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Williams v. Braden Drilling, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 24, 2014

DONALD WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
BRADEN DRILLING, LLC and EAST RESOURCE OIL COMPANY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Co-Defendant East Resources, Inc. (incorrectly named as "East Resource Oil Company") ("East Resources"). (Doc. 29.) The instant action arises out of an accident at a well site owned by East Resources, which resulted in personal injury to Plaintiff Donald Williams ("Williams"). East Resources seeks summary judgment against Williams, alleging that he failed to introduce evidence of negligence on the part of East Resources, and that because Discovery has closed, Williams will not be able to do so. Furthermore, East Resources alleges that all of the evidence demonstrates that if there was any negligent conduct, Williams was more than half responsible and so is barred from recovery by Pennsylvania's Comparative Negligence Statute, 42 Pa. C.S. § 7102(a). Because the evidence when viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff would allow a rational jury to conclude that the nominal employees of Co-Defendant Braden Drilling, LLC ("Braden") were in an employment relationship with East Resources, and the employees' failure to act with reasonable care when working with heavy equipment caused Williams' injuries, and that Williams was not more than half responsible for his injuries, East Resources' Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied.

I. Background

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff Donald Williams originally filed this action in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County on November 17, 2011. (Doc. 1, Ex. A. ) Defendant Braden Drilling, LLC ("Braden") removed this case to United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in December 2011. (Doc. 1.)

On August 9, 2012, in its Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant East Resources, Inc. ("East Resources") added a cross-claim against Defendant Braden for contribution and/or indemnification. (Doc 9, 7-8.) On August 24, 2012, Braden amended its Answer to Plaintiff's initial Complaint to include a cross-claim against co-defendant East Resources. (Doc. 12.) Following Answers by both Defendants to cross-claims (Docs. 12 & 13), a Case Management Conference (Doc. 19) and a Case Management Order (Doc. 20), the parties began discovery in August 2013. On February 24, 2014, I granted a Motion to Extend Discovery until April 1, 2014. (Doc. 25.)

On April 30, 2014, East Resources filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 29), its Brief in Support (Doc. 29-1) and Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 29-3), seeking judgment in its favor with respect to Plaintiff Williams' claim against East Resources.

Williams' Brief in Opposition was due on May 27, 2014. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 5(b)(2)(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(); M.D. Pa. L.R. 7.6. Williams failed to file a Brief in Opposition, or otherwise oppose East Resources' Motion. Thus, East Resources' Motion for Summary Judgment is ripe for disposition.

B. Source of Factual Background

Because Williams failed to file a Statement of Material Facts in response to East Resources' Summary Judgment Motion controverting East Resources' properly filed Statement, all material facts set forth in Defendant's Statement of Material Facts and attached exhibits (Doc. 29-3) will be deemed admitted pursuant to Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 56.1. See M.D. Pa. L.R. 56.1 (providing, in pertinent part, that "[s]tatements of material fact in support of, or in opposition to, a motion shall include references to the parts of the record that support the statements. All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement required to be served by the opposing party.").

C. Factual Background

This dispute arises out of an accident on November 19, 2009 at the site of a gas well in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 29-3, ¶¶1-2.) Plaintiff Donald Williams ("Williams") alleges that he sustained personal injuries while installing a piece of heavy equipment on an oil rig. ( Id. at ¶¶2-3.) At the time of the incident, Williams was employed as a gas well technician by non-party Tesco Corporation ("Tesco"). ( Id. )

Movant East Resources owns the oil, gas, mineral and development rights to the parcel of land in Wellsboro, called Brown Well, where this incident occurred. ( Compl., Ex. A, Doc. 1, 4.) East Resources hired Co-Defendant Braden to drill a gas well at Brown Well. ( Id. ) East Resources leased drilling equipment from non-party Tesco, Williams' employer, for use at Brown Well. ( Id. )

At the time of the accident, Williams was installing equipment leased by Tesco to East Resources on the rig at Brown Well. (Doc. 29-3. at ¶4.) The equipment-the "top drive"-was suspended from a crane. ( Id. ) The crane holding the top drive was operated by an employee of the drilling company, Braden. ( Id. at ¶6.) Williams' task was to remove a carrying stand in order to put the top drive into service. ( Id. at ¶5.) Williams was working closely with a "rig crew" of Braden employees. (Doc. ...


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