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Sharp v. Morgan City

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

August 16, 2017

BRENDAN SHARP, RAY SHARP AND CHRISTINE ANDREWS
v.
MORGAN CITY

         On Appeal from the Sixteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Mary State of Louisiana No. 127812 Honorable Curtis Sigur, Judge Presiding

          Stephen M. Irving Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellees Brendan Sharp, Ray Sharp and Christine Andrews.

          James C. Rather, Jr. Charles E. Sutton, Jr. Mandeville, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellant The City of Morgan City.

          Stephen E. Broyles Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Third-Party Defendant/Appellee RedIron Construction, LLC.

          Andre C. Gaudin Ralph T. Rabalais Metairie, Louisiana Counsel for Third-Party Defendant/Appellee Legacy Construction Services.

          David T. Butler, Jr. Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for the Intervenor/Appellee Bridgefield Casualty Insurance Company.

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C. J., GUIDRY, AND McCLENDON, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         In this personal injury suit, a defendant/third-party plaintiff appeals a trial court's grant of two motions for summary judgment in favor of two third-party defendants. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 1, 2014, Brendan Sharp, a 17-year-old employee of RedIron Construction, LLC (RedIron), was injured when a steel panel he was handling came into contact with, or in close proximity to, an overhead power line owned and operated by The City of Morgan City (Morgan City). RedIron was the subcontractor of Legacy Construction Services (Legacy). Legacy had been hired to build a commercial structure for Cummins Mid-South Diesel in Morgan City. Legacy subcontracted with RedIron to frame the building and install metal sheeting on the exterior.

         On November 14, 2014, Brendan and his parents, Ray Sharp and Christine Andrews, filed a petition for damages, naming Morgan City as the sole defendant. Thereafter, Morgan City filed a third-party demand against Legacy and RedIron, seeking complete indemnity from Legacy and RedIron for their failure to follow Louisiana's Overhead Power Line Safety Act (OPLSA), LSA-R.S. 45:141, et seq. In response, Legacy and RedIron each filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that all provisions of the OPLSA were complied with. Morgan City opposed the motions, asserting that issues of material fact existed as to whether Legacy and RedIron negotiated satisfactory mutual safety arrangements with Morgan City in connection with the work they were performing as required by the OPLSA.

         The trial court heard arguments on July 29, 2016, and took the matter under advisement. On August 10, 2016, the trial court issued written Reasons for Judgment, finding that Legacy and RedIron were in full compliance with the OPLSA and that Morgan City was not entitled to indemnity for any damages or costs incurred as a result of the accident involving Brendan Sharp. On September 14, 2016, the trial court signed a judgment, granting the motions for summary judgment and dismissing Legacy and RedIron from the litigation. Morgan City then appealed.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         The summary judgment procedure is designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action, is favored, and shall be construed to accomplish these ends. LSA-C.C.P. art. 966A(2) (as amended by 2015 La. Acts, No. 422).[1] After an opportunity for adequate discovery, a motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the motion, memorandum, and supporting documents show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. LSA-C.C.P. art. 966A(3) (as amended by 2015 La. Acts, No. 422).[2]

         The burden of proof rests with the mover. Nevertheless, if the mover will not bear the burden of proof at trial on the issue that is before the court on the motion for summary judgment, the mover's burden on the motion does not require him to negate all essential elements of the adverse party's claim, action, or defense, but rather to point out to the court the absence of factual support for one or more elements essential to the adverse party's claim, action, or defense. The burden is on the adverse party to produce factual support sufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact or that the mover is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. LSA-C.C.P. art. 966D(1) (as amended by 2015 La. Acts, No. 422).[3] When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported, an adverse party may not rest on the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but his response must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If he does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be rendered against him. LSA-C.C.P. art. 967B.

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the trial court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. Hines v. Garrett, 04-0806 (La. 6/25/04), 876 So.2d 764, 765. A fact is material if it potentially ensures or precludes recovery, affects a litigant's ultimate success, or determines the outcome of the legal dispute. A genuine issue is one as to which reasonable persons could disagree; if reasonable persons could reach only one conclusion, there is no need for a trial on that issue and summary judgment is appropriate. Hines, 876 So.2d at 765-66.

         Further, in determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, appellate courts review evidence de novo under the same criteria that govern the trial court's determination of whether summary judgment is appropriate. In re Succession of Beard, 13-1717 (La.App. 1 Cir. 6/6/14), 147 So.3d 753, 759-60. Because the applicable substantive law determines materiality, whether a particular fact in dispute is material can be seen only in light of the substantive law applicable to the case. Jackson v. City of New Orleans, 12-2742 (La. 1/28/14), 144 So.3d 876, 882, cert-denied, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 197, 190 L.Ed.2d 130 (2014) .

         DISCUSSION

         The OPLSA sets forth clear statutory guidelines for persons working in the vicinity of high voltage power lines.[4] Louisiana Revised Statutes 45:142 prohibits anyone from working within ten feet of any high voltage overhead line and provides:

No person shall, individually or through an agent or employee, perform any function or activity upon any land, building, highway, waterway, or other premises, if at any time during the performance of any function or activity it is possible that the person performing the function or activity shall move or be placed within ten feet of any high voltage overhead line, or if it is possible for any part of any tool, equipment, machinery, or material used, handled, or stored by such person to be ...

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