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Estate of Samuelson v. Arcelormittal USA, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

June 15, 2018

Estate of MICHAEL SAMUELSON, by STEPHANIE SAMUELSON, Personal Representative, Plaintiff,
v.
ARCELORMITTAL USA, LLC, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Andrew P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on the Motion to Strike Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint [DE 125] filed by the defendant, ArcelorMittal USA, LLC, on March 14, 2018. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

         Background

         The plaintiff, Estate of Michael Samuelson, by Stephanie Samuelson, Personal Representative, initiated this matter on November 15, 2013, in Lake County Superior Court. The matter was removed to this court on November 29, 2013. The plaintiff has alleged that on November 13, 2013, Michael Samuelson was killed while working at the ArcelorMittal steel mill when he was struck by a falling steel panel. At the time of the accident, Samuelson was working for Pangere Corporation, an independent contractor.

         ArcelorMittal held a bid meeting for the “demolition of the Wall Plates on the Basic Oxygen Furnace #2 in the Rubble Pit” (demolition project). The project was to replace the protective steel plates that lined the concrete walls in the rubble pit. Pangere had the lowest bid price and was assigned the work for the demolition project. The second amended complaint has alleged that “the demolition project was not a construction project, or a new construction project, but specifically demolition and replacement of the existing steel walls of the slag pit.” Scott Fritz, a Pangere superintendent, and other Pangere employees had performed the same job safely for ArcelorMittal ten times in the past.

         On September 20, 2017, ArcelorMittal filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 91]. On March 8, 2018, the district court granted the motion in all respects except for the question of whether ArcelorMittal had a non-delegable duty to Samuelson because Pangere contracted for work that was intrinsically dangerous.[1] The court found that the removal of the steel plates potentially was intrinsically dangerous work and that this issue was best left for the jury. However, on the other hand, the plaintiff had failed to establish that the removal of the plates was demolition work.

         The court held a telephonic status conference with the parties on March 8, 2018. The parties advised the court that they consented to have Magistrate Judge Andrew P. Rodovich preside over the trial of this case. This matter, upon full consent of the parties, was reassigned for all purposes to Magistrate Judge Andrew P. Rodovich pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 636(c) on March 9, 2018. The court set this matter for trial to begin on August 20, 2018.

         ArcelorMittal has filed the motion to strike requesting that the court strike Count II of the plaintiff's second amended. Count II of the complaint has alleged that ArcelorMittal's contract with Pangere required the performance of intrinsically dangerous work. It further has alleged that demolition work is intrinsically dangerous work. ArcelorMittal contends that the plaintiff cannot proceed on Count II because the court has found that the work was not demolition. The plaintiff filed a response in opposition on April 18, 2018, and ArcelorMittal filed a reply on April 24, 2018. A hearing was held on May 22, 2018. The court indicated at the hearing that a ruling would be issued by separate order.

         Discussion

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) states that “[t]he court may strike from a pleading . . . any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Motions to strike generally are disfavored, although they may be granted if they remove unnecessary clutter from a case and expedite matters, rather than delay them. Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., Inc., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989); Doe v. Brimfield Grade School, 552 F.Supp.2d 816, 825 (C.D. Ill. 2008). The decision whether to strike a pleading is within the discretion of the court. Talbot v. Robert Matthews Distrib. Co., 961 F.2d 654, 665 (7th Cir. 1992).

         In response to ArcelorMittal's motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff maintained that ArcelorMittal was liable because it had a non-delegable duty to protect Samuelson who was involved in intrinsically dangerous work. The plaintiff presented additional arguments including: ArcelorMittal retained control over the means and methods of Pangere's work and thus subjected itself to liability for Samuelson's death; the contractual documents between ArcelorMittal and Pangere imposed responsibility on ArcelorMittal for the safety of Pangere's workers; and ArcelorMittal failed to provide reasonably safe premises for Samuelson.

         The court held that the contract between ArcelorMittal and Pangere did not make ArcelorMittal responsible for Samuelson's safety. Additionally, pursuant to §343 of the Restatement of Torts, ArcelorMittal was not liable as the owner of the premises where the accident occurred. Finally, the plaintiff had failed to establish that the work performed was demolition. In light of these findings, the court granted the motion for summary judgment in all respects except for the question of whether ArcelorMittal had a non-delegable duty to Samuelson because Pangere contracted for work that was intrinsically dangerous. The court determined that there was sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material of fact on whether the removal of the steel plates was intrinsically dangerous work. Therefore, as discussed and agreed to by the parties at the hearing held on May 22, 2018, counts I, III, IV, V, and VI of the second amended complaint did not survive Judge Van Bokkelen's Order, and therefore were dismissed. The only count that remained was Count II.

         The “law of the case” doctrine is a long-standing legal doctrine. It provides that courts should not reopen issues that were decided in earlier stages of the same litigation. McMasters v. U.S., 260 F.3d 814, 818 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 815-16, 108 S.Ct. 2166, 100 L.Ed.2d 811 (1988)). The practical implications of the doctrine are to promote the finality and efficiency of the judicial process. See Christianson, 486 U.S. at 816, 108 S.Ct. 2166 (citing 1B J. Moore, J. Lucas, & T. Currier, Moore's Federal Practice ¶ 0.404[1], p. 118 (1984)). Therefore, when an issue is once litigated and decided, that should be the end of the matter. Analytical Engineering, Inc. v. Baldwin Filters, Inc., 425 F.3d 443, 454 (7th Cir. 2005).

         ArcelorMittal has argued that the plaintiff cannot proceed on Count II. It contends that the court's March 8, 2018 ruling that the work was not demolition has precluded the plaintiff's ability to recover under Count II. Therefore, the issue presented before this court is whether Count II of the plaintiff's second amended complaint should be stricken in light of the court's finding on summary judgment that the work performed was not demolition. ArcelorMittal is not ...


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