OF JUDGMENT: 07/20/2018
JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT P. KREBS TRIAL
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ALSEE McDANIEL.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: RICHARD P. SALLOUM.
BARNES, C.J., McCARTY AND C. WILSON, JJ.
John Hibbler was injured in a work-related accident on
September 28, 2012. Having received payment through
workers' compensation, Hibbler later filed suit for
damages against Huntington Ingalls Incorporated (Ingalls).
Ingalls had contracted with Hibbler's employer, Avaya
Government Solutions (Avaya), to install telecommunications
infrastructure on a ship that Ingalls was building. Ingalls
filed a motion for summary judgment, which the circuit court
granted. Hibbler now appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Hibbler worked for Avaya as a network-systems engineer. In
August 2012, Hibbler and three other Avaya engineers began
installing a telephone-communications system on a
helicopter-assault ship. Ingalls had contracted with the
United States Navy to build the ship. Hibbler's work was
to take three months and included the installation of cabling
under the raised floor of the ship's communications room.
According to Hibbler, Avaya worked in coordination with
painters employed by a separate contractor. Hibbler and his
Avaya co-workers installed cables under the raised floor in a
section of the communications room during the day shift. The
painting crew followed at night to paint the cables,
replacing the floor decking when they were finished.
Occasionally, the ship's decking was not replaced, and
Hibbler and his co-workers would navigate the communications
room by walking on the squared steel-floor framing.
On September 28, 2012, Hibbler began a twelve-hour shift at
7:00 a.m. Between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. that day, he was pulling
cable line across the communications room floor when he
stepped on an unsecured deck plate. The plate gave way,
causing Hibbler to fall into a hole that was about three-feet
deep. As a result of his accident, Hibbler injured his back
and hit his head on a cabinet as he fell. He experienced
These events took place at the Ingalls-owned shipyard located
in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where the ship was being
constructed. Ingalls avers that it was the "prime
contractor to the U.S. Navy" for the construction of the
ship at issue. Ingalls also asserts that it required all
subcontractors, like Avaya, to carry workers'
compensation insurance for their employees under the
Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act
(MWCA) and the Longshore and Harbors Workers'
Compensation Act (LHWCA) until completion and final acceptance
of the contractors' work. Following Hibbler's
accident, Avaya's workers' compensation insurer began
paying workers' compensation benefits to Hibbler under
the MWCA and continued those payments through May 31, 2013.
Thereafter, the insurer paid additional benefits under the
On September 25, 2015, Hibbler filed a complaint against
Ingalls in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mississippi.
In his complaint, Hibbler alleged entitlement to compensatory
damages and other relief against Ingalls due to Ingalls's
"negligence in failing to maintain and otherwise secure
the flooring upon the ship . . . ." Ingalls answered,
asserting that Hibbler's "sole and exclusive remedy
. . . is under any applicable workers' compensation
statutes including . . . the [LHWCA] and the [MWCA]."
After the parties conducted discovery, Ingalls filed a motion
for summary judgment on May 29, 2018. Ingalls asserted that
it was not liable for injuries to an independent
contractor's employee arising out of performance of the
contracted work. Ingalls also argued that it was immune to
Hibbler's negligence suit as a "statutory
employer" under the MWCA because Hibbler had already
received his workers' compensation benefits through its
subcontractor Avaya's workers' compensation coverage.
In support of its motion, Ingalls relied on portions of
Hibbler's deposition and provided the circuit court with
an affidavit from Steven Pierce, Ingalls's "Manager
- Risk Management." In his affidavit, Pierce testified
that Ingalls, as "a contractor engaged in the business
of ship construction and repair," required all its
subcontractors to carry workers' compensation insurance.
Pierce's affidavit did not mention the particular ship on
which Hibbler was injured or Avaya's contract
In response to Ingalls's motion, Hibbler asserted that
Ingalls's negligence was the direct and proximate cause
of his injuries. Hibbler argued that under the MWCA, his
"acceptance of workers' compensation benefits [did]
not affect nor preclude [his] right to sue any other party at
law for such injuries."
On July 19, 2018, the circuit court held a hearing on
Ingalls's motion for summary judgment. The next day, the
circuit court granted Ingalls's motion, finding:
(1) Ingalls was [Hibbler's] statutory employer at the
time of the accident and is therefore immune from
[Hibbler's] claims in this case by the ...