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Simpson v. Magnum Piering Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

July 9, 2018

MAGNUM PIERING, INC., et al., Defendants.



         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Brock Simpson's Motion to Compel Inspection of Non-Party Property, Doc. 37. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         I. Background

         This is a products liability case, which arises out of an injury that Plaintiff Brock Simpson suffered on June 1, 2012, while repairing the foundation of a residential property in Lee's Summit, Missouri. The owner of that property, the Smith Family Trust, is not a party to this lawsuit, and has repeatedly denied Simpson's requests to enter onto the property to excavate and remove part of the foundation where he was injured. Accordingly, Simpson has filed the present motion to compel, seeking to gain entry onto the property via this Court's Order.

         To understand the significance of the evidence that Simpson seeks, a brief explanation of the work he was conducting when he was injured is necessary.

         A. Foundation Repair

         When a foundation settles, one way to mitigate damage is to place “piers” into the ground beneath it. A pier is constructed by attaching a steel bracket to the base of the foundation wall, and then driving a pile-similar to a rod or a pipe-through the bracket and into the ground. Piles are typically thirty-six inches long, but they are capable of being coupled together to form a single, interconnected pile of customizable length.

         In order to drive the piles deep into the ground, after the bracket is secured to the wall, a hydraulic ram assembly (“RAM”) is positioned over the bracket. The RAM is secured to the bracket, and then connected to a hydraulic pump, which operates a hydraulic arm in the RAM that drives the pile down into the soil.

         The individual thirty-six inch sections of pile are not connected until the process begins. First, a single thirty-six inch pile is inserted into the RAM and driven through the bracket into the ground. Once the hydraulic arm is fully extended, it is subsequently retracted, and a second thirty-six inch pile is inserted into the RAM. After the second pile is connected to the first pile that is already in the ground, the hydraulic arm drives the piles into the ground together, just as before. The process is repeated until the piles reach an adequate depth, which is determined by pressure per square inch (“PSI”). The PSI is measured as the piles are driven. Once the interconnected thirty-six inch piles approach the requisite PSI, a shorter pile, commonly referred to as a “push pipe, ” is inserted into the RAM. The push pipe is then driven into the ground until it reaches the requisite PSI.

         After a sufficient number of piers are installed along the side of a foundation, multiple RAMs can be daisy-chained together and operated simultaneously to elevate the entire foundation. When the foundation reaches the desired elevation, the piles are partially bolted to the brackets, the RAMs are removed, and the piles are fully secured to the bracket. The piers remain in place indefinitely.

         B. Simpson's Injury

         On June 1, 2012, Simpson was using equipment manufactured by Defendant Magnum Piering, Inc. to install piers in a residential foundation. While installing one of the piers, having driven the requisite number of thirty-six inch sections of pile into the ground, Simpson inserted a push pipe into the RAM to finish driving the interconnected piles to their appropriate PSI. According to Simpson, at a time when the PSI was well below the specified level, the RAM he was using suddenly broke free of the bracket it was attached to and struck him in the left side of his face, causing significant injury.

         Following the incident, it was discovered that the push pipe Simpson was using had bent inwards toward the foundation wall. According to Simpson, this redirected the force of the hydraulic arm of the RAM against the foundation wall, which in turn pushed the hydraulic arm of the RAM away from the wall, and pushed the RAM upwards and away from the bracket. Simpson alleges that the combination of forces placed such an extreme amount of pressure on the single bolt securing the base of the RAM to the bracket that it caused the bolt to shear from the bracket completely. This, in turn, allowed the RAM to break free and strike Simpson.

         C. The ...

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