United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
VICTORIA JEFFORDS, as Administrator of the Estate of DONALD JEFFORDS, Plaintiff,
BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA INC., incorrectly sued as BP CORPORATION NORTH AMERICA, INC., MC INDUSTRIAL, INC., FLUOR CONSTRUCTORS INTERNATIONAL, INC., and LINK-BELT CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT COMPANY, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, CHIEF JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on several motions. Defendants
BP Products North America, Inc. (“BP”) [ECF No. 94];
MC Industrial, Inc. (“MCI”) [ECF No. 97]; and
Link-Belt Construction Equipment Company, L.P., LLLP
(“Link-Belt”) [ECF No. 103] have moved for
summary judgment. Plaintiff Victoria Jeffords has filed a
Motion to Strike [ECF No. 107], and Defendant Link-Belt filed
an Evidentiary Objections and Motion to Strike [ECF No. 142].
Defendants BP and MCI filed their own Motion to Strike [ECF
No. 146], and also joined Link-Belt's Evidentiary
Objections and Motion to Strike [ECF No. 151]. These Motions
are now fully briefed and ripe for review.
background is taken from the parties' pleadings, motions,
and attached exhibits. On December 22, 2014, Donald Jeffords
(“Jeffords”) filed a Complaint [ECF No. 6] in
Lake Circuit Court against BP; MCI; Fluor Constructors
International, Inc. (“Fluor”); and Link-Belt. In
his Complaint, Jeffords brought two claims. The first stated
a negligence claim against BP, MCI, and Fluor. (See
Compl. ¶¶ 7-11.) The second claim asserted a
product liability claim against Link-Belt. In this claim,
Jeffords alleged that Link-Belt was negligent in the design,
manufacture, and marketing of a crane, the Link-Belt
RTC-80110 (“Model 110”) which later injured him.
(See Id. at ¶¶ 12-17.) The Complaint also
requested damages. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-21.)
Approximately ten months after filing suit, Jeffords passed
away. (ECF No. 54, Suggestion of Death, Ex. A.) Victoria
Jeffords was substituted as the Plaintiff as the
Administrator of her husband's estate. (See Mot.
to Substitute Parties, ECF No. 57.) The parties dispute
whether the injuries which gave rise to this lawsuit caused
Jeffords' passing. (See, e.g., ECF Nos. 107,
108, 143, 147, 155.) Jeffords was not deposed and his
testimony was not preserved prior to his passing.
lawsuit arises from an event on May 4, 2013. On that day,
Jeffords fell from the Model 110 at the BP Whiting Refinery.
He was performing work at the BP Whiting Refinery as part of
a construction project known as the Whiting Refinery
Modernization Project. Link-Belt manufactured the Model 110.
BP had engaged Fluor to provide engineering, procurement, and
construction management services at the site, specifically
for all construction activity occurring in the lakefront area
near a water treatment facility. This is the area where
Jeffords fell from the crane. (See BP-Fluor
Contract, ECF No. 157-1.) Fluor engaged MCI, on behalf of BP,
to provide certain construction services at the site.
(See Fluor-MCI Contract, ECF No. 157-4.) BP also
hired Central Rent-a-Crane (“Central”) to provide
crane equipment rental services, operation, and routine
maintenance at the BP Whiting Refinery. (See
BP-Central Contract, ECF No. 157-3.) At all relevant times,
Jeffords was employed by Central.
Answers to Defendant Fluor's Interrogatories,
Jeffords stated that Rick Morales, a co-worker; Mitchell
Surovik, another co-worker; Mark Richardson, a foreman; and
an unknown electrician from Meade Electric were in the area
when he fell from the crane. (Answer to Def. Fluor's
Interrog. ¶ 2, ECF No. 104-2.) He further stated that
“none of them witnessed [his] fall.”
