United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
the Court in this premises-liability case is Defendant Purina
Animal Nutrition, LLC's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 16) against Plaintiff Michael Niel.
For the reasons that follow, the
Motion (Doc. 16) is DENIED.
dispute arises from Michael Niels fall from a portable ladder
on Purina's property. The relevant facts are few and
worked as a truck driver. (Docs. 16-1 at ¶ 1; 19-1 at
¶ 1). He drove trailers containing "dry bulk
commodities" like wheat. (Docs. 16-1 at ¶ 3; 19-1
at ¶ 2). The trailers had two compartments called
hoppers; Niel typically loaded them at the shipper's
facility and then unloaded them at the recipient's
facility. (Docs. 16-1 at ¶¶4&7;19-lat¶l).
fell on September 12, 2016. (Docs. 16-1 at ¶ 2; 19-1 at
¶ 22). That day, he was unloading wheat middlings at a
Purina facility. (Docs. 16-1 at ¶ 6; 19-1 at ¶ 2).
When Niel arrived at the facility, Purina employees told him
to bring his trailer to the "receiving area."
(Docs. 16-1 at ¶ 14; 19-1 at ¶ 4). So Niel
positioned one of the hoppers above a hole in the floor that
"catches" the middlings. (Docs. 16-1 at ¶ 15;
19-1 at ¶ 5). Niel then opened the door on the underside
of the first hopper, expecting the middlings to "roll
out" into the hole. (Doc. 16-4 at p. 27).
this batch did not unload easily. (Docs. 16-1 at ¶ 18;
19-1 at ¶ 10). After several hours' work, Niel had
unloaded less than one percent of the middlings in the first
hopper. (Id.). Purina's receiver-operator, Fred
Allen, noticed that Niel was struggling; Allen offered Niel a
portable ladder and air wand to help dislodge the middlings.
(Docs. 16-1 at ¶ 19; 19-1 at ¶ 11). Niel used the
portable ladder and air wand on the first hopper without
issue, unloading its contents in three to four hours. (Docs.
16-1 at ¶ 25; 19-1 at ¶¶ 16-18).
Niel unloaded the first hopper, he turned to the second.
(Id.). He climbed to the ladder's work platform
(the top step) and began using the air wand to unload the
midddlings. (Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 19). Some of the middlings
"flew up" into Niel's face, causing him to take
a step back. (Id. at ¶ 20). The ladder then
"wiggled," and Niel fell off of it. (Id.
at ¶¶ 21-22). No. one witnessed the fall. (Doc.
16-1 at ¶ 24).
sued Purina for general negligence under Civil Code Article
2315 and custodial negligence under Civil Code Article
2317.1. (Doc. 1-2 at pp. 4-7). He alleges that Purina's
portable ladder and facility, generally, presented
unreasonably dangerous conditions causing his
Purina moves for summary judgment on the ground that Niel
cannot show causation or that its floor or ladder presented
an unreasonably dangerous condition. (Doc. 16). Niel opposes.
(Doc. 19). He faults Purina for destroying the ladder-and
thus depriving him of important evidence-and asserts that the
unlevel floor in the Purina facility created an unreasonably
dangerous condition that caused his fall.
Court will grant summary judgment if Purina shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that it is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See FED. R.
Civ. P. 56(a). In deciding if Purina has made that showing,
the Court views facts and draws reasonable inferences in
Niel's favor. See Midwest Feeders, Inc. v. Bank of
Franklin, 886 F.3d 507, 513 (5th Cir. 2018).
CHOICE OF LAW
Court's jurisdiction is based on diversity of
citizenship, so the Court applies Louisiana substantive law.
See Boyett v. Redland Ins. Co.,741 F.3d 604, 607
(5th Cir. 2014) (citing Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins,304 U.S. 64 (1938)). Because Louisiana's choice-of-law
rules are substantive, the Court applies them here. See
Weber v. PACTXPP Tech., AG,811 F.3d 758, 770 ...