Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Williams v. Roberts

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

April 20, 2017

JOHN T. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MIKE ROBERTS and KIM HOLLOWAY, Defendants-Respondents.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF NEW MADRID COUNTY Honorable Fred W. Copeland, Judge

          WILLIAM W. FRANCIS, JR., J. - OPINION AUTHOR

         John T. Williams ("Williams") appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Mike Roberts ("Roberts") and Kim Holloway ("Holloway") (referred to collectively as "co-employees"), finding that there was "no triable issue of any material fact." Williams claims that co-employees are not entitled to summary judgment because Williams produced facts sufficient to support a finding that co-employees breached a personal duty owed to him that was separate and apart from the nondelegable duties of their employer. We agree, reverse the trial court's judgment, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Facts and Procedural History

         "When considering appeals from summary judgments, the Court will review the record in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was entered." ITT Commercial Fin. Corp. v. Mid-Am. Marine Supply Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993). "We accord the non-movant the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the record." Id. So viewed, the facts are as follows.

         In January 2012, Williams and co-employees were employed by Associated Electric Co-op, Inc. ("AECI"). Williams was employed as a journeyman mechanic in the coal yard maintenance department at the New Madrid Power Plant ("NMPP"), and had been with AECI since January 1978. It is undisputed that Williams and co-employees were all working in the course and scope of their employment on the day of the accident.

         On January 11, 2012, co-employees were assigned the task of cleaning up the top floor of the NMPP crusher house, which required lowering any materials by crane through the outside door, to the ground. The top floor was approximately 60 feet from the ground. Williams' job was to be the "ground man" to secure the area and ensure no one entered the drop zone. During the process of co-employees rigging and lowering a load of materials, a piece of channel iron came loose hitting Williams and causing serious injury.

         Williams' recollection was that within a minute or two of his arrival at the drop zone, co-employees began lowering the materials. Williams was not told what materials were being lowered, but did recognize a 4-wheel cart-approximately 3-foot wide and 4-foot long-upon which materials were stacked. Co-employees were using two choker straps and a rope to lower the materials, but did not use a "come along, " even though one was also available in the tool room. Williams disputes that the configuration used by co-employees to rig the load was appropriate. It was undisputed that if the load had been secured properly, the 51-pound piece of channel iron would not have come loose from the rigging allowing the channel iron to strike him.

         Williams observed as co-employees began to lower the materials, the cart wheels would not clear the toe board.[1] Roberts radioed Williams to advise they were taking the load back inside the crusher house to be re-rigged, and would radio Williams when they were ready to begin re-lowering the load. Williams, believing that the load was being taken back inside to be re-rigged and believing that he would be notified when co-employees intended to begin re-lowering the materials, left his buggy and began to walk toward the north side of the crusher house to ensure no one was coming into the danger zone because he did not have time to secure the area with cones and tape.

         While walking to the north side of the crusher house, Williams was hit with the piece of channel iron. Apparently, while inside being re-rigged, the load became tilted causing the channel iron to come loose and fall striking Williams. Williams sustained a broken left shoulder and collar bone, three broken ribs, injury to his spleen, a laceration to his head, lost three teeth, a compression fracture to the thoracic region of his spine, and a brachial plexus injury.

         Co-employees assert that as they began to lower the load, it became hung up on the corner of a vent brace attached to the crusher house. After a discussion, co-employees made the decision to continue lowering the load in hopes it would become unstuck. As co-employees continued to lower the load, the load tipped and the channel iron slipped from the rigging, striking Williams on his head and shoulders, knocking him to the ground. Co-employees claimed that the load only tipped slightly.

         In October 2015, Williams filed his first amended petition naming co-employees as defendants. In separate counts, Williams alleged co-employees were each negligent in that they owed Williams a "personal duty to exercise reasonable care so that [their] actions did not create additional dangers beyond those normally found in [Williams'] work environment." Williams further asserted that co-employees failed to exercise reasonable care and affirmatively breached a personal duty of care which they independently owed to Williams in one or more of the following respects:

(a) [Co-employees] violated AECI's safety policies when [they] chose to begin lowering materials from the upper floor of the crusher house when [they] knew that they were not properly secured and when [they] knew that items falling from a distance of fifty (50) feet or more could reasonably result in death or seriously [sic] bodily injury to [Williams] who was acting as [the] 'ground man.'
(b) [Co-employees] violated AECI's safety policies when [they] carelessly and recklessly operated the sling device which lowered materials from the upper floor of the crusher house when [they] knew that items falling from a distance of fifty (50) feet or more could reasonably result in death or seriously [sic] bodily injury to [Williams] who was acting as [the] 'ground man.'
(c) [Co-employees] violated AECI's safety policies when [they] carelessly and recklessly failed to warn [Williams] when the materials that were being lowered shifted so that [Williams] could move to an area of safety.

         On April 1, 2016, co-employees filed their "Joint Motion for Summary Judgment, " "Joint Statement of Uncontroverted Facts" consisting of 96 purportedly uncontroverted facts, and "Suggestions in Support of [Co-employees'] Joint Motion for Summary Judgment." In the motion, co-employees asserted that Williams was unable to produce any evidence to support his theory that co-employees failed to exercise reasonable care and affirmatively breached a personal duty of care independently owed to him; co-employees did not engage in an affirmative negligent act that purposefully and dangerously caused or increased the risk of harm to Williams; and co-employees did not violate a personal duty ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.