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Schuler v. Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 18, 2019



          Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge


         Pending before the Court is Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC's Motion for Permission to Appeal, or, in the Alternative, Motion for Certification of Question to the Idaho Supreme Court. (Dkt. 69.) The motion has been fully briefed.

         Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motion will be decided on the record without oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the motion.


         On June 14, 2017, Aaron Schuler, a long-haul semi-truck driver, employed by Cardmoore Trucking Limited Partnership (Cardmoore) arrived to make a delivery at the Advanced Test Reactor Complex (ATR Complex), located at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site near Idaho Falls, Idaho. (Dkt. 1 at 2.) The ATR Complex is a high security location which houses a nuclear reactor designed to test nuclear fuels and materials for the United States Navy. (Dkt. 1, 54, 34.) Schuler sustained serious injuries while making the delivery when a security barrier was lowered and crushed his leg.

         Schuler's employer, Cardmoore, assigned Schuler as the transport driver for the June 14, 2017 delivery.[1] Cardmoore is a subsidiary of Combined Transport Logistics Group, Inc. (Combined). GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy had contracted with Combined to transport the June 14, 2017 delivery to the ATR Complex. Combined is incorporated in Oregon. Schuler claimed and received worker's compensation benefits in Oregon through Combined after he was injured at the INL site.

         Schuler has brought this negligence action against Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC (BEA) who manages and operates the INL and its facilities, including the ATR Complex, as a private contractor for the United States Department of Energy (DOE). BEA employed the security guards involved in the incident resulting in Shuler's injuries. The Amended Complaint raises five negligence claims against BEA: negligence - respondeat superior liability; negligent entrustment; negligent supervision; negligent failure to properly train; and negligent failure to properly maintain and repair. (Dkt. 57.)

         On January 14, 2019, BEA filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing it was both a Category 1 and Category 2 statutory employer of Schuler and, therefore, immune from third-party liability under Idaho's worker's compensation law. (Dkt. 15.) The parties fully briefed the motion and oral argument was held on May 30, 2019. In its June 12, 2019 Memorandum Decision and Order, the Court rejected both of BEA's statutory employer arguments, and denied the motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 56.) Following that decision, BEA filed a motion for reconsideration which the Court also denied. (Dkt. 59, 66.) BEA now requests permission to appeal, or, alternatively, for certification of questions to the Idaho Supreme Court. (Dkt. 69.)


         1. Certification for Permissive Appeal

         As a general rule, a party may seek review of a district court's rulings only after the entry of final judgment. In re Cement Antitrust Litig., 673 F.2d 1020, 1027 (9th Cir. 1982). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), however, a district court may certify an order for immediate appeal where: (1) the order involves a controlling question of law; (2) as to which there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion; and (3) an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation. 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).

         Interlocutory certification is a narrow exception to be applied sparingly and in exceptional circumstances. In re Cement, 673 F.2d at 1026. “The standard to certify a question of law is high and a district court generally should not permit such an appeal where it ‘would prolong the litigation rather than advance its resolution.'” Association of Irritated Residents v. Fred Schakel Dairy, 634 F.Supp.2d 1081, 1087 (E.D. Cal. 2008) (quoting Syufy Enter. v. Am. Multi-Cinema, Inc., 694 F.Supp. 725, 729 (N.D. Cal. 1988)). “In applying these standards, the court must weigh the asserted need for the proposed interlocutory appeal with the policy in the ordinary case of discouraging piecemeal appeals.” Id. (quoting In re Heddendorf, 263 F.2d 887, 889 (1st Cir. 1959)). The party pursuing the interlocutory appeal bears the burden of demonstrating the certification requirements of § 1292(b) are met. Couch v. Telescope Inc., 611 F.3d 629, 633 (9th Cir. 2010).

         “The decision to certify an order for interlocutory appeal is committed to the sound discretion of the district court.” Villarreal v. Caremark, LLC, 85 F.Supp.3d 1063, 1067 (D. Ariz. 2015) (United States v. Tenet Healthcare Corp., 2004 WL 3030121, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 27, 2004) (citing Swint v. Chambers County Comm'n,514 U.S. 35, 47 (1995)). “As such, ‘[e]ven when all three statutory criteria are satisfied, district court judges have ‘unfettered discretion' to deny certification.'” Id. (quoting Brizzee v. Fred Meyer Stores, Inc., 2008 WL 426510, at *3 (D.Or. Feb. 13, 2008) (quoting Ryan, Beck & Co., LLC v. Fakih, 275 F.Supp.2d 393, 396 (E.D.N.Y. 2003))). If the district court grants certification, “the court of appeals nevertheless has discretion ...

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