The opinion of the court was delivered by: Daniel L. Hovland, District Judge United States District Court
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS PETRO-HUNT'S AND RPM CONSULTING'S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Before the Court are Defendant Petro-Hunt, L.L.C.'s and Defendant RPM Consulting, Inc.'s motions for summary judgment filed on January 15, 2009 and September 1, 2009. See Docket Nos. 20 and 50. The Plaintiff filed responses on February 16, 2009 and September 24, 2009. See Docket Nos. 22, 52, and 53. Petro-Hunt filed a reply brief on February 26, 2009 and a supplemental memorandum on August 25, 2009. See Docket Nos. 24 and 49. The Court grants the motions for the reasons set forth below.
The plaintiff, Mark Iverson, is a resident of Williston, North Dakota. Defendant Bronco Drilling Company, Inc. is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Edmond, Oklahoma. Defendant Petro-Hunt, L.L.C. is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Dallas, Texas. Defendant RPM Consulting, Inc. is a Colorado corporation with its principal place of business in Denver, Colorado. Defendant Kenneth McIntyre is a resident of Trout Creek, Montana.
Petro-Hunt, a company engaged in oil field development, leases and operates the Gordon Hall oil and gas well in Divide County, North Dakota. In 2005, Petro-Hunt entered into a written contract with Bronco Drilling to drill the well. See Docket No. 22-2. Petro-Hunt, by oral agreement, retained RPM Consulting, Inc., an oil field consulting company, to supervise the day-today drilling operations at the Gordon Hall well. RPM Consulting subsequently retained McIntyre by oral agreement to be the "company man" at the well. A company man supervises the drilling operations at a well. Among other duties as company man, McIntyre was to provide Petro-Hunt with daily well status reports, provide the North Dakota Industrial Commission with all required data and reports, ensure applicable safety and environmental policies were implemented, and provide technical guidance to ensure tools were properly used.
On September 4, 2007, Mark Iverson, a service technician for M-I SWACO at the time, was dispatched with his partner, Brad Murie, to the Gordon Hall well where they were to "rig up" a centrifuge and choke. When Iverson and Murie arrived at the well at approximately 12:30 p.m., Murie went to the "company man shack" to inform McIntyre that he and Iverson were there to rig up the centrifuge and choke. Iverson and Murie completed their work on the centrifuge and then went to a platform to work on a choke panel at approximately 2:10 p.m. Iverson dropped choke lines through a hole in the platform and then went into the substructure below the platform to hook up the choke lines. In a deposition, Iverson stated that he was pulling the choke lines tight when he heard an air hoist start and someone yell "look out." See Docket No. 21-7. An air hoist is a device that lifts and moves surface casing pipe (casing). Kim Broderson, a tool pusher for Bronco Drilling, was moving casing with an air hoist when the casing errantly went into the substructure and struck Iverson.
Prior to the accident, there was a safety meeting held at the Gordon Hall well at approximately 2:00 p.m. The safety meeting was supposed to be attended by every contractor present at the well. One of the items addressed at the meeting was that nobody was to be in the substructure when casing was being moved. In a deposition, McIntyre stated that he did not believe that Iverson and Murie were at the safety meeting, and that it was the responsibility of Randy Skarda, an employee of Bronco Drilling, to make sure that everyone at the Gordon Hall well was at the meeting. See Docket No. 21-5.
On January 18, 2008, Iverson filed a complaint against Petro-Hunt and Bronco Drilling in which he seeks damages for the injuries he suffered when the casing struck him. See Docket No. 1. Iverson contends in the complaint that the Defendants each owed a duty of care to safely move the casing and to avoid injuries to workers at the Gordon Hall well. Iverson argues that the Defendants negligently breached their duties by failing to safely move the casing, failing to use proper equipment and techniques, failing to warn Iverson, and failing to take proper precautions. Petro-Hunt filed a motion for summary judgment on January 15, 2009. See Docket No. 20. On April 6, 2009, Iverson filed an amended complaint, adding RPM Consulting and Kenneth McIntyre as defendants. See Docket No. 34.
The Court amended the pretrial deadlines on June 3, 2009, allowing a September 1, 2009 deadline for the Defendants to supplement the pending motions for summary judgment or file additional dispositive motions regarding the issue of independent contractor liability. See Docket No. 47. Petro-Hunt filed a supplemental memorandum in support on August 25, 2009. See Docket No. 49. RPM Consulting filed a motion for summary judgment on September 1, 2009. See Docket No. 50. Neither Bronco Drilling nor Kenneth McIntyre has filed a motion for summary judgment or joined Petro-Hunt's or RPM Consulting's motions.
Petro-Hunt first contends that it is not directly liable for Iverson's injuries because it did not have any employees at the well and was not directly involved in the activities that led to Iverson's injuries. Petro-Hunt contends that it did not owe Iverson a duty to protect him from injuries caused by the acts or omissions of independent contractors, RPM Consulting, Ken McIntyre, and Bronco Drilling, because it did not retain control over RPM Consulting or Ken McIntyre, and reasonably delegated its retained control over Bronco Drilling to RPM Consulting. Petro-Hunt also contends that it did not owe Iverson a duty to protect him from injuries caused by the acts or omissions of RPM Consulting, Ken McIntyre, and Bronco Drilling because "the delegated task at issue, moving casing, can be performed safely and without extraordinary risk to the individuals on site when conducted in an ordinary and reasonable manner." See Docket Nos. 21 and 49.
RPM Consulting adopts Petro-Hunt's legal arguments and relevant factual statements. RPM Consulting further contends that it hired McIntyre as an independent contractor, did not retain control over McIntyre's activities, was not negligent in hiring McIntyre, and the activities McIntyre performed were not of such a nature as to make the duty of care non-delegable. On the basis that RPM Consulting hired McIntyre as an independent contractor and did not retain control over the work being performed by McIntyre, Iverson has no objection to RPM Consulting's motion for summary judgment. See Docket No. 52.
Iverson contends that there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether RPM Consulting and McIntyre were employee-agents and not independent contractors of Petro-Hunt. Iverson contends that even if RPM Consulting, McIntyre, and Bronco Drilling are found to be independent contractors, there is still a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Petro-Hunt retained control over the work performed by McIntyre and Bronco Drilling and, therefore, owed Iverson a duty to protect him from injuries caused by the acts or omissions of McIntyre and Bronco Drilling.
Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, indicates no genuine issues of material fact exist and, therefore, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Davison v. City of Minneapolis, Minn., 490 F.3d 648, 654 (8th Cir. 2007); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Summary judgment is not appropriate if there are factual disputes that may affect the outcome of the case under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id.
The Court must inquire whether the evidence presents sufficient disagreement to require the submission of the case to a jury or if it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law. Diesel Mach., Inc. v. B.R. Lee Indus., Inc., 418 F.3d 820, 832 (8th Cir. 2005). The moving party first has the burden of demonstrating an absence of genuine issues of material fact. Simpson v. Des Moines Water Works, 425 F.3d 538, 541 (8th Cir. 2005). The non-moving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the ...