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Fergin v. Westrock Co.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

June 14, 2018



          Laurie Smith Camp Chief United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 122, filed by Defendant Westrock Company, and the Motion to Deny or Defer Summary Judgment (Rule 56(d) Motion), ECF No. 135, filed by Plaintiff Michael Fergin. For the reasons stated below, the Rule 56(d) Motion will be denied and the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.


         The following facts are those stated in the parties' briefs, supported by pinpoint citations to evidence in the record, and admitted, or not properly resisted, by the opposing party as required by NECivR 56.1[2] and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

         In February of 2013, Westrock, then known as RockTenn, agreed to provide corrugated cardboard material to Fergin's employer, Becton Dickinson. Westrock Supp. Brief ¶¶ 5, 7, & 13, ECF No. 123, Page ID 654. Sometime in 2013, Becton Dickinson provided Westrock pallets on which to stack the corrugated cardboard for transport to Becton Dickinson. Id. ¶ 6. Westrock contracted with Defendant XPO, then known as the Jacobson Warehouse Co., to store the pallets and load them onto semitrailers for transport. Westrock contracted with Magnum LTL, Inc., [3] to ship the pallets. On February 19, 2013, XPO received the load of corrugated cardboard from Westrock. Id., ¶ 8. Magnum delivered the load to Becton Dickinson. Id., ¶ 12.

         On February 19, 2016, Fergin began unloading the pallets of corrugated cardboard from the semitrailer delivered by Magnum. Id., ¶ 13. Fergin opened the right trailer door and started to “walk it back to the left side of the trailer” when a stack of cardboard fell on him, knocking him to the ground and fracturing his left shoulder. Id., ¶ 14, Page ID 655.

         In his Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 64, Fergin alleged that his injury was caused by Defendants' “joint and concurring negligence.” Id., Page ID 316. Specifically, Fergin alleged that Defendants failed to inspect the pallets used to stack the cardboard material; that Defendants stacked the material on a damaged pallet, which they knew or should have known made the stack unstable and likely to fall; that Defendants placed the unstable stack in the left rear corner of the trailer where it would fall out of the trailer; and that Defendants failed to strap or otherwise secure the stack to keep it from shifting and toppling before unloading. Id., ECF No. 317.


         “Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, presents no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Garrison v. ConAgra Foods Packaged Foods, LLC, 833 F.3d 881, 884 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “Summary judgment is not disfavored and is designed for every action.” Briscoe v. Cty. of St. Louis, 690 F.3d 1004, 1011 n.2 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1043 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc)). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court will view “the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party . . . drawing all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Whitney v. Guys, Inc., 826 F.3d 1074, 1076 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing Hitt v. Harsco Corp., 356 F.3d 920, 923-24 (8th Cir. 2004)). Where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, “Rule 56(e) permits a proper summary judgment motion to be opposed by any of the kinds of evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves.” Se. Mo. Hosp. v. C.R. Bard, Inc., 642 F.3d 608, 618 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). The moving party need not produce evidence showing “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Johnson v. Wheeling Mach. Prods., 779 F.3d 514, 517 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325). Instead, “the burden on the moving party may be discharged by ‘showing' . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” St. Jude Med., Inc. v. Lifecare Int'l, Inc., 250 F.3d 587, 596 (8th Cir. 2001) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325).

         In response to the moving party's showing, the nonmoving party's burden is to produce “specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial.” Haggenmiller v. ABM Parking Servs., Inc., 837 F.3d 879, 884 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Gibson v. Am. Greetings Corp., 670 F.3d 844, 853 (8th Cir. 2012)). The nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, and must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Wagner v. Gallup, Inc., 788 F.3d 877, 882 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042). “[T]here must be more than the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute” between the parties in order to overcome summary judgment. Dick v. Dickinson State Univ., 826 F.3d 1054, 1061 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Vacca v. Viacom Broad. of Mo., Inc., 875 F.2d 1337, 1339 (8th Cir. 1989)).

         In other words, in deciding “a motion for summary judgment, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts.” Wagner, 788 F.3d at 882 (quoting Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042). Otherwise, where the Court finds that “the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, ” there is no “genuine issue of material fact” for trial and summary judgment is appropriate. Whitney, 826 F.3d at 1076 (quoting Grage v. N. States Power Co.-Minn., 813 F.3d 1051, 1052 (8th Cir. 2015)).


         I. Rule 56(d) Motion

         Fergin moves the Court to deny or defer ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment, to allow for additional discovery under ...

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