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Moudy v. General Electric Co.

September 8, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge


Pending before the Court are the following cross-motions for summary judgment: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Document No. 22) and GENERAL ELECTRIC'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT BASED ON ABSENCE OF DUTY (Document No. 27). The motions have been thoroughly briefed and are ripe for disposition.*fn1

Factual Background

The Court will summarize the facts as set forth by Plaintiffs. William Moudy was employed as a mobile maintenance person for Reliant Energy, Inc. ("Reliant"). In March 2004, Reliant shut down its Shawville power plant for the purpose of performing regularly scheduled maintenance. Reliant entered into a contract with Defendant General Electric Company and/or General Electric Corporation ("GE") to provide a field engineering representative on-site during the maintenance shutdown. The contract defined the field engineering services that GE was to provide to Reliant as follows:

John Golembiewski was the GE field engineer assigned to this project. Golembiewski testified that his role was to answer questions and to provide technical expertise. The Reliant personnel in charge of the maintenance work were J.R. Hollis and Dave Sheasley.

As part of the project, Moudy was assigned to work on the impeller of an oil pump that was manufactured by GE and sold to Reliant some fifty years earlier. Moudy testified that the day before he was to work on the oil pump, he asked Golembiewski for copies of a blueprint or other design drawings of the oil reservoir and for a "repair and replace" procedure. Golembiewski told Moudy that the documents constituted confidential GE business information and refused to let Moudy take copies of such information out of the office.

Moudy suffered a work-related injury on March 4, 2004. While Moudy was inspecting the impeller, a heavy steel spacer ring dislodged and struck him in the forehead. The design of the impeller in question was unique in that it appeared that the spacer ring was fastened to the impeller by several bolts when in reality it was tenuously held by only an oil seal. The peculiar design and risk associated with it was known by Defendant and never divulged to Moudy.

Standard of Review

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure reads, in pertinent part, as follows: [Summary Judgment] shall be rendered forthwith 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.

In interpreting Rule 56(c), the United States Supreme Court has stated:

The plain language . . . mandates 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. In such a situation, there can be "no genuine issue as to material fact," since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323 (1986).

An issue of material fact is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court must view the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists rests with the movant. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The "existence of disputed issues of material fact should be ascertained by resolving all inferences, doubts and issues of credibility against the moving party." Ely v. Hall's Motor Transit Co., 590 F.2d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 1978) (quoting Smith v. Pittsburgh Gage & Supply Co., 464 F.2d 870, 874 (3d Cir. 1972)). Final credibility determinations on material issues cannot be made in the context of a motion for summary judgment, nor can the district court weigh the evidence. Josey v. John R. Hollingsworth Corp., 996 F.2d 632 (3d Cir. 1993); Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets, Inc. v. Darling-Delaware Co., 998 F.2d 1224 (3d Cir. 1993).

When the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party's burden can be "discharged by 'showing' -- that is, pointing out to the District Court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party has carried this burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who cannot rest on the allegations of the pleadings and must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets, 998 F.2d at 1230. When the non-moving party's evidence in opposition ...

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