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Taylor v. Rogers Group, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

October 31, 2014

PETER TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
ROGERS GROUP, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

S. ALLAN ALEXANDER, Magistrate Judge.

This case is before the undersigned on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The motion is fully briefed and ready for review.

FACTUAL, PROCEDURAL AND JURISDICTIONAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Peter Taylor is a resident of Farmington, New York. Defendant Rogers Group, Inc. [RGI], an Indiana corporation with its principal place of business in Tennessee, is authorized to do business in the State of Mississippi.[1] Taylor filed this action against RGI in the Circuit Court of Marshall County, Mississippi on May 17, 2013, seeking damages for injuries he sustained in an accident caused by the negligence of one of RGI's employees during road construction in Marshall County, Mississippi. Docket 3. Defendant removed the action to this court on June 6, 2013. Docket 1. The court has jurisdiction of this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1332 as there is complete diversity between the parties, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00.[2]

The facts of this case are generally agreed. See Docket 43. As summarized from the statement of undisputed facts (Docket 43), defendant RGI was the prime contractor for road construction work to be performed for the Mississippi Department of Transportation ("MDOT") on U.S. Highway 78 in Marshall County. RGI subcontracted with Villager Construction, Inc., plaintiff's employer, to remove pavement on the highway. The contract between RGI and Villager required Villager to "acquire, pay for and thereafter maintain policies of insurance, " including workers' compensation insurance for its employees working at the project. Villager maintained coverage through ABC Compensation Trust.

Rogers was injured at the project on April 30, 3012, while he was standing on the shoulder of the west bound lane of Highway 78 helping remove asphalt for Villager when a cluster of barrels fell off a passing truck driven by RGI's employee, hit him from behind and caused him to fall onto the pavement. On May 7, 2012, plaintiff submitted a claim to Villager's workers' compensation carrier for the injuries he sustained, and Villager's carrier compensated plaintiff, paying him temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial disability benefits and all of his medical bills.

RGI filed a motion for summary judgment on March 25, 2014, arguing that plaintiff's claims are barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act, MISS. CODE ANN. §71-3-1, et seq. Docket 42. A little over a week after it filed the summary judgment motion, RGI filed a motion for leave to amend its answer to include the exclusive remedy provision as an affirmative defense. Docket 48. The court allowed the amendment on June 10, 2014, and RGI filed its First Amended Answer to include as a defense the exclusive remedy provision of the Mississippi Workers' Act. Docket 62 & 63. The specific defense added is as follows:

TWENTIETH DEFENSE

Plaintiff's claims against RGI are barred because Plaintiff, as a statutory employee of RGI under the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act in connection with the project at issue, could only pursue a remedy against RGI for his alleged injuries under the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act. MISS.CODE ANN. §§71-3-7.

Docket 63, p. 6. On July 28, 2014 the court denied plaintiff's Motion to Strike Waived and Untimely Defenses. Docket 67. The parties now have fully briefed the motion for summary judgment, and after detailed review of the record in this case, applicable rules and case law, the court finds that the defendant's motion should be granted.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A party is entitled to summary judgment "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 judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). On a motion for summary judgment, the movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant makes this showing, the burden then shifts to the nonmovant to "go beyond the pleadings and by... affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324, quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c), (e). Before finding that no genuine issue for trial exists, the court must first be satisfied that no rational trier of fact could find for the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

"[T]he issue of fact must be genuine.' When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. at 586; see also Kovacic v. Villarreal, 628 F.3d 209 (5th Cir. 2010). "Conclusory statements, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment." RSR Corp. v. International Ins. Co., 612 F.3d 851, 857 (5th Cir. 2010). Where a party opposes summary judgment on a claim or defense on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, and when the moving party can show a complete failure of proof on an essential element of the claim or defense, then all other issues become immaterial, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Further, self-serving "affidavit or deposition testimony setting forth ultimate or conclusory facts and conclusions of law are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Clark v. America's Favorite Chicken Co., 110 F.3d 295, 297 (5th Cir. 1997); see also Jackson v. Cal-Western Packaging Corp., 602 F.3d 374 (5th Cir. 2010).

The court must render summary judgment in favor of the moving party if "there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 135 (2000). The Supreme Court has cautioned, however, that the ruling court ...


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