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King v. Rocktenn CP LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 11, 2015

ROBERT L. KING, JR., and DORIS REGINA KING, h/w, Plaintiffs,
v.
ROCKTENN CP, LLC AS CORPORATE SUCCESSOR TO SMURFIT STONE CONTAINER CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

ROBERT F. KELLY, Sr. J.

Presently before this Court is Defendant, Rocktenn CP, LLC’s, Motion for Summary Judgment, the Response in Opposition filed by Plaintiffs, Robert L. King Jr. and Doris Regina King, and Defendant’s Reply thereto. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant’s Motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiffs, Robert L. King, Jr. (“King”) and Doris Regina King (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), are adult citizens of the state of New Jersey. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Defendant, RockTenn CP, LLC (“Defendant”), is a Delaware corporation with its corporate headquarters located in Georgia. Id. ¶ 2. At all times relevant to this litigation, Defendant operated a place of business located at 9820 Blue Grass Road in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (hereinafter the “premises”). Id. The premises consisted of a large parking lot with several loading docks connected to a warehouse building. (See Pls.’ Resp. in Opp’n to Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J.; Ex. F: Video.)

At all times relevant to this action, King was employed by Lily Transportation as a yard jockey, and worked solely at the premises. (King Dep. p. 38:1-2, May 14, 2014.) While working at the premises, King operated as a business invitee of Defendant. Am. Compl. ¶ 8. As a yard jockey, King’s job was to hook and unhook trailers in order to move them in and out of the loading docks. (King Dep. p. 38:4-11.) King primarily worked in an area of the premises that consisted of six docks where trailers could connect to the building, which are labeled one to six. (Id. p. 131:23-24.)

The Philadelphia area experienced significant snowfall on January 26, 2011, with accumulations totaling 14.2 inches, and additional snow totaling 0.9 inches on January 27, 2011, and 0.1 inch on January 28, 2011. (See Pls.’ Resp. in Opp’n, Ex. B: Nat’l Climatic Data Center (Snow totals for Phila. Int’l Airport, Jan. 2011).) On the afternoon of January 27, 2011, King started work at 3:00 p.m., and was scheduled to work until 6:00 a.m. the following morning. (King Dep. p. 52:18-22.)

When King started his shift on January 27, 2011, the conditions at the premises were as follows. The parking lot surrounding the premises was “plowed and cleared up.” (Id. p. 68:3-5.) The area between the trailers was not cleared of snow and/or ice, which was the typical practice at the premises.[1] (McVeigh Dep. p. 39:4-7 & p. 40:3, May 14, 2014; Bilbili Dep. p. 36: 17.) However, this area had been salted. (King Dep. p. 57:11-15.) The presence of snow and ice on the ground was apparent to King. (Id. p. 59:1-4.) Prior to starting his shift, King inspected the premises where he would be working, and stated that “from seeing what I saw, it looked like a regular, typical safe day to do my job that day, ” and that the areas in between the trailers were “safe enough for me to do my job.” (Id. pp. 68:20-21, 69:4-7, 71-72:23-2.) Although King could have notified his supervisor, Fredi Bilbili (“Bilbili”), of any snow or ice and have the area salted, he did not take such action. (Id. p. 71:5-12; p. 146:18-20.)

Sometime in the morning hours before 6:00 a.m., King received a call directing him to remove the trailer that was currently positioned at door six of the loading dock, and replace it with another designated trailer. (Id. p. 73:10-12.) Prior to the call, King asserts that he had not worked in the area of door six during his shift. (Id. p. 70:9-12.) In order to complete this task, King had to hook the trailer onto a tractor. (Id. p. 73:13-18.) Because the overhead light affixed to the warehouse building is on the passenger side of the tractor, it is dark on the driver’s side where King had to hook in the trailer. (Id. p. 55:11-17.) King was grasping a “hold bar” attached to the tractor with his left hand in order to steady himself while hooking the tractor to the trailer. (Id. p. 73:20-24.) After successfully completing the hookup, King slipped while “maneuvering” to get back into the tractor. (Id. p. 84:16-18.) Upon slipping, all of King’s weight shifted onto his left shoulder causing a “pop.” (Id. p. 74:1-3; 86:7-11.) King then fell and landed on his backside. (Id. p. 86:19.) Despite the pain in his shoulder, King, not only finished his shift, he worked overtime until his relief arrived for work. (Id. p. 74:20-24.) After work, King immediately sought medical attention. (Id. p. 120: 15.) Initially, King was diagnosed with a shoulder sprain (Id. p. 185:4-5), but later, an MRI showed tears in his shoulder (Id. p. 186:1-2.), which required surgery. (Id. p. 198:4-6.)

B. Procedural History

On October 11, 2013, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint against Defendant alleging negligence and loss of consortium. See Am. Compl. In general, the suit alleges that Defendant was negligent in maintaining the premises from the dangers of snow and ice on the date of King’s fall, and that Defendant’s negligence was the direct and proximate cause of the injuries suffered by King. (Id. ¶¶ 22-26.)

On November 15, 2013, Defendant removed this action based on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (See Doc. No. 1.) After a series of extensions, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment on March 16, 2015. (See Doc. No. 34.) Plaintiffs filed a Reply in Opposition on March 30, 2015, to which Defendant submitted a Reply on April 8, 2015. (See Doc. No. 37; see also Doc. No. 40.)

II. STANDARD OF LAW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) states that summary judgment is proper “if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” See Hines v. Consol. Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 262, 267 (3d Cir. 1991). The Court asks “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether . . . one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit after applying the substantive law. Further, a dispute over a material fact must be ‘genuine, ...


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