Williams v. Braden Drilling, LLC

Decision Date24 September 2014
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 3:11-CV-2342
PartiesDONALD WILLIAMS, Plaintiff, v. BRADEN DRILLING, LLC and EAST RESOURCE OIL COMPANY, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania

(JUDGE CAPUTO)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Co-Defendant East Resources, Inc. (incorrectly named as "East Resource Oil Company") ("East Resources"). (Doc. 29.) The instant action arises out of an accident at a well site owned by East Resources, which resulted in personal injury to Plaintiff Donald Williams ("Williams"). East Resources seeks summary judgment against Williams, alleging that he failed to introduce evidence of negligence on the part of East Resources, and that because Discovery has closed, Williams will not be able to do so. Furthermore, East Resources alleges that all of the evidence demonstrates that if there was any negligent conduct, Williams was more than half responsible and so is barred from recovery by Pennsylvania's Comparative Negligence Statute, 42 Pa. C.S. § 7102(a). Because the evidence when viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff would allow a rational jury to conclude that the nominal employees of Co-Defendant Braden Drilling, LLC ("Braden") were in an employment relationship with East Resources, and the employees' failure to act with reasonable care when working with heavy equipment caused Williams' injuries, and that Williams was not more than half responsible for his injuries, East Resources' Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied.

I. Background
A. Procedural History

Plaintiff Donald Williams originally filed this action in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County on November 17, 2011. (Doc. 1, Ex. A.) Defendant Braden Drilling, LLC ("Braden") removed this case to United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in December 2011. (Doc. 1.)

On August 9, 2012, in its Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant East Resources, Inc. ("East Resources") added a cross-claim against Defendant Braden for contribution and/or indemnification. (Doc 9, 7-8.) On August 24, 2012, Braden amended its Answer to Plaintiff's initial Complaint to include a cross-claim against co-defendant East Resources. (Doc. 12.) Following Answers by both Defendants to cross-claims (Docs. 12 & 13), a Case Management Conference (Doc. 19) and a Case Management Order (Doc. 20), the parties began discovery in August 2013. On February 24, 2014, I granted a Motion to Extend Discovery until April 1, 2014. (Doc. 25.)

On April 30, 2014, East Resources filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 29), its Brief in Support (Doc. 29-1) and Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 29-3), seeking judgment in its favor with respect to Plaintiff Williams' claim against East Resources.

Williams' Brief in Opposition was due on May 27, 2014. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(2)(c); Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(); M.D. Pa. L.R. 7.6. Williams failed to file a Brief in Opposition, or otherwise oppose East Resources' Motion. Thus, East Resources' Motion for Summary Judgment is ripe for disposition.

B. Source of Factual Background

Because Williams failed to file a Statement of Material Facts in response to East Resources' Summary Judgment Motion controverting East Resources' properly filed Statement, all material facts set forth in Defendant's Statement of Material Facts andattached exhibits (Doc. 29-3) will be deemed admitted pursuant to Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 56.1. See M.D. Pa. L.R. 56.1 (providing, in pertinent part, that "[s]tatements of material fact in support of, or in opposition to, a motion shall include references to the parts of the record that support the statements. All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement required to be served by the opposing party.").

C. Factual Background

This dispute arises out of an accident on November 19, 2009 at the site of a gas well in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 29-3, ¶¶1-2.) Plaintiff Donald Williams ("Williams") alleges that he sustained personal injuries while installing a piece of heavy equipment on an oil rig. (Id. at ¶¶2-3.) At the time of the incident, Williams was employed as a gas well technician by non-party Tesco Corporation ("Tesco"). (Id.)

Movant East Resources owns the oil, gas, mineral and development rights to the parcel of land in Wellsboro, called Brown Well, where this incident occurred. (Compl., Ex. A, Doc. 1, 4.) East Resources hired Co-Defendant Braden to drill a gas well at Brown Well. (Id.) East Resources leased drilling equipment from non-party Tesco, Williams' employer, for use at Brown Well. (Id.)

At the time of the accident, Williams was installing equipment leased by Tesco to East Resources on the rig at Brown Well. (Doc. 29-3. at ¶4.) The equipment-the "top drive"-was suspended from a crane. (Id.) The crane holding the top drive was operated by an employee of the drilling company, Braden. (Id. at ¶6.) Williams' task was to remove a carrying stand in order to put the top drive into service. (Id. at ¶5.) Williams was working closely with a "rig crew" of Braden employees. (Doc. 29-3, 20.) During the installation, the top drive came down onto Williams' left foot and severed four of his toes. (Id. at ¶7.)

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment shall be granted "if 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). "Summary judgment is appropriate when '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.'" Wright v. Corning, 679 F.3d 101, 103 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Orsatti v. N.J. State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 482 (3d Cir. 1995)). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Edelman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 83 F.3d 68, 70 (3d Cir. 1996). Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Anderson, 477 U.S. 242, 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Howard Hess Denal Labs., Inc. v. Dentsply Int'l, Inc., 602 F.3d 237, 251 (3d Cir. 2010). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the non-moving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the court that "the non-moving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

"When considering whether there exist genuine issues of material fact, the court is required to examine the evidence of record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Wishkin v.Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson, 477 U.S. 242, 256-57. The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the Complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990).

"To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must show specific facts such that a reasonable jury could find in that party's favor, thereby establishing a genuine issue of fact for trial." Galli v. New Jersey Meadowlands Comm'n, 490 F.3d 265, 270 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). "While the evidence that the non-moving party presents may be either direct or circumstantial, and need not be as great as a preponderance, the evidence must be more than a scintilla." Id. (quoting Hugh v. Butler County Family YMCA, 418 F.3d 265, 267 (3d Cir. 2005)). In deciding a Motion for Summary Judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. 242, 249.

As noted, East Resources filed its Motion for Summary Judgment against Williams, Statement of Material Facts, and Brief in Support on April 30 and May 1, 2014. Williams, however, has failed to oppose East Resources' Motion. East Resources' Motion for Summary Judgment is thus deemed unopposed. Moreover, because Williams failed to file a Statement of Material Facts controverting East Resources' properly cited and filed Statement of Facts, all material facts set forth in East Resources' Statement (Doc. 29-3) will be deemed admitted pursuant to Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 56.1. See M.D. Pa. L.R. 56.1 (providing, in pertinent part, that "[s]tatements of material fact in support of, or in opposition to, a motion shall include references to the parts of the record that support thestatements. All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement required to be served by the opposing party."). Williams likewise failed to submit any evidence in response to that submitted by East Resources....

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