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Waste Connections, Inc. v. Appleton Electric, LLC and Emerson Electric, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

May 8, 2014

WASTE CONNECTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
APPLETON ELECTRIC, LLC and EMERSON ELECTRIC, LLC, Defendants.

ORDER

THOMAS D. THALKEN, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on the defendant's, Emerson Electric, LLC (Emerson), Motion for Summary Judgment. See Filing No. 150-1 - Motion for Summary Judgment. Emerson filed a brief (Filing No. 150-2) in support of the motion. In response, the plaintiff, Waste Connections, Inc. (WCI), filed a Motion to Strike Emerson's summary judgment motion. See Filing No. 156 - Motion to Strike. WCI also filed a brief (Filing No. 176) and index of evidence (Filing No. 177) in opposition.

FACTS

WCI's action arises from an injury Rick Bremmer (Bremmer) sustained on the defendant Appleton Electric, LLC's (Appleton) premises (Appleton Facility). See Filing No. 1-1 - Complaint. On May 25, 2011, Bremmer was at the Appleton Facility to deliver an order for WCI when Bremmer fell into an open pit approximately twenty feet by twenty feet wide and five feet deep and allegedly sustained a torn rotator cuff and herniated disc. Id. ¶¶ 9-13, 18-19. Generally, WCI alleges the defendants' negligence caused Bremmer's injuries. Id. ¶¶ 18-21. The defendants generally deny the plaintiff's allegations and assert several affirmative defenses. See Filing No. 1-1 - Answer ¶¶ 3-4.

The defendants provided the following information in their corporate disclosure statement:

Appleton Electric LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of EGS Electrical Group, LLC.... Apple JV Holding Corp. owns 55.5% of EGS Electrical Group, LLC and SPX Corporation owns the remaining 44.5%.... Apple JV Holding Corp. is a wholly owned subsidiary of EECO, Inc.... EECO, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Emerson Electric Co.

See Filing No. 10 - Corporate Disclosure Statement. On April 7, 2014, the defendants responded to WCI's request for admission and admitted Appleton owned the facility where Bremmer allegedly sustained his injuries. See Filing No. 132-2 - Response. In the Order on Final Pretrial Conference, the parties stipulated Appleton owned and operated the Appleton Facility. See Filing No. 139 - Order on Final Pretrial Conference.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate when, viewing the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, "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); see Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011). When making this determination, a court's function is not to make credibility determinations and weigh evidence, or to attempt to determine the truth of the matter; instead, a court must "determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Schilf v. Eli Lilly & Co., 687 F.3d 947, 949 (8th Cir. 2012). A court must "look to the substantive law to determine whether an element is essential to a case." Chambers v. Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 351 F.3d 848, 853 (8th Cir. 2003). Additionally, "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Hervey v. County of Koochiching, 527 F.3d 711, 719 (8th Cir. 2008). "One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses, and [the rule] should be interpreted in a way that allows it to accomplish this purpose." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

A party seeking summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and must identify those portions of [the record]... which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (alteration in original). Specifically, the moving party "must show that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.'" Nitro Distrib., Inc. v. Alitcor, Inc., 565 F.3d 417, 427 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325). In the face of a properly supported motion, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to "respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042. "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [nonmoving party]." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).

If opposing parties tell two different stories, the court must review the record, determine which facts are material and genuinely disputed, and then view those facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party-as long as those facts are not so blatantly contradicted by the record... that no reasonable jury could believe them. A plaintiff may not merely point to unsupported self-serving allegations, but must substantiate his allegations with sufficient probative evidence that would permit a finding in his favor... without resort to speculation, conjecture, or fantasy[.]

Reed v. City of St. Charles, Mo., 561 F.3d 788, 790-91 (8th Cir. 2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted). "Although a district court must rule on a motion for summary judgment after viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, it is not required to accept unreasonable inferences or sheer speculation as fact." Id. at 791 (internal quotation omitted).

ANALYSIS

Emerson seeks dismissal from this action because Emerson does not own or operate the Appleton Facility where Bremmer allegedly sustained his injuries. See Filing No. 150-2 - Brief. Emerson argues the plaintiff inexplicably refuses to dismiss Emerson despite the fact that: 1) Emerson and Appleton admitted in their responsive pleadings that Appleton owned and operated the Appleton Facility; 2) Emerson and Appleton have stated in responses to requests for admission that Appleton owned and operated the Appleton Facility; and 3) all parties have stipulated in the Order on Final Pretrial ...


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