United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
WALTON PRATT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by
Defendants Dolgencorp, LLC and Dolgencorp Inc., doing
business as Dollar General, (“Dollar General”)
(Filing No. 47). Plaintiff Lee Till
(“Till”) filed this lawsuit against Dollar
General after he was injured while delivering products to a
Dollar General store in Mooresville, Indiana. Till asserts a
single claim of negligence and requests damages for his
injuries. For the following reasons, the Court
grants summary judgment on behalf of Dollar
following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as
required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are
presented in the light most favorable to Till as the
non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d
582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
General is a discount retailer, which offers products from a
variety of brands at a discounted brand to make the products
more affordable and make them available for customers at
convenient locations. Dollar General contracted with U.S.
Xpress to deliver “merchandise inventory, store
supplies, equipment and fixtures” from the Dollar
General distribution center in Marion, Indiana, to various
Dollar General stores (Filing No. 47-3 at 2;
Filing No. 47-1 at 2). The contract governing the
relationship between U.S. Xpress and Dollar General for the
Marion distribution center provided that U.S. Xpress
“shall perform the transportation and delivery services
provided for in this Agreement as an independent contractor
and shall have exclusive control and direction of the persons
operating the equipment or otherwise engaged in such
services.” (Filing No. 47-3 at 4.) Further,
“Each [U.S. Xpress] driver shall unload all
‘roll-tainers' on each trailer and shall assist in
the unloading of any other items on a trailer, as needed,
” and U.S. Xpress “shall be responsible for
ensuring that each driver is properly trained in the
procedures for unloading ‘roll-tainers.'”
Id. A roll-tainer is a cart used to deliver Dollar
General goods. It is a steel cage on three sides, and the
fourth side has a net with a steel bar to lock it in
(Filing No. 47-2 at 4, 6).
the trailers hauled by U.S. Xpress pursuant to the
contractual relationship are owned by Dollar General. Dollar
General produces the store orders for delivery and the order
sequence of delivery for an entire trailer. Dollar General
workers pack the roll-tainers at the distribution centers and
inspect them to make sure they are properly packed, including
making sure heavy items are on the bottom. If problems are
found, the roll-tainers are repacked (Filing No. 84-1 at
3-6, 9-12). Inspection of the roll-tainers is performed
before they are loaded on the trailer, but the inspections
are random; so not every roll-tainer is inspected. Once a
trailer is loaded with roll-tainers, a seal is placed on the
trailer for trailer integrity.
truck drivers do not open the trailers when they pick up the
trailers; the Dollar General security guard does that and
breaks the seal. Afterward, the security guard seals the
trailer again. Pursuant to Dollar General's policy, all
trucks should arrive and leave the store with an intact
trailer seal. (Filing No. 84-1 at 14-15, 17-19). When the
truck driver arrives at a store, a Dollar General store
manager must meet the driver at the back door. The driver
then pushes the roll-tainers through the threshold of the
door designated by the store manager and into an area
designated by the store manager. Dollar General requires its
employees to ensure that the path from the back door to the
roll-tainer delivery area is clear of obstructions. Once the
roll-tainers are in the store, the U.S. Xpress driver does
not unload or unpack them. Id. at 11, 19-20.
was employed as a delivery truck driver by U.S. Xpress. He
worked exclusively for U.S. Xpress on the Dollar General
account. He delivered only Dollar General trailers beginning
around March 2014. As a U.S. Xpress delivery truck driver on
the Dollar General account, Till would pick up a trailer at
the Dollar General distribution center. He would then make
deliveries to Dollar General stores throughout Central
Indiana and in parts of northern Kentucky (Filing No.
47-2 at 2, 10-11; Filing No. 47-1 at 2).
28, 2016, Till picked up a 48-foot trailer from the Marion,
Indiana Dollar General distribution center, which holds about
48 roll-tainers. His trailer was preloaded and had been
sealed for two days before he picked it up (Filing No.
84-1 at 13-14). Till arrived at the Dollar General store
in Mooresville, Indiana and began to unload the roll-tainers
from his trailer. To unload a roll-tainer, Till had to push
the roll-tainer onto the liftgate, lower the lift, and then
push the roll-tainer into the store through the back door.
Till was pushing a roll-tainer through the threshold of the
door leading into the store, the roll-tainer bucked back
against him. Till fell to his knees, and when the roll-tainer
started to roll toward him, he pushed it off to his right
side. Till's arm got stuck in the cage of the roll-tainer
and resulted in his arm being ripped out of its socket. At
the time of the accident, no one was helping Till unload the
trailer, and nobody witnessed the events (Filing No. 47-2
at 4-6). At the time of the incident, Till already had
pushed five or six roll-tainers into the Mooresville store.
He did not have any specific delivery instructions for the
day (Filing No. 47-1 at 2-3; Filing No. 47-2 at
roll-tainer involved in the incident was overloaded and
loaded incorrectly. It was top-heavy and weighed too much.
Roll-tainers typically weigh between 700 and 1, 000 pounds,
but the roll-tainer involved in the accident weighed between
800 and 1, 000 pounds. It was loaded with bottled water,
gallon water, and canned goods. Id. at 6, 14.
Because the roll-tainer inspections were random, it is
possible the roll-tainer that injured Till had not been
inspected (Filing No. 84-1 at 15-16). Prior to this
accident, Till was aware of a couple of incidents where
roll-tainers tipped over because they were overloaded. Those
incidents were reported to driver managers, and in one case,
Till took a photograph of the tipped-over roll-tainer to give
to a manager (Filing No. 47-2 at 6-7, 14, 22).
December 12, 2017, Till filed a Complaint against Dollar
General in the Marion Superior Court, asserting his sole
claim of negligence (Filing No. 47-1). On January
16, 2018, Dollar General removed the case from state court to
this Court based on diversity jurisdiction (Filing No.
1). After answering the Complaint and denying liability,
Dollar General filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings
and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a
genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary
judgment is appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”
Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487,
489-90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, the court reviews “the record in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all
reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”
Zerante, 555 F.3d at 584 (citation omitted).
“However, inferences that are supported by only
speculation or conjecture will not defeat a summary judgment
motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan Stanley, 507 F.3d
624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation marks
omitted). Additionally, “[a] party who bears the burden
of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings,
but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual
allegations, that there is a genuine issue ...