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Thomas v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc.

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

January 26, 2017

QUINDON D. THOMAS AND LATARA S.J. THOMAS
v.
CHEVRON U.S.A., INC. AND DWAYNE HAISCH

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/22/2015

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. ROBERT P. KREBS, JUDGE

         REVERSED AND REMANDED

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: MATTHEW MESTAYER JIM REEVES PATRICK BUCHANAN

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: JAMES R. REEVES, JR. MATTHEW G. MESTAYER

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: MICHAEL JAMES BENTLEY PATRICK R. BUCHANAN

          WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶1. Quindon D. Thomas, an employee of a contractor at Chevron's petroleum refinery plant in Pascagoula, Mississippi, was injured on the job. Thomas accepted workers' compensation benefits provided by Chevron for his injuries. Thomas then sued Chevron and one of its employees for the same injuries. Chevron asserted the exclusive-remedy defense under the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act and the circuit court granted summary judgment to Chevron. Thomas now appeals. We reverse and remand for a trial on the merits.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. The facts in this case are largely undisputed. Quindon D. Thomas was injured while working at Chevron's petroleum refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi, on October 13, 2012. Thomas was employed with Bragg Investment Co., d/b/a American Plant Services, Inc. (APS), as a maintenance worker for the refinery. At the time of the injury, Thomas was working near Dwayne Haisch, a Chevron employee, who opened a valve that expelled hot steam, coke, and water onto Thomas, burning most of his body.

         ¶3. Chevron had contracted with APS since 2004, to perform maintenance and other specialized services at its refinery. As part of this initial contract, Chevron required APS to provide workers' compensation benefits for its employees. In June 2010, Chevron and APS amended their contract to acknowledge that Chevron would provide workers' compensation insurance for all APS employees working at the refinery through Chevron's Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP).

         ¶4. Following the incident, Thomas immediately began receiving workers' compensation benefits. Chevron paid $350, 000 to Thomas, fully exhausting the policy's self-insured retention. Following that, Indemnity Insurance began paying wages and benefits pursuant to the workers' compensation coverage under the OCIP. In addition to Chevron's payment, Indemnity Insurance had paid Thomas $628, 734 in workers' compensation benefits.

         ¶5. Thomas and his wife (hereafter collectively referred to as "Thomas") sued Chevron and its employee, Dwayne Haisch, in the Circuit Court of Jackson County for the injuries Thomas sustained while working at Chevron's refinery. The complaint asserted negligence and premises liability claims against Chevron. In its reply, Chevron raised affirmative defenses, including its immunity from tort liability under the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act (MWCA). Indemnity Insurance Company of North America (Indemnity Insurance) intervened in the suit. It sought reimbursement for more than $600, 000 it had paid to Thomas, in the event Thomas succeeded in the suit against Chevron.

         ¶6. Following Indemnity Insurance's motion to intervene, Chevron and Haisch moved for summary judgment on the issue of "Whether Chevron was a statutory employer entitled to immunity from suit under the MWCA's exclusive remedy provision." Thomas filed a cross-motion for summary judgment seeking a ruling that Chevron was not entitled to immunity because Chevron was not his statutory employer. On December 22, 2015, the circuit court entered a final judgment in favor of Chevron's motion for summary judgment, dismissing Thomas's cross-motion, and dismissing with prejudice all claims against Chevron. Thomas timely appealed to this Court on January 19, 2016.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶7. The standard of review of a trial court's grant of a summary judgment motion is de novo. Miller v. Meeks, 762 So.2d 302, 304 (Miss. 2000) (citing Short v. Columbus Rubber & Gasket Co., 535 So.2d 61, 63 (Miss. 1988)). Accordingly, this Court will review all the evidentiary matters, admissions in pleadings, answers to interrogatories, depositions, affidavits, etc. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Berry, 669 So.2d 56, 70 (Miss. 1996). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion has been made. If, in this view, there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a ...


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