United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING NOBLE ENERGY
INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND DENYING AS MOOT
PENDING MOTIONS IN LIMINE
FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
civil action was removed from the Circuit Court of Marshall
County, West Virginia. The case arises out of injuries that
plaintiff Timothy Lester (“Mr. Lester”) allegedly
received while operating his employer's water truck on
County Route 26 (“CR 26”) in Marshall County. Mr.
Lester's employer was C&J Well Services, Inc.
(“C&J”), a defendant in this civil action.
Mr. Lester was driving the truck to deliver water to a gas
well pad owned and operated by a joint venture consisting of
defendants Noble Energy, Inc. (“Noble”), CONSOL
Energy, Inc. (“CONSOL”), and CNX Gas Company, LLC
(“CNX”) and, collectively with Noble and CONSOL,
the “joint venturers.” C&J contracted with
the joint venturers to provide them with oil and gas field
services, including the transportation, delivery, and removal
of equipment and materials to and from the sites of the gas
well pads operated by the joint venturers. There are two
counts asserted in the complaint: Count I is a deliberate
indifference claim against C&J, and Count II is a
negligence claim against the joint venturers. Each count
includes a claim for loss of consortium as to Mr.
Lester's wife and co-plaintiff, Robin Lester. All
proceedings against C&J have been stayed pending an order
regarding exemption from the United States Bankruptcy Court
for the Southern District of Texas. ECF No. 55. All claims
against defendants CONSOL and CNX have been dismissed with
prejudice by an agreed dismissal order with the plaintiffs.
CONSOL and CNX had filed a motion for summary judgment, but
that motion has been denied as moot pursuant to the dismissal
order. Thus, the case is currently proceeding against only
complaint states that Mr. Lester was driving uphill on CR 26
at the same time two other drivers were operating tanker
trucks hauling fluids to the joint venturers' well pads.
The plaintiffs allege that Mr. Lester moved his truck as far
to the right as possible to avoid oncoming traffic but was
run off the road by the two tanker trucks coming from the
joint venturers' well pads in the opposite direction. The
complaint states that the roadway and shoulder of CR 26
collapsed, which caused Mr. Lester's truck to roll over
the guardrail and down a steep embankment, where the truck
struck a tree.
complaint also states that the joint venturers' traffic
plan for CR 26 required drivers driving uphill to call ahead
over their radios and drivers driving downhill to respond by
yielding to the uphill drivers. The complaint alleges,
however, that the two downhill drivers did not yield to Mr.
Lester when Mr. Lester indicated over his radio that he was
driving uphill towards the well pad. The plaintiffs allege
that the downhill drivers' failure to yield to him is
what caused him to run off the road.
plaintiffs then allege that Mr. Lester sustained severe and
permanent injuries as a result of the accident. The
plaintiffs further allege that the joint venturers'
traffic plan was dangerously deficient because it did not
properly regulate the flow of heavy trucks on CR 26.
Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that the joint venturers
were negligent in the maintenance and repair of CR 26, which
allowed the roadway and shoulder to become undercut, soft,
and subject to collapse.
filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, which this Court
granted in part and denied in part. Noble is named in Count
II of the complaint, which alleged that the joint venturers
were negligent both in the maintenance and repair of CR 26
and in the formulation and implementation of a traffic
control plan for CR 26. The plaintiffs based these
allegations on two separate duties of care. First, Count II
alleged that the joint venturers had a duty to maintain and
control CR 26 by virtue of the permits issued to them by the
West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of
Highways (the “WVDOH”). Second, Count II alleged
that the joint venturers had a duty under West Virginia law
to provide Mr. Lester, an invitee, with a reasonably safe
workspace. This Court granted the motion to dismiss as to any
alleged duty of care owed by Noble to Mr. Lester as to CR 26
by virtue of permits to occupy the premises. This Court
denied the motion to dismiss as to any alleged duty of care
owed by Noble as to Mr. Lester by virtue of their independent
has now filed a motion for summary judgment, which is fully
briefed and ripe for review. For the following reasons, this
Court grants Noble's motion for summary judgment.
Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, A party
asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must
support the assertion by:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . .
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the
absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse
party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The party seeking summary judgment
bears the initial burden of showing the absence of any
genuine issues of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). “The burden
then shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with facts
sufficient to create a triable issue of fact.”
Temkin v. Frederick County Comm'rs, 945 F.2d
716, 718 (4th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S.
1095 (1992) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)). However, as the United States
Supreme Court noted in Anderson, “Rule 56(e)
itself provides that a party opposing a properly supported
motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere
allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.
“The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of
determining whether there is the need for a trial-whether, in
other words, there are any genuine factual issues that
properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because
they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either
party.” Id. at 250; see also
Charbonnages de France v. Smith, 597 F.2d 406, 414
(4th Cir. 1979) (“Summary judgment ‘should be
granted only in those cases where it is perfectly clear that
no issue of fact is involved and inquiry into the facts is
not desirable to clarify the application of the
law.'” (citing Stevens v. Howard D. Johnson
Co., 181 F.2d 390, 394 (4th Cir. 1950))).
Celotex, the Supreme Court stated that “the
plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary
judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S.
at 322. In reviewing the supported underlying facts, all
inferences must be viewed in the ...