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Shamblin v. Chesapeake Energy Corporation

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 26, 2014

TODD A. SHAMBLIN and DAWN SHAMBLIN, Plaintiffs,
v.
CHESAPEAKE ENERGY CORPORATION, CHESAPEAKE APPALACHIA, LLC, NOMAC DRILLING, LLC, HODGES TRUCKING COMPANY, LLC, GREAT PLAINS OILFIELD RENTAL, LLC, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35) filed by Defendants Chesapeake Energy Corporation ("Chesapeake Energy"), Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC ("Chesapeake Appalachia"), and Nomac Drilling, LLC ("Nomac") (collectively, "Moving Defendants"). Because a genuine dispute of fact exists as to the identify of Plaintiff Todd A. Shamblin's ("Shamblin") employer at the time he suffered the injuries complained of in this action and Moving Defendants are not otherwise entitled to summary judgment, Moving Defendants' motion will be denied.

I. Relevant Background

On December 15, 2009, Shamblin was moving a sheave block pulley from a drilling rig across a metal catwalk when the catwalk collapsed underneath him. (Doc. 37, " Defs.' SMF, " ¶ 1, Ex. A; Doc. 39, " Plfs.' Answer, " ¶ 1.) It is undisputed that Shamblin was injured while acting within the course and scope of his employment. ( Defs.' SMF, ¶ 2; Plfs.' Answer, ¶ 2.)

As a result of the accident, Shamblin sustained severe and permanently disabling injuries to his right hand. ( Compl., ¶ 21.) These injuries included, but were not limited to, a closed fracture of the phalanges of the right hand and an open fracture of the distal phalanx. ( Id. ) Due to the seriousness of the injuries, Shamblin's right fourth digit was amputated at the distal phalangeal level. ( Id. )

Following the accident, a "Drilling Safety Investigation Report" was prepared on a Chesapeake Energy form. ( Plfs.' Answer, Ex. H.) The Drilling Safety Investigation Report indicates that Shamblin's relationship to "COI" was as an "Employee" rather than a "Contractor Employee". ( Id. )

Chesapeake Appalachia leased the gas well drilling site and operated the natural gas well where the accident occurred. ( Defs.' SMF, ¶ 6; Plfs.' Answer, ¶ 6.) On December 3, 2009, prior to the accident, Chesapeake Appalachia entered into a "Drilling Bid Proposal and Daywork Drilling Contract" with Nomac. ( Defs.' SMF, ¶ 7; Plfs.' Answer, ¶ 7.) That document identifies Chesapeake Appalachia as "Operator" and Nomac as "Contractor". (Doc. 35, Ex. C.) The Daywork Drilling Contract states: "Operator engages Contractor as an independent contractor to drill the hereinafter designated well or wells in search of oil or gas on a Daywork Basis." ( Id. ) The Daywork Drilling contract defines "Daywork" and "Daywork Basis" to mean "Contractor shall furnish equipment, labor, and perform services as herein provided, for a specified sum per day under the direction, supervision, and control of Operator [inclusive of any employee, agent, consultant or subcontractor engaged by Operator to direct drilling operations]." ( Id. )

Following the accident, Shamblin received Workers' Compensation Benefits as a result of his injuries, and his claim was fully resolved pursuant to a Compromise and Release Agreement approved by a Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Judge. ( Defs.' SMF, ¶ 3; Plfs.'s Answer, ¶ 3.) The Findings of Fact prepared by the Workers' Compensation Judge states that Shamblin sustained his injuries "during the course of his employment with Chesapeake Energy Corporation." ( Plf.'s Answer, Ex. B.) The "Compromise and Release Agreement by Stipulation Pursuant to Section 449 of the Workers' Compensation Act" also identifies Shamblin's employer as Chesapeake Energy. ( Plfs.' Answer, Ex. C.) The Compromise and Release Agreement further provides that "this settlements ends forever [Shamblin's] entitlement to indemnity, medical and specific loss benefits for any injury sustained during Claimant's employment at Chesapeake Energy Corporation, including the injury of December 15, 2009." ( Id. at ¶ 16.) The "Notice of Compensation Payable" filed with the Department of Labor and Industry similarly identifies Shamblin's employer as Chesapeake Energy. ( Plfs.' Answer, Ex. D.) Likewise, the "Statement of Wages" form indicates Shamblin's employer was Chesapeake Energy. ( Plfs.' Answer, Ex. E.) And, the "Petition for Physical Examination or Expert Interview of Employee" submitted with the Department of Labor and Industry reflects Shamblin's employer as Chesapeake Energy. ( Plfs.' Answer, Ex. F.)

When Shamblin received his paychecks, however, the name "Nomac Drilling" appeared on the checks. ( Shamblin Dep., 26:25-27:5.) And, for years 2009 and 2010, Shamblin received W-2 statements listing his employer's name as Nomac Drilling, L.L.C. (Doc. 35, Ex. B; Defs.' SMF, ¶ 4; Plfs.' Answer, ¶ 4.)

Based on the foregoing, Shamblin and his wife Dawn Shamblin (collectively, Plaintiffs") commenced this action against Defendants on or about December 1, 2011 in the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County, Pennsylvania. ( Compl. ) With respect to Chesapeake Energy and Chesapeake Appalachia, the Complaint asserts claims for negligence (Count I) and loss of consortium (Count IV). ( Id. ) As to Nomac, the Complaint states claims for negligence (Count II) and loss of consortium (Count IV). ( Id. )

The action was subsequently removed to this Court. (Doc. 18.) Now, as discovery has closed, Defendants Chesapeake Energy, Chesapeake Appalachia, and Nomac seek summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Moving Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 35), statement of material facts (Doc. 37), and supporting brief (Doc. 36) were filed on December 23, 2013. On January 14, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their answer to Moving Defendants' statement of material facts (Doc. 39) and brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 40). Moving Defendants did not file a reply brief in further support of their motion. As such, the motion for summary judgment is ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "Summary judgment is appropriate when 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 a judgment as a matter of law.'" Wright v. Corning, 679 F.3d 101, 103 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Orsatti v. N.J. State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 482 (3d Cir. 1995)). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Edelman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 83 F.3d 68, 70 (3d Cir. 1996). Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Howard Hess Denal Labs., Inc. v. Dentsply Int'l, Inc., 602 F.3d 237, 251 (3d Cir. 2010). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the non-moving party has the burden ...


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