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Jeffords v. BP Products North America Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

February 27, 2019

VICTORIA JEFFORDS, Plaintiff,
v.
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

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant Fluor Construction International, Inc.'s, Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 175], filed on September 18, 2018. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         On December 22, 2014, Donald Jeffords (Jeffords) filed a Complaint [ECF No. 6] in Lake Circuit Court against BP Corporation North America, Inc. (BP), MC Industrial, Inc. (MCI), Link-Belt Construction Equipment Company (Link-Belt), and Fluor Construction International, Inc. (Fluor). The Plaintiff alleged negligence claims against BPI, MCI, and Fluor (Pl.'s Compl. ¶¶ 7-11) and a product liability claim against Link-Belt (id. ¶¶ 12-17). Less than a year after filing his complaint, Jeffords passed away; Victoria Jeffords was substituted as the Plaintiff as the Administrator of her late husband's estate [ECF No. 57].

         Defendants BP [ECF No. 94], MCI [ECF No. 97], and Link-Belt [ECF No. 103] filed motions for summary judgment, which the Court granted on August 10, 2018 [EF No. 168]. Defendant Fluor filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on September 18, 2018 [ECF No. 175]. The Plaintiff filed her response on November 11, 2018 [ECF No. 181] and Fluor filed a reply on December 17, 2018 [ECF No. 187].

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         On May 4, 2013, Jeffords was working for Central Rent-a-Crane (Central Crane) at the BP Refinery in Whiting, Indiana, when he fell from a crane, the Link-Belt RTC-80110. Fluor had entered into a contract with BP to act as the construction manager on the Whiting Modernization Project (WMP Project). 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, where Jeffords fell from the crane. The BP-Fluor contract stated:

14.05: Notwithstanding the other provisions of this Article 14, Contractor does not guarantee the Work against:
14.05.03: Defects in equipment purchased from equipment and material manufacturers and suppliers of Items furnished by Company or others. 43.01: Except as otherwise set forth in this Contract, nothing under this Contract shall be construed to give any rights or benefits in the Contract to anyone other than Company and Contractor, and all duties and responsibilities undertaken pursuant to this Contract will be for the sole and exclusive benefit of Company and Contractor and not for the benefit of any other party. (BP-Fluor Contract, BP000169, 191, ECF No. 157-1.)

         Central Crane was a third-party contractor that had contracted with BP to provide crane services on the WMP Project. Fluor had no contractual relationship with Central Crane. The BP-Central Crane Contract stated:

ARTICLE 4: INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR
4.01 In the performance of the Work, Contractor is an independent contractor, shall control the performance of the details of the Work, and shall be responsible for the results as well as responsible for ensuring that the performance of the Work is conducted in a manner consistent with appropriate safety, health, and environmental considerations, including, but not limited to, Company's policies thereon…The presence of and the observation and inspection by Company's representative(s) at the Work Site shall not relieve Contractor from Contractor's obligations and responsibilities under this Contract. (BP-Central Contract, BP000008, ECF No. 157-3.)

         Prior to his death, Jeffords was not deposed and his testimony was not preserved. In Jeffords' Answers to Defendant Fluor's Interrogatories, Jeffords stated that his co-workers, Rick Morales and Mitchell Surovik, foreman Mark Richardson, and an unknown electrician from Meade Electric were in the area when he fell from the crane, but that none of them witnessed his fall. Both Morales and Richardson were deposed, and both testified that they did not see precisely how the incident occurred.

         LEGAL ...


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