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Smith v. Holland, LP

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 15, 2019

DANIEL J. SMITH, III, Plaintiff,
v.
HOLLAND LP, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THOMAS F. HOGAN SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Daniel Smith was injured while working in a tunnel of the Washington, D.C. metro on October 6, 2013. He seeks to hold defendant Plasser American Corporation (“Plasser”) liable for the design and manufacture of the machine at the center of the accident-a mobile railway maintenance hub called a prime mover. Plasser has moved for summary judgment on Counts VIII-XI of the complaint-“strict liability of manufacturer, ” defective design, defective manufacture and failure to warn, respectively. Plasser contends that there is no genuine dispute of material facts, and that the contractor specification defense warrants the dismissal of all counts against it. [ECF No. 23]. The plaintiff both opposes Plasser's motion and has moved to strike it, [ECF No. 24], and Plasser has replied [ECF No. 27].

         I. Background

         On the night of the accident, the plaintiff was working in a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”) Red Line tunnel alongside employees from WMATA and Holland, LP, a subcontractor and additional defendant in this case. Opp'n ¶¶ 1, 3. Holland employees were using a welder affixed to the prime mover to weld pieces of rail together. Id. ¶ 5. The welding process generated a by-product of heated metal that burned a hole in a hydraulic hose connected to the prime mover. Id. ¶ 7. The hose leaked hydraulic fluid, and the fuel ignited into a fireball. Id. Reacting to the fire, a WMATA employee drove a crane away from the danger. Id. ¶ 8. The crane was suspending a rail that struck and injured the plaintiff. Id.

         This case is the third to arise from the same accident. See Felder ex rel. Ingram v. WMATA, No. 14-cv-1905 (“Felder”); Rardon v. Holland, LP, No. 16-cv-539 (“Rardon”). In the Rardon case, the Court granted Plasser's motion for summary judgment based on the contractor specification defense. Rardon v. Holland, 279 F.Supp.3d 93 (D.D.C. 2017). The Court found that Plasser manufactured the prime mover according to WMATA's specifications, and that there was no evidence that the prime mover had an obvious defect. Id. at 99.

         II. Legal Standard

         a. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56

         “The Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute over a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         The movant “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). In response, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324.

         At the summary judgment stage, “the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Although “[t]he evidence is to be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, ” Talavera v. Shah, 638 F.3d 303, 308 (D.C. Cir. 2011), “[i]f the evidence is merely colorable . . . or is not significantly probative . . . summary judgment may be granted, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

         b. Local Civil Rule 7(h)

         The local rules of this court require that “[e]ach motion for summary judgment . . . be accompanied by a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue, which shall include references to the parts of the record relied on to support the statement.” LCvR 7(h). Any opposition must be “accompanied by a separate concise statement of genuine issues setting forth all material facts as to which it is contended there exists a genuine issue necessary to be litigated, which shall include references to the parts of the record relied on to support the statement.” Id. When deciding a motion for summary judgment, “the Court may assume that facts identified by the moving party in its statement of material facts are admitted, unless such a fact is controverted in the statement of genuine issues filed in opposition to the motion.” Id.

         III. Facts

         a. The Plaintiff Has Failed to Comply with ...


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