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Black v. Dixie Consumer Products LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

April 30, 2014

STEVE BLACK, Plaintiff,
v.
DIXIE CONSUMER PRODUCTS LLC and GEORGIA-PACIFIC CONSUMER PRODUCTS HOLDINGS, LLC. Defendants. Third-Party Plaintiffs.
v.
WESTERN EXPRESS, INC., Third-Party Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH H. McKINLEY, Jr., Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a motion by Third-Party Defendant, Western Express, Inc., for summary judgment against Third-Party Plaintiffs, Dixie Consumer Products LLC and Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products Holdings, LLC [DN 56]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and identifying that portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show that there is some "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the nonmoving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence... of a genuine dispute[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 252. It is against this standard the Court reviews the following facts.

II. BACKGROUND

On July 11, 2008, Plaintiff, Steve Black, sustained an injury while on the business premises of Dixie Consumer Products LLC in its Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant. Plaintiff was in the Dixie Consumer Products facility to deliver a shipment of rolled paper materials to the plant. While Plaintiff was on the loading dock, an employee of Dixie Consumer Products who was unloading the truck ran over Plaintiff with a forklift/tow motor. Plaintiff sustained an injury to his left foot resulting in a below-the-knee amputation of his leg. At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was employed by Western Express, Inc., a commercial carrier that had contracted for shipping services with Georgia-Pacific LLC. Jeff Gottke, Dixie's Bowling Green Plant Director, testified that the subject shipment occurred under the terms of this contract.

Following his injury, Plaintiff pursued a workers' compensation claim against his employer, Western Express. Plaintiff testified that he was acting within the course of his employment with Western Express when he sustained his injuries. Western Express secured the payment of workers' compensation for Plaintiff as part of his employment with that company for the injuries sustained as a result of the accident.

In October of 2008, Plaintiff filed suit against Dixie Consumer Products and Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products alleging that he was "negligently injured by the agents, servants, and employees of Defendants." (Complaint at ¶ 4.) Defendants filed responsive pleadings denying liability for the injuries sustained by the Plaintiff. In addition, Defendants affirmatively plead that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the exclusive remedy sections of the Kentucky Workers' Compensation Act. Defendants argued that they are "statutory employers" within the provisions and definitions in KRS § 342.610(2)(b) and KRS § 342.690. The Court entered a scheduling order allowing for discovery to be taken on the statutory employer defense. The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment on this threshold issue.

The Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants finding that the Plaintiff's complaint against them was barred by the exclusive remedy of workers' compensation. Plaintiff appealed to the Sixth Circuit. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit reversed the summary judgment entered by the Court and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Sixth Circuit concluded that because Dixie had not established that the work Black performed at the time of his injury was a "regular or recurrent" part of its work, it was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. On remand, the Plaintiff was allowed to amend his complaint against the Defendants. The Defendants were permitted to file a third-party complaint against Western Express for breach of contract for failing to defend and indemnify them in this case pursuant to a Contract Carriage Agreement. The scheduling order provides that the deadline for completion of pretrial factual discovery is July 1, 2014, the deadline for completion of expert discovery is October 14, 2014, and the dispositive motion deadline is November 13, 2014.

Western Express now moves for summary judgment on Third-Party Plaintiffs' claims arguing that: (1) Third-Party Plaintiffs lack privity of contract under the Contract Carriage Agreement; (2) the Contract Carriage Agreement relieves Western Express of any obligation to indemnify, defend, or insure Third-Party Plaintiffs for personal injury caused solely by their negligence; and (3) the Agreement is an adhesion contract arising out of and involving unequal bargaining power and, as a result, is void as to public policy.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Lack of Privity - Contract Carriage Agreement

Western Express argues that the Third-Party Plaintiffs lack standing to enforce the February 21, 2008, Contract Carriage Agreement because the Agreement is between non-party Georgia Pacific, LLC, and Western Express. Western Express contends that Dixie and Georgia Pacific Consumer Products are not parties to the Agreement and are not even identified in the Agreement. Western Express asserts that since corporations by their very nature are distinct, separate entities with only the power to enforce their own contracts and claims, any obligations of ...


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