United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
ELIZABETH E. FOOTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiffs, John and Darlene Couch, have filed suit against
the Defendants, Delight Fabrication ("Delight") and
Mesa Underwriters Specialty Insurance Co. ("Mesa"),
for damages arising out of an incident at John Couch's
place of employment, House of Raeford Farms ("House of
Raeford"). Plaintiffs and Defendants have filed
cross-motions for summary judgment. [Record Documents 44, 46,
48, 50, 54, and 56]. The Defendants submit that Plaintiffs
cannot meet the elements of their Louisiana Civil Code
article 2315 negligence claim, thus entitling Defendants to
summary judgment in their favor. Plaintiffs, on the other
hand, contend that there are no genuine disputes of material
fact which would bar the Court from entering judgment in
their favor on the question of liability. The Court disagrees
with the parties and finds that there are genuine disputes of
material fact which preclude the grant of summary judgment to
either party. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' and
Defendants' motions for summary judgment shall be DENIED.
Couch worked for House of Raeford, which is a chicken plant
located in Arcadia, Louisiana, In 2014, House of Raeford
contracted with Defendant Delight to remove its existing
auger-style ice conveyor and replace it with a belt-type
conveyer in the "icehouse, " which is a room
located on the second floor of the plant. As part of the
work, Delight was to fabricate and install a chute and drip
pan for the conveyer and reconfigure portions of a steel
grate floor adjacent to the conveyer. In September 2014,
Delight performed this work over the course of 18 hours.
issue germane to the instant suit is the work Delight
performed on the platform grating. Part of the work to be
performed called for Delight to "cut and replace
grating." Record Document 44-2, p. 5, ll.18-21. House of
Raeford required that the platform grating be removable so
that it could be taken up, cleaned, and sanitized in
compliance with USDA regulations. Delight's owner, Rex
Watts ("Watts"), submits that Delight installed
tack welds on each end of the grating to hold it in place.
Watts described a tack weld as "a tack enough to hold it
in place. [The tack is welded] to the channel under the
grating.... We put another beam across there where it had two
points to hold it up. And then we tack welded that grating to
the channels underneath the grating to hold it in
place." Id. at p. 6, ll.19-24; p. 7, ll.1-5.
However, due to House of Raeford's requirement that the
grates be removable, Watts testified that the grating would
have to be cut loose and re-welded for each cleaning.
Id. at p.7, ll. 21-23.
the completion of the work in September 2014 and Couch's
accident in December 2015, there were no incidents or issues
with the grating. Employees routinely walked on it and
shoveled ice without any problems or concerns. However, on
December 27, 2015, one of the grating panels collapsed when
Couch was standing on it shoveling ice. Couch fell through
the platform to the floor below, sustaining injuries in the
contend that Delight's "negligence, gross
negligence, and professional negligence [including] lack of
planning, insight, and knowledge" caused Couch's
accident and resulting injuries. Record Document 46-1, p. 6.
In essence, Plaintiffs assert that Delight failed to design,
construct, and install a proper system that would allow the
grating to be removed, yet still guard against shifting
lateral forces which would be routinely encountered in the
icehouse because of the employees shoveling ice. Id.
Plaintiffs argue that Watts knew of the intended use of his
work, but failed to "deliver a safe product" that
would serve its intended purposes. Id. at p. 26.
Defendants, on the other hand, contend that Delight performed
the work it was contracted to provide; the work was accepted
by House of Raeford; there were no issues in the intervening
fifteen months between installation and the accident; and
most importantly, that House of Raeford had to cut the tack
welds to remove the panels and then re-weld them, and thus
House of Raeford bears the responsibility for the instability
of the platform.
Motion for Summary judgment.
judgment is proper pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure "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." Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548,
2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The materiality of facts is
determined by the substantive law's identification of
which facts are critical and which facts are irrelevant. See
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact
exists when the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Id, "Factual disputes that are irrelevant or
unnecessary will not be counted." Id.
56(c) "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial." Id. at 322, 106 S.Ct. at 2552. If the
party moving for summary judgment fails to satisfy its
initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact, the motion must be denied, regardless
of the nonmovant's response. See Little v. Liquid Air
Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). If
the motion is properly made, however, Rule 56(c) requires the
nonmovant to go "beyond the pleadings and designate
specific facts in the record showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial." Wallace v. Texas Tech. Univ.,
80 F.3d 1042, 1047 (5th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). While
the nonmovant's burden may not be satisfied by conclusory
allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, metaphysical doubt
as to the facts, or a scintilla of evidence, Little,
37 F.3d at 1075, Wallace, 80 F.3d at 1047, all
factual controversies must be resolved in favor of the
nonmovant. See Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. v.
Farese, 423 F.3d 446, 456 (5th Cir. 2005). However, a
factual controversy only exists when "both parties have
submitted evidence of contradictory facts."
Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.
Rule 56.1 requires the moving party to file a statement of
material facts as to which it contends there is no genuine
issue to be tried. Pursuant to Local Rule 56.2, the party
opposing the motion for summary judgment must set forth a
"short and concise statement of the material facts as to
which there exists a genuine issue to be tried." All
material facts set forth in the statement required to be
served by the moving party "will be ...