for summary judgment on May 2, 2018.
(Docket Entry No. 39). Galla was not personally involved in
the accident. (Docket Entry Nos. 39 at ¶ 2, 39-1, 44-1,
44-2). Berry does not allege that Galla is either personally
or vicariously liable in his individual capacity, but named
him only because he is Golla's closest living relative.
(Docket Entry Nos. 32 at ¶ 4, 44 at ¶ 1).
The Legal Standard for Summary Judgment
judgment is required when ‘the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'”
Trent v. Wade, 776 F.3d 368, 376 (5th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). “A genuine dispute of
material fact exists when the ‘evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.'” Nola Spice Designs, LLC v. Haydel
Enters., Inc., 783 F.3d 527, 536 (5th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242,
248 (1986)). “The moving party ‘bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.'” Id.
(quoting EEOC v. LHC Grp., Inc., 773 F.3d 688, 694
(5th Cir. 2014)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
burden of proof at trial lies with the nonmoving party, the
movant may satisfy its initial burden by showing an absence
of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.
Fret v. Melton Truck Lines, Inc., No. 17-50031, 2017
U.S. App. LEXIS 16912, at *5-6 (5th Cir. Sept. 1, 2017)
(quoting Lindsey v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 16 F.3d
616, 618 (5th Cir. 1994)). While the party moving for summary
judgment must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact, it does not need to negate the elements of the
nonmovant's case. Coastal Agric. Supply, Inc. v. JP
Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 759 F.3d 498, 505 (5th Cir.
2014) (citing Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402
F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005)). A fact is material if
“its resolution could affect the outcome of the
actions.” Aly v. City of Lake Jackson, 605
Fed. App'x 260, 262 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing Burrell
v. Dr. Pepper/Seven UP Bottling Grp., Inc., 482 F.3d
408, 411 (5th Cir. 2007)). “If the moving party fails
to meet [its] initial burden, the motion [for summary
judgment] must be denied, regardless of the nonmovant's
response.” Pioneer Exploration, LLC v. Steadfast
Ins. Co., 767 F.3d 503, 511 (5th Cir. 2014).
the moving party has met its Rule 56(c) burden, the nonmoving
party cannot survive a summary judgment motion by resting on
the mere allegations of its pleadings.” Bailey v.
E. Baton Rouge Parish Prison, 663 Fed. App'x 328,
331 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Duffie v. United
States, 600 F.3d 362, 371 (5th Cir. 2010)). The
nonmovant must identify specific evidence in the record and
articulate how that evidence supports that party's claim.
Willis v. Cleco Corp., 749 F.3d 314, 317 (5th Cir.
2014). “This burden will not be satisfied by
‘some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by
conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by
only a scintilla of evidence.”' Jurach v.
Safety Vision, LLC, 642 Fed. App'x 313, 317 (5th
Cir. 2016) (quoting Boudreaux, 402 F.3d at 540 (5th
Cir. 2005)). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court
draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party. Darden v. City of Fort
Worth, 866 F.3d 698, 702 (5th Cir. 2017).
argues that he is not personally liable for the accident, he
is not a representative of Golla's estate, and he is not
liable as Golla's heir or successor-in-interest because
he did not receive any of Golla's property when he died.
Berry concedes that Galla is neither directly, nor
vicariously, liable for the accident. Berry further concedes
she does not seek to recover from Galla as the representative
of Golla's estate. Berry argues only that Galla is a
proper party as Golla's closest relative and heir.