United States District Court, D. Idaho
AARON SCHULER and PAMELA SCHULER, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
BATTELLE ENERGY ALLIANCE, LLC, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER (DKT 15; DKT
W. Dale U.S. Magistrate Judge
before the Court is Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC's
Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. 15.) Also pending before
the Court is Aaron and Pamela Schuler's Motion for Leave
to File Amended Complaint. (Dkt. 22.) The motions are fully
briefed, and oral argument was held on the motions on May 30,
2019. For the following reasons, the Court will deny the
Motion for Summary Judgment and will grant the Motion for
Leave to Amend.
14, 2017, Aaron Schuler arrived at the Idaho National
Laboratory (INL) site in Idaho Falls, Idaho, to make a
delivery via a long-haul semi-truck. (Dkt. 1 at 2.) Schuler
was making the delivery to INL's Advanced Test Reactor
Complex (ATR Complex). Id. The ATR Complex is a
nuclear reactor designed to test nuclear fuels for the United
States Navy. Id. Schuler sustained serious injuries
while making the delivery.
Entities involved in the facts of this case
contractual relationship between the entities responsible for
managing and operating the ATR Complex is relevant to the
legal issues before the Court. The United States Department
of Energy (DOE) owns the INL. (Dkt. 33 at 12.) The INL,
located near Scolville, Idaho, is comprised of several
facilities, including the ATR Complex. Id. There are
two DOE administrative offices with responsibilities related
to the ATR Complex, the Office of the Deputy Administrator
for Naval Reactors (Naval Reactors), and the Office of the
Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy (Nuclear Energy).
Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC (BEA), is a Delaware limited
liability company with its principal place of business in
Idaho Falls. Id. BEA is a private contractor for the
DOE. Id. BEA contracted with the DOE's Nuclear
Energy office to carry out the Nuclear Energy office's
day-to-day operation and maintenance responsibilities with
respect to the ATR Complex. Id. at 13; Dkt. 34 at 4;
entity, Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation (Bechtel),
contracted with the Naval Reactors office to carry out other
responsibilities related to the ATR Complex.(Dkt. 33 at 13.)
Under its contract with the Naval Reactors office, Bechtel
designed experiments and purchased certain supplies for the
experiments, including “in-pile tubes” (IPTs),
which are used in a pressurized water experiment to test
nuclear fuel and materials under various conditions.
Id. at 12-13; Dkt. 34 at 4-5. Schuler was delivering
one of these IPTs on the day of the incident. Pursuant to a
purchase order with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GE Hitachi),
Bechtel purchased ten (10) IPTs. (Dkt. 33 at 14.) Under the
purchase order, Hitachi, the seller, agreed to supply the
IPTs to Bechtel, the buyer, and deliver them to the ATR
Complex in exchange for a payment of approximately $4, 500,
000. Id. The IPT Schuler was delivering, number 28
(IPT 28), was valued at $450, 000. Id.
contracted with a third party manufacturer, Vigor Works, LLC,
to make the large pipes, including IPT 28. Id. When
the manufacture of IPT 28 was complete, Hitachi contracted
with Combined Transport Logistics Group, Inc. (CTL), to
transport the IPT from the manufacturing plant to the ATR
Complex. Id. In turn, CTL contracted with Cardmoore
Trucking Limited Partnership (Cardmoore) to provide a driver
for the semi-trailer truck used to pick up and deliver IPT 28
to the ATR Complex. Id. Cardmoore assigned its
employee, Schuler, to be the driver of the semi-trailer
truck. Id. Cardmoore instructed Schuler to deliver
IPT 28 to the ATR Complex. Hitachi paid CTL $4, 300 to
deliver IPT 28 to the site. Id.
contractual relationship between the entities is illustrated
in the following chart:
33 at 15.)
Facts related to the delivery of IPT 28
Complex is a high security site. (Dkt. 1 at 2.) The ATR
itself is a nuclear reactor. (Dkt. 34 at 2.) The only
entrance to the site is through a vehicle inspection bay. All
vehicles are subject to an onsite inspection in the bay prior
to entering the ATR Complex. (Dkt. 1. At 2.) The security
guards who perform onsite inspections of vehicles entering
the complex are employed by BEA. Id.; Dkt. 33 at 15.
When Schuler arrived at the inspection bay, the BEA security
guards instructed him to pull his semi-truck completely into
the inspection bay. (Dkt. 1 at 2.) However, the truck Schuler
was driving had a 53-foot flatbed and was too long to fit
entirely within the bay. Id. BEA guards instructed
Schuler to drive the truck forward into the bay as far as
possible to fit the majority of the truck into the bay for
entrance to the inspection bay is protected by an in-ground
retractable vehicle security barrier that can be raised by
the security guards to prevent vehicles from entering the
bay. Id. Once Schuler moved the truck into the bay,
the security guards ordered Schuler to exit the truck and to
open the engine hood, all doors, all tool bins, and all other
enclosures on the truck. Schuler complied and was then told
to stand near the rear of his trailer while the guards
performed an inspection of the truck, including its
enclosures. Id. Once the inspection was complete,
the guards instructed Schuler to close the previously opened
areas, including the engine hood. Id. at 4.
close the engine hood, Schuler had to stand directly in the
front and in the center of the open hood. Id.
