Guillory v. Domtar Industries Inc., 94-41292

Citation95 F.3d 1320
Decision Date27 September 1996
Docket NumberNo. 94-41292,94-41292
Parties, 45 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 797 Anthony GUILLORY, Mary Guillory, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. DOMTAR INDUSTRIES INCORPORATED, Defendant-Third Party Defendant Intervenor-Appellee, v. JOHN DEERE INDUSTRIAL EQUIPMENT COMPANY, Defendant-Third Party Defendant Plaintiff-Appellant, and JOHN DEERE COMPANY, Defendant, Deere & Company, Defendant-Third Party Plaintiff-Appellant, v. HARLO PRODUCTS CORPORATION, Defendant-Third Party Defendant Intervenor, Transamerica Insurance Company, Third Party Defendant Intervenor-Appellee. Anthony GUILLORY, Mary Guillory, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. DOMTAR INDUSTRIES INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee, John Deere Company, Defendant, John Deere Industrial Equipment Company, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)

Richard C. Broussard, Lafayette, LA, for plaintiffs-appellees.

Michael W. Campbell, Caffery, Oubre, Dugas and Campbell, New Iberia, LA, for Domtor Industries Incorporated, defendant-third party defendant-appellee.

L. Lane Roy, Preis, Kraft & Roy, Lafayette, LA, for John Deere Co., John Deere Ind. Equipment Co., and Deere & Co.

H. Lee Leonard, Lafayette, LA, for Harlo Products Corp., defendant-third party plaintiff.

David R. Rabalais, Lafayette, LA, for Transamerica Ins. Co., third party defendant-appellee.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

Before LAY *, HIGGINBOTHAM and STEWART, Circuit Judges.

STEWART, Circuit Judge:

In this Louisiana products liability action, a jury awarded the plaintiffs over $6 million for injuries sustained because a fork fell off a forklift and struck Anthony Guillory in the head. The jury found that the forklift was improperly installed and maintained by Anthony Guillory's employer, Domtar Industries. The jury also found that the manufacturers, Deere & Company and John Deere Industrial Equipment Company ("Deere"), provided inadequate warnings regarding the forklift. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Domtar because the Louisiana workers' compensation scheme limited the plaintiffs' recovery against Guillory's employer. Thus, though the jury apportioned eighty percent fault to Domtar and twenty percent fault to Deere, Louisiana's laws of solidary obligation required Deere to pay 100% of the judgment. Deere appeals challenging several rulings of the district court as well as the findings of the jury. After thoroughly reviewing the record and finding no error with either the rulings or the findings, we affirm the jury's award for the plaintiffs.

BACKGROUND

Anthony Guillory, an employee of Domtar Industries, worked as a welder in a salt mine located on Cote Blanche Island in Iberia Parish, Louisiana. On September 8, 1990, Guillory was injured while assisting two co-employees, Irvin Boutte and Stafford Caesar, in the replacement of a section of conveyor belt framework. 1 Boutte was operating a John Deere 380 forklift to move the section of conveyor system. The men attached the section of the conveyor system to the left fork with a chain. When the conveyor system got caught on a suspension cable, Guillory went to the right side of the forklift, freed the conveyor, and signaled Boutte to continue the lift. After he freed the conveyor, Guillory stood about three feet from the conveyor and seven feet from the front tire of the forklift; he was not standing underneath either the conveyor or the fork. Moments later, the right fork fell from the forklift and struck Guillory in the head.

Domtar purchased the John Deere 380 forklift from a John Deere dealership in The forks were designed to be attached to the forklift with a dual retention system, which consists of a one-inch backing plate using either two spiral pins or two spring loaded pins. Though Harlo provided detailed instructions to Deere regarding the operation and maintenance of the retaining system, neither Deere nor Harlo provided instructions to users regarding the importance of maintenance of the system or recommended that users use lubricants on the backing plate. Domtar conceded, however, that it did not read the Deere manuals or provide training in the operation of the forklift.

