United States District Court, D. North Dakota
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY
L. Hovland, United States District Court Chief Judge.
the Court is Defendants Hydra-Walk, Inc. and Key Energy
Services, Inc. d/b/a Hydra-Walk, Inc.’s motion for
summary judgment filed on December 13, 2018. See
Doc. No. 19. The Plaintiff filed a response to the motion on
February 1, 2019. See Doc. No. 31. The Defendants
filed a reply on February 13, 2019. See Doc. No. 34.
For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary
judgment is granted.
Plaintiff, Lukeus Scott, has alleged claims for products
liability/strict liability and negligence, asserting his
employer Key Energy Services, Inc. (“Key Energy”)
is bound by successor liability to answer for the design,
manufacture, sale, and leasing of a Hydra-Walk system, which
he alleges was defective and unreasonably dangerous.
Inc. (“Hydra-Walk”) designed and manufactured the
Hydra-Walk pipe-handling system which was utilized by the oil
and gas industry to pick up and lay down pipe. The Hydra-Walk
system consists of a pipe-sled and ramp on a platform which
is raised and lowered by hydraulics, all controlled by an
operator who stands on the ground at the control panel of the
Hydra-Walk system and manipulates the controls.
12, 2013, Key Energy employed Lukeus Scott as a Hydra-Walk
system operator. At no time was Scott employed by Hydra-Walk.
On June 24, 2013, Scott sustained injuries while working at
an equipment yard near Dickinson, North Dakota. He was
performing maintenance tasks on a Hydra-Walk system when it
became unstable and overturned, crushing him. As a result,
Scott alleges he sustained severe injuries to his spine,
right hand, legs, and internal organs.
Energy was Scott’s employer at the time he suffered
injuries caused by the Hydra-Walk system. As a result of a
2008 purchase agreement, Key Energy and Hydra-Walk merged.
Key Energy is the surviving entity and Hydra-Walk ceased to
exist as a separate entity. Key Energy now owns the equipment
and patents it acquired as a result of the merger with
Hydra-Walk. After the merger, the Hydra-Walk system was no
longer manufactured. Key Energy continues to provide
Hydra-Walk pipe-handling services, by renting the Hydra-Walk
units and supplying the employees necessary to operate them
for use on Key Energy drilling rigs as well as
competitors’ drilling rigs. The Hydra-Walk unit that
injured Scott was designed, manufactured, and sold or leased
by Hydra-Walk, prior to the 2008 merger of Key Energy and
Hydra-Walk. At no time did Key Energy design or manufacture
the Hydra-Walk system.
Energy has maintained workers compensation coverage
continuously since commencing operations in North Dakota in
1998. See Doc. Nos. 23-24. Key Energy reported
Scott’s