United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is the defendant's motion for summary
judgment with respect to the plaintiff's negligence claim
against it. (Doc. 25). Based upon the court's review of
the motion and related materials, the defendant's motion
will be GRANTED.
following are the undisputed facts material to resolving the
defendant's motion for summary judgment. At the time of
the alleged incident, the plaintiff, William Figured, worked
as a “water hauler” for Holcombe Energy
Resources, LLC (“Holcombe”). (Doc. 26-2).
Figured's occupation involved delivering water via truck
to and from oil and natural gas drilling sites for the
purpose of assisting various companies with their fracking
operations. (Id.). One of those companies was the
defendant, Carrizo (Marcellus), LLC (“Carrizo”),
which owned the “Shaskas Well Pad” premises where
the incident occurred. (Doc. 1). Carrizo originally
contracted with Rural Wastewater Management, Inc.
(“Rural”) to have Rural remove and transport
water from its natural gas wells and into storage tanks;
Rural, in turn, enlisted Holcombe as a subcontractor for the
same purpose. (Doc. 26). It is undisputed that Figured was
working in the course and scope of his employment with
Holcombe at the time when the incident occurred.
testified that he had visited the Shaskas Well Pad for
work-related purposes at least thirty times prior to the
incident. (Doc. 26-2). The entrance to the site was
ordinarily chained shut with a padlock. (Id.).
Figured testified further that wide variations existed in the
applicable safety and work protocols at the Shaskas Well Pad.
(Id.). For instance, there was no uniformity to the
manner in which water haulers were instructed to load and
unload their water, the permissibility of using Carrizo-owned
equipment to assist with the loading or unloading processes,
or even the presence and availability of Carrizo employees
evening of December 29, 2013, Figured was in the process of
completing a work assignment to deliver water to a holding
tank at the Shaskas Well Pad. (Id.). It had recently
snowed there, and no Carrizo employees were on-site at the
time. (Id.). Specifically, Figured's job was to
unload water from his truck and into one of several holding
tanks by connecting a hose to either side and operating
certain release valves. (Id.). The ground
surrounding each of these on-site holding tanks formed a
“containment area” consisting of tarps and
barriers intended to catch and contain any dirty water that
happened to spill out from the hose during the water transfer
process or from over the top of the tanks themselves.
(Id.). One of those containment areas was filled up
with standing water to a level that exceeded the top of
Figured's boots. (Id.). The hose was lying
partially submerged inside the flooded containment area, so
Figured had to step one foot into the pooled water to be able
to pick up and attach the hose. (Id.).
Figured climbed up onto a ladder to ascertain whether the
holding tanks had enough room inside them to proceed with
pumping water into them. (Id.). This was a necessary
maneuver for Figured to be able to complete his job.
(Id.). Upon descending and dismounting from the
ladder, however, Figured stepped backwards with his wet left
foot onto the barrier that separates the containment area
from the surrounding ground. (Id.). As he attempted
to move his right foot from the ladder and back onto the
barrier as well, his left foot slipped off the barrier and
jammed into the ground, causing him to sustain injuries to
his foot. (Id.).
filed the instant action against Carrizo, alleging that
Carrizo negligently maintained the premises at the Shaskas
Well Pad and caused Figured's injuries. (Doc. 1). Carrizo
disputes this, arguing that it is exempt from liability due
to Figured's status as an employee of an independent
contractor. (Doc. 8). After the parties engaged in fact
discovery, Carrizo moved for summary judgment. (Doc. 25).
This matter has been fully briefed and is now ripe for
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
court shall grant summary judgment 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). A factual dispute is
“genuine” if a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the non-moving party, and it is
“material” if proof of its existence or
nonexistence would affect the outcome of the trial under the
governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-57 (1986); Gray v. York
Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992).
“[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not
defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary
judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue
of material fact.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at
determine whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists,
the court should consider the “pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986); Turner v.
Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990).
In doing so, the court must view all the evidence and any
inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641,
647 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers
Co., 206 F.3d 271, 278 (3d Cir. 2000)). However, the
court's function at the summary judgment stage “is
not . . . to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of
the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. See
also Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d
Cir. 2004) (noting that the court may neither weigh the
evidence nor make credibility determinations).
seeking to establish that a fact is or is not genuinely
disputed may not rely on unsubstantiated allegations; rather,
they must support such assertions by “citing to
particular parts of materials in the record” to
demonstrate that the adverse party's factual assertion
either lacks support from cited materials or is unsupported
by admissible evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). See also
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324 (requiring evidentiary
support for factual assertions made during summary judgment).
A party's failure to properly support or contest an
assertion of fact may result in that fact being considered
undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion,
although the court may also grant parties an opportunity to
properly provide support for an asserted fact. Fed.R.Civ.P.
prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party
must affirmatively identify those portions of the record that
demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material
fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24. The moving
party can satisfy this burden by showing that “on all
the essential elements of its case on which it bears the
burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for
the non-moving party.” In re Bressman, 327
F.3d 229, 238 (3d Cir. 2003). See also Id. at 325.
moving party meets this initial burden, the non-moving party
“must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to material facts” to avoid
summary judgment. Boyle v. County of Allegheny, 139
F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. ZenithRadio, 475 U.S. 574, 586
(1986)). Rather, the non-moving party must provide
“sufficient evidence” for a jury to return a
verdict in its favor. Id. “[I]f the
[non-movant's] evidence is merely colorable or not