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Spaziani v. Fedex Corporate Services, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

January 7, 2015

RUSSELL SPAZIANI and KATHLEEN SPAZIANI, Plaintiffs,
v.
FEDEX CORPORATE SERVICES, INC., D.W. NICHOLSON CORPORATION, and SSOE GROUP and/or SSOE, INC., Defendants.

ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court on FedEx Corporate Services, Inc., and D.W. Nicholson Corporation's motions for summary judgment (Dkt. Nos. 113 and 116).[1] The motions are fully briefed, and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the motions for the following reasons.[2]

I. STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate "if 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." In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) ("We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor."). However, "[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial." Id. Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and "the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).

II. BACKGROUND

The present lawsuit arises out of an incident that occurred at FedEx Corporate Services, Inc., ("FedEx") facility at the Indianapolis Airport. On May 25, 2011, Russell Spaziani, an employee of Adaptive Associates, Inc., ("AOA"), was injured when he fell from a ladder at FedEx while performing routine maintenance on a piece of equipment. Thereafter, he and his wife, Kathleen Spaziani, sued FedEx, SSOE, which designed the ladder, and D.W. Nicholson Corporation ("DWN"), which installed the ladder. The facts that follow are those taken in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs.

In 2006, FedEx contracted with SSOE and DWN to expand the sorting system at its Indianapolis Airport facility. Prior to 2006, the Indianapolis Airport facility had only six package handling lines. FedEx's goal was to be able to process 99, 000 packages per hour, and the project became known as the "99K expansion." Specifically, DWN was contracted to "complete the fabrication and installation of the Equipment, " and SSOE was contracted to provide "the engineering services for the design and installation of the Equipment." Part of the expansion was to create a "non-con" conveyor ("Line 7") that would be used to transport large or awkwardly-shaped items like golf clubs.

Around 2009, before the 99K expansion was complete, FedEx requested that DWN construct a Mass. Dimension Scanning System ("MDSS") platform and ladder for Line 7. This project was not contained in the original contract. With regard to the ladder, FedEx instructed DWN to "duplicate existing on-site installation." Following these instructions, DWN referred to the "typical ladder detail" it had used throughout the 99K expansion. SSOE was not contacted regarding the ladder design for Line 7.

FedEx requested a ladder, despite the fact that its internal policies provided that "other catwalks or platforms" or "stairs" were the preferred means to access elevated platforms. Moreover, instead of using the "typical ladder detail, " DWN modified the ladder design. It used 2" × 2" × ½" angle iron instead of 2" × 2" × ¼" angle iron, the ladder had a 25-inch opening instead of a 24-inch opening, and DWN "flared" the top end of the ladder, widening the side rails of the ladder above the height of the platform.

On May 25, 2010, Mr. Spaziani came to the FedEx facility to service the MDSS system; his employer, AOA, contracted with FedEx to provide such maintenance services. As he descended the ladder, his left hand slid off the angle-iron side rail because he could not properly grip the rail. He fell off the ladder to the floor below, sustaining serious injuries.

The Plaintiffs filed suit in Marion County Circuit Court on February 23, 2012; the case was removed to this Court on June 12, 2012. In the Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint, Mr. Spaziani asserts one count of negligence against FedEx (Count One), one count of negligence against DWN (Count Two), and one count of negligence against SSOE (Count Three). Mrs. Spaziani asserts one count of loss of consortium against each of the Defendants (Count Four). FedEx and DWN move for summary judgment on all claims against them in the Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint. The Court now turns to their respective motions.

III. FEDEX'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

The Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint alleges that FedEx was negligent in allowing a dangerous condition-the ladder- to exist at its facility. In Indiana,

the owner of property has no duty to furnish the employees of an independent contractor a safe place to work in the broad sense as the phrase is applied to an employer. However, the owner is under a duty to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition for ...

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