1980. Harlo Products, Inc., one of the defendants, manufactured the mast system and component parts that Deere incorporated into the 380 forklift. The 380 forklift originally came equipped with a set of forks with capacities of 4,000 and 5,000 pounds. Harlo also manufactures a set of forks with a 6,000 pound capacity, which is similar in appearance and dimension to the 4,000/5,000 pound fork. The John Deere 380 forklift parts catalog improperly listed the 6,000 pound fork as an appropriate fork for the 380 forklift. Before Guillory's accident, when the original forks became bent, Domtar replaced them with the 6,000 pound forks listed in the catalog. Deere never advised its users that the listing of the 6,000 pound fork in the 380 parts catalog was erroneous.

Consequently, the Domtar employees sometimes only partially used the dual retention system. Occasionally, they substituted the dual retention system with nuts and bolts, while other times they used nothing to secure the forks on the forklift. 2 It was common knowledge in the mine that forks had fallen off the 380 forklifts several times prior to Guillory's accident. However, the forks had not fallen off during a lifting operation, only when the forklift was traveling over a bumpy terrain. Further, most miners believed that the bolts used on the forklift's rack would prevent the forks from falling off the forklift. The fork that injured Guillory was conducting a lifting operation and was secured by bolts at the time of the accident. The employees misunderstood the actual cause of falling forks, and apparently most had not reported the incidents to the Domtar management because they did not consider the falling forks a hazard--until Guillory's accident.

Guillory's injuries rendered him permanently quadriplegic. Guillory experiences painful spasms in almost all parts of his body that must be controlled with medication. He will require twenty-four hour attendant care and continuing medical treatment for the rest of his life. Guillory sued Domtar (his employer), Deere and John Deere (the forklift manufacturer), and Harlo (the manufacturer of component parts for the forklift). The district court granted Domtar's motion for summary judgment on the ground that workers' compensation was Guillory's exclusive remedy because he was injured while in the course and scope of his employment. 3

Before trial, a settlement conference was arranged. Deere offered to settle the case for $100,000. The district court concluded that Deere's unrealistic offer and subsequent comment that there was never a chance at settling represented a failure to act in good faith. The magistrate sanctioned Deere $8,500, the amount of expenses incurred by the parties in preparing for the settlement conference.

Also, before trial, Deere's trial expert became unavailable for trial due to medical reasons, and Deere selected Dr. Walter Reed as a substitute. The plaintiffs filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude or limit Dr. Reed's testimony. The district court denied the motion. On the sixth day of trial, the district court, on its own motion, reconsidered the plaintiffs' motion regarding Dr. Reed's testimony. The court allowed Dr. Reed to testify but excluded the videotape The jury found Domtar eighty percent at fault and Deere twenty percent at fault. Deere, being solidarily obligated with Domtar, became responsible for the entire judgment under Louisiana law. Deere timely appealed the adverse rulings and verdict.

and model containing a demonstration conducted by Dr. Reed.

DISCUSSION
I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR DOMTAR INDUSTRIES.

We review the granting of a motion for summary judgment de novo. Christophersen v. Allied-Signal, 939 F.2d 1106, 1109 (5th Cir.1991) (en banc), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 912, 112 S.Ct. 1280, 117 L.Ed.2d 506 (1992). Summary judgment shall be granted if the record, taken as a whole, "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." FED.R.CIV.P. 56. When evaluating the summary judgment evidence, we resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only when there is an actual controversy; that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir.1994). Review of the summary judgment requires the same analysis employed by the district court. Turnage v. General Elec. Co., 953 F.2d 206, 212 (5th Cir.1992).

A. Issue of Intent.

Deere argues that summary judgment is improper when a determination of intent is necessary to evaluate the existence of a fact issue. Deere asserts that there is disputed evidence regarding whether Domtar knew of an unsafe working condition and failed to take action to protect its employees. We disagree.

Though summary judgment is rarely proper when an issue of intent is involved, the presence of an intent issue does not automatically preclude summary judgment; the case must be evaluated like any other to determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Krim v. BancTexas Group, Inc., 989 F.2d 1435, 1449 (5th Cir.1993) ("when the nonmoving party has not produced an affidavit or a request for a continuance outlining how further discovery would enable him to make the question of intent an issue of material fact, summary judgment is proper even if intent is an essential element of the nonmoving party's case"). In International Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1265-66 (5th Cir.1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1059, 112 S.Ct. 936, 117 L.Ed.2d 107 (1992), the court detailed why summary judgment usually is inappropriate for issues involving state of mind, 4 ho...

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