Estate of Zachary D. Staggs by and through his Personal Rep., Denise Coulter, and Mackenzie Taylor, by and through her Parent and Guardian, Denise Coulter;
ADS Logistics Co., LLC, Appellee-Defendant Jennifer L. Daugherty, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Michael G. Daugherty, Deceased; and Dennis Byrd, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Shannon R. Steele, Appellants-Plaintiffs,
from the Porter Superior Court The Honorable Roger V.
Bradford, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 64D01-1108-CT-7592
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS ESTATE OF STAGGS AND MACKENZIE
TAYLOR J. Kevin King Cline, King & King, P.C. Columbus,
Indiana William R. Ogden Farrar & Ball, LLP Houston,
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS JENNIFER DAUGHERTY AND ESTATE OF
DAUGHERTY William H. Mullis William H. Mullis, P.C. Mitchell,
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT ESTATE OF STEELE Matthew J. Schad
George A. Budd, V Schad & Schad, P.C. New Albany, Indiana
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Scott B. Cockrum Hinshaw &
Culbertson LLP Schererville, Indiana
In January 2010, a large steel coil that was secured to a
flatbed tractor-trailer became unsecured and struck other
motorists traveling on State Road 37. The accident resulted
in serious injuries and multiple deaths.
Following the accident, the following parties filed
complaints that were ultimately consolidated: (1) the Estate
of Zachary D. Staggs by and through his personal
representative, Denise Coulter ("Staggs"); (2)
Mackenzie Taylor, by and through her parent and guardian,
Denise Coulter ("Taylor"); (3) Jennifer L.
Daugherty, individually and as personal representative of the
estate of Michael G. Daugherty ("Daugherty"); and
(4) Dennis Byrd, as special administrator of the estate of
Shannon R. Steele ("Steele") (collectively, the
One of the named defendants was ADS Logistics Co., LLC (ADS),
which had warehoused the steel coil. ADS moved for summary
judgment, and the trial court granted its motion, finding as
a matter of law that ADS had no duty to the Appellants. The
Appellants appeal, arguing that summary judgment was
improperly granted. Finding no error, we affirm.
ADS is, in part, a warehouse facility. ADS has a
long-standing contractual relationship with ArcelorMittal
USA, LLC ("Mittal"), pursuant to which ADS
warehouses products for Mittal. Relevant to this case is
ADS's agreement to warehouse a large steel coil weighing
just under 40, 000 pounds for Mittal.
Mittal agreed to sell or ship the coil to Ohio River Metal
Services, Inc., doing business as Eagle Steel Products, Inc.
("Eagle Steel"). Eagle Steel then hired Kendall
Transportation to haul the steel coil from ADS to Eagle
Steel. Israel Rankin operated a tractor-trailer that he owned
under the motor carrier authority of Kendall Transportation.
On January 11, 2010, Kendall Transportation dispatched Rankin
to haul the steel coil from ADS to Eagle Steel. Eagle Steel
paid Kendall Transportation for this work, and, in turn,
Kendall Transportation paid Rankin a percentage of the load
plus a fuel surcharge. Kendall Transportation's
dispatcher and Rankin controlled the means and methods of
delivering a load to a customer. Rankin had been trained how
to secure a steel coil through previous employment and
through his work at Kendall Transportation. He provided his
own equipment to secure the coil to his vehicle.
At the ADS warehouse, an ADS crane operator placed the steel
coil onto Rankin's flatbed trailer. ADS corporate
representative Matt Brinkley attested that, as would normally
occur, the crane operator followed Rankin's instructions
on where and how to place the steel coil on the flatbed.
Rankin attested that he stood on top of his trailer and
directed the crane operator where to place the steel coil.
Brinkley also attested that the crane operator would not have
loaded a coil onto a flatbed in a position that was obviously
and apparently unsafe.
After the crane operator moved the steel coil onto the
flatbed, Rankin secured the steel coil to the trailer.
Brinkley, Kendall Transportation, Rankin, and Kendall
Transportation's safety consultant agree that it is the
driver's responsibility to secure the load onto the
Rankin performed a mental calculation to determine how to
secure the coil. Specifically, he would take the total weight
of the coil and divide it in half to determine the amount he
had to account for. In this case, he calculated he had to
secure approximately 21, 000 pounds; therefore, he used 3
chains, which he mistakenly believed would equal a working
load limit of 30, 000 pounds. He erroneously thought that
each chain had a working load limit of 10, 000 pounds, but in
fact, each chain had a working load limit of 6, 600 pounds.
Moreover, Rankin used 3 binders to secure the coil, but each
binder had a working load limit of only 5, 400 pounds,
meaning that the total working load limit for the binders was
16, 200 pounds-well below the 21, 000 pounds required for the
After securing the steel coil to his flatbed trailer, Rankin
began the drive to Eagle Steel. He made one stop to eat
lunch. After lunch, he checked the load to ensure that it was
still secured and then continued on his way. In Mitchell, a
car pulled out in front of him and Rankin was forced to brake
a little harder than normal (the "hard braking
incident"). He did not stop to check his load after the
hard braking incident even though he had observed that the
incident "jarred his truck, " that he "felt
something in the truck, " and afterwards, that the load
"felt funny." Appellants' App. Vol. III p. 72,
A few miles down the road from the hard braking incident,
while traveling on State Road 37 in Orange County, the steel
coil became unsecured. At that time, Taylor, Staggs, and
Steele were traveling in Staggs's pickup truck, and
Daugherty was traveling in a different vehicle, near
Rankin's tractor-trailer. When the coil became unsecured,
it left Rankin's tractor-trailer and crashed into ...