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Jackman v. Arcelormittal USA LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

February 25, 2015

RANDALL K. JACKMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
ARCELORMITTAL USA LLC, and ARCELORMITTAL BURNS HARBOR LLC, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 31] filed by the Defendants Arcelormittal USA LLC and Arcelormittal Burns Harbor LLC (hereinafter "Defendants") on June 20, 2014. For the reasons stated in this Opinion and Order, the Court will deny the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Plaintiff filed this action in the Lake Circuit/Superior Court, Lake County, Indiana, on May 10, 2012 [ECF No. 1], alleging that the Plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of a slip and fall on a flight of stairs located on premises owned and controlled by the Defendants. The Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441(a), and 1446(b) on June 18, 2012 [ECF No. 2]. On June 20, 2014, the Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 31], along with a corresponding Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 31]. The Plaintiff responded on August 15, 2014 [ECF No. 34]. The time for filing a reply has passed and the Motion is ripe for ruling.

The Plaintiff was at all times relevant to this lawsuit a citizen of Indiana. The Defendant Arcelormittal USA LLC is a limited liability company, whose sole member, Arcelormittal Holdings, LLC, is a citizen of Nova Scotia; and the Defendant Arcelormittal Burns Harbor LLC is a limited liability company, whose sole member, ISG Acquisition Inc., is a citizen of Ohio. Complete diversity exists because the Plaintiff is not a citizen of the same State as any member of the Defendants, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Plaintiff alleges that on May 10, 2010, he was working as a contractor at the Defendants' steelmaking facility in Burns Harbor, Indiana, when he slipped and fell while walking down a flight of stairs. The Plaintiff claims that, prior to his fall, he observed that the stairs had been repainted with a paint containing "no additive." (Pl's Dep. 54.) According to the Plaintiff, the previous paint on the stairs did contain "additive, " and as a result, it contained "a grip material" that created better traction. (Id. 43, 54.) The Plaintiff also noted that "more dust [was] on the stairs" following the repainting-and on the date of his fall, the stairs "had dust all over them." (Id. 54-55.) While descending the steps, the Plaintiff allegedly "slipped on the dust, miss[ed] a step and fell down the last three [steps]." (Id. 55.) The Plaintiff claims that "[t]here was only one stair that was slick... [and] that's the one [he] slipped on." (Id. 152.) The Plaintiff testified that, prior to his fall, he used the stairs approximately once per week, and that during such uses, he did not experience any issues that called into question the safety of the stairs. When asked at his deposition what caused him to fall, the Plaintiff replied, a "[c]ombination of the dust on the stairs and the paint." (Id. at 55.)

James Dillard-who was employed by the Defendants in their maintenance support department during the relevant time period-confirmed at his deposition that he repainted the flight of stairs at issue in February 2010. When asked if there were "any discussions as to whether the paint that [he] used was slip resistant or not, " Dillard said, "No." (Dillard Dep. 27-28.) Dillard also testified that, just prior to painting the stairs, he cleaned them to remove "grease buildup." (Id. 13.) According to Dillard, the grease buildup is due to the stairs being located in a "high traffic area" of the Defendants' facility, and within close proximity to "areas where grease is prevalent."[1] (Id. 49, 54-55.) Dillard said he is responsible for sweeping the stairs, a task usually performed once a month or "on an as need to basis." (Id. 31.) Dillard's supervisor, Sam Totten, also testified that cleaning the stairs was "not a routine thing, " but "condition based." (Totten Dep. 17.) Totten added that no log was kept by the Defendants to track the cleaning of the stairs.

The Plaintiff's allegations of negligence on the part of the Defendants are essentially two-fold: (1) the Defendants failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent a hazardous condition on the flight of stairs; and (2) the Defendants failed to warn of a hazardous condition on the flight of stairs. (Compl. ¶ 5.) The Plaintiff is claiming compensatory damages and costs. (Id. ¶ 6.) The Defendant argues that, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is appropriate because no issues of material fact exist as to the Plaintiff's claims. (Def's Br. in Supp. of Summ. J., ECF No. 31.)

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is warranted 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is the moment in litigation where the nonmoving party is required to marshal and present the court with evidence on which a reasonable jury could rely to find in his favor. Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). A court should only deny a motion for summary judgment when the nonmoving party presents admissible evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact. Luster v. Ill. Dep't of Corrs., 652 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing United States v. 5443 Suffield Terrace, 607 F.3d 504, 510 (7th Cir. 2010); Swearnigen-El v. Cook Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 602 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2010)). Material facts are those that are outcome determinative under the applicable law. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 427 (7th Cir. 1997). Although a bare contention that an issue of material fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, view all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, see Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 491-92 (7th Cir. 2000), and avoid "the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true, " Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003).

In a negligence action, summary judgment is appropriate if the defendant demonstrates that the undisputed material facts negate at least one element of the plaintiff's claim. Goldsberry v. Grubbs, 672 N.E.2d 475, 477 (Ind.Ct.App. 1996). However, a "jury's unique competence in applying the reasonable man' standard is thought ordinarily to preclude summary judgment in negligence cases." TSC Indus., Inc. v. Northway, Inc., 426 U.S. 438, 450 n.12 (1976); see also Gracyalny v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 723 F.2d 1311, 1316 (7th Cir. 1983) (noting that summary judgment is rarely appropriate in negligence cases because "questions concerning the reasonableness of the parties' conduct, forseeability and proximate cause particularly lend themselves to decision by a jury").

DISCUSSION

"A federal court sitting in diversity jurisdiction must apply the substantive law of the state in which it sits." Land v. Yamaha Motor Corp., 272 F.3d 514, 516 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938); Jean v. Dugan, 20 F.3d 255, 260 ...


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