(Id.) Both Morales and Richardson were deposed, and
both testified that they did not see precisely how the
incident occurred. (Dep. of Mark Richardson, ECF No. 104-6;
Dep. of Ricardo Morales, ECF No. 104-7.) The Plaintiff frames
the fall in straightforward terms: Jeffords fell from a
catwalk on the Model 110 that was seven feet, one inch off
the ground while checking the fluids on the crane before
starting work for the day. Jeffords injured his ankles and
feet as a result of the fall.
Plaintiff asserts that Jeffords' fall would have been
prevented if the Model 110 had OSHA-required fall protection.
The Defendants dispute whether the OSHA regulations apply,
and also dispute which Defendant owed Jeffords a duty of care
regarding his safety. A photograph of the Model 110 is
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). The nonmoving party must 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 must 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) (citations
omitted). A court's role in deciding a motion for summary
judgment “is not to sift through the evidence,
pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to
believe. [A] court has one task and one task only: to decide,
based on the evidence of record, whether there is any
material dispute of fact that requires a trial.”
Waldridge v. Am. Heochst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920
(7th Cir. 1994). Facts that are outcome determinative under
the applicable law are material for summary judgment
purposes. 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, 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).
Motions to Strike
the Court addresses the Amended Motions for Summary Judgment,
it will dispose of the parties' Motions to Strike. The
parties dispute whether certain evidence is admissible
through briefing the Motions to Strike. The Court will
discuss these motions in turn.
the Plaintiff filed a Motion to Strike certain text from the
Defendants' Amended Motions for Summary Judgment.
(See ECF No. 107.) The Plaintiff cited Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(f)(2) as the basis for her motion.
(Id.) A Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 motion to
strike applies to pleadings. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) (“The
court may strike from a pleading an insufficient
defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or
scandalous material.”) (emphasis added). Motions for
summary judgment are not pleadings under the Rules.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 7(a)(1)-(7) (designating
permissible pleadings). As such, proceeding under Rule 12(f)
is improper, and the Court will deny the Plaintiff's
Motion. That said, the Court has noted the Plaintiff's
arguments and will consider them in its summary judgment
analysis to the extent that they are pertinent.
Link-Belt filed a 59-page motion [ECF No. 142] objecting to,
and asking the Court to strike, in whole or in part, all 91
issues of genuine dispute the Plaintiff identified in her
Response to the Motions for Summary Judgment. BP and MCI
joined the motion. The Defendants base this motion on Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(2), which states that
“[a] party may object that the material cited to
support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that
would be admissible in evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(2). BP and MCI also filed their own motion under Rule
56(e). (See ECF No. 146.) BP and MCI's 18-page
motion centers on specific evidence offered by the Plaintiff
to defeat summary judgment.
the Court is able to distinguish which exhibits, affidavits,
statements, and commentary may properly be considered when
deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, the Court
denies the Defendants' Motions. The Court has noted the
Defendants' objections and will consider them in its
summary judgment analysis. The Court now turns its analysis
first to the Plaintiff's negligence claim against BP and
MCI, and then to the Plaintiff's product liability claim
Negligence Claims Against BP and MCI
the Court is exercising diversity jurisdiction over this
case, Indiana substantive law applies. See Erie R.R. Co.
v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938). A plaintiff must
satisfy three elements for a negligence claim under Indiana
law: (1) that a defendant owed a duty to the Plaintiff; (2)
that the defendant breached the duty by allowing its conduct
to fall below the applicable standard of care; and (3) a
compensable injury was proximately caused by the
defendant's breach. Ryan v. TCI
Architects/Eng'rs/Contractor, Inc., 72 N.E.3d 908,
913 (Ind. 2017) (citing Goodwin v. Yeakle's Sports
Bar & Grill, Inc., 62 N.E.3d 384, 386 (Ind. 2016)).
Here, the Plaintiff argues that both BP and MCI breached a
duty of care owed to Jeffords because Jeffords fell from a
catwalk on a crane at the worksite that was only
thirteen-inches wide and seven-feet, one-inch above ground
but lacked a protected edge or handrail in violation of OSHA
regulations. As a result, Jeffords was injured. Both BP and
MCI assert that they did not owe Jeffords a duty of care that
would encompass his activities on the crane.