Because the semi-truck was pulled as far as possible into the
inspection bay, closing the hood required Schuler to stand
between the vehicle security barrier and the front of the
semi-truck. Id. The space between the security
barrier and the semi-truck was approximately 18 inches wide.
(Dkt. 37-7 at 10.) While Schuler was working on closing the
engine hood, one of the BEA guards lowered the security
barrier behind Schuler. Id. at 11. As the security
barrier lowered, it crushed Schuler's leg. (Dkt. 1 at 4;
Dkt. 37-7 at 11-12.) Schuler cried out, and once the BEA
security guard realized what had happened, he raised the
barrier and called for medical care. Id.
BEA's investigation of the delivery incident
17, 2017, BEA issued a Root Cause Analysis Report regarding
the delivery incident. (Dkt. 34 at 6; Dkt. 37-7 at 7.) In the
report, BEA concluded that the incident was caused by (1) the
negligent actions of the BEA security guard; (2) BEA's
negligent training and supervision of the security guard; and
(3) BEA's negligent failure to maintain and repair the
wedge barrier. (Dkt. 34 at 6-7; see Dec. Scott J.
Smith, Exhibit G, Root Cause Analysis Report, Dkt. 37-7 at
result of this incident, Schuler filed a complaint against
BEA alleging three claims: (1) BEA security guards'
negligence resulted in Schuler's severe and permanent
physical injuries, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life,
past and future pain and suffering, past and future medical
expenses, lost wages, and reduced wage-earning capacity.
(Dkt. 1 at 5); (2) BEA had a duty to entrust the retraction
of the wedge barrier to a properly trained, experienced
employee capable of lowering the wedge in a manner that would
not injure other persons, and BEA breached the duty
(Id. at 5-6); (3) BEA breached its duty to properly
supervise its employees through negligent supervision; and
(4) due to the personal injury of Aaron Schuler, his wife,
Pamela, suffered a loss of consortium. (Id. at 6.)
filed an answer denying each of the Schulers' claims.
(Dkt. 5.) BEA's answer also set forth six affirmative
defenses, including: contributory and comparative negligence
on the part of Aaron Schuler; res judicata and collateral
estoppel; Idaho's statutory employer doctrine;
Plaintiff's failure to name necessary and indispensable
parties, including his employer; lack of subject matter and
personal jurisdiction over the claims; and waiver, estoppel,
and laches. (Dkt. 5 at 5-7.) BEA then filed the present
motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 15.) In its motion, BEA
argues, because Aaron Schuler received worker's
compensation benefits, and because BEA is a statutory
employer of Aaron Schuler, BEA bears no third-party liability
as the worker's compensation benefits were Aaron
Schuler's sole and exclusive remedy for the injuries he
sustained in the incident. (Dkt. 16 at 1.)
BEA filed its motion for summary judgment, the Schulers filed
a motion for leave to file an amended complaint. (Dkt. 22.)
Therein, the Schulers seek permission to add two new causes
of action based in negligence and one new factual allegation.
Id. at 3. The motion also seeks permission to amend
the complaint to remove Pamela Schuler as a plaintiff and to
remove the claim for loss of consortium, because Ms. Schuler
passed away after the filing of the complaint. Id.
In response, BEA does not contest the motion as to the
removal of Pamela Schuler, but argues the remainder of the
motion is futile as the new causes of action would not save
the complaint against BEA's statutory employer defense.
In reply, Schuler argues that the statutory employer defense
does not defeat the claims in his complaint or in the
proposed amended complaint.
Motion for Summary Judgment
judgment is appropriate when the evidence, viewed in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party, demonstrates
“there is no genuine issue of any material fact and
that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Galen v. County
of Los Angeles, 477 F.3d 652, 658 (9th Cir. 2007).
Evidence includes “the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits….” DeVries v. DeLaval, Inc.,
2006 WL 1582179, at *5 (D. Idaho June 1, 2006), report and
recommendation adopted, 2006 WL 2325176 (D. Idaho Aug. 9,
moving party initially bears the burden to show no material
fact is in dispute and a favorable judgment is due as a
matter of law. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the
moving party meets this initial burden, the non-moving party
must identify facts showing a genuine issue for trial to
defeat the motion for summary judgment. Cline v. Indus.
Maint. Eng'g & Contracting Co., 200 F.3d 1223,
1229 (9th Cir. 2000). The Court must enter summary judgment
if the nonmoving party “fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
Idaho Worker's Compensation Act
motion requires the Court to consider the Idaho Workers
Compensation Act (Act). In general, the Act provides employees
a remedy for injuries sustained in the course of employment.
I.C. § 72-201; Robison v. Bateman-Hall, Inc.,
76 P.3d 951, 953 (Idaho 2003). While providing relief to
injured employees, the Act also limits employer liability.
I.C. § 72-209(1); I.C. § 72-211. The Act's
remedy for injured employees is referred to as the
“exclusive remedy rule.” Robison at 953.
Under the rule, worker's compensation payments are
provided “to the exclusion of every other remedy,
proceeding, or compensation, except as is otherwise provided
in the worker's compensation scheme.” Kolar v.
Cassia County Idaho, 127 P.3d 962, 967-68 (Idaho 2005).
Idaho Code Section 72-223 provides that an individual who
receives workers compensation benefits under the Act is not
precluded from brining an action in tort for damages against
a third party that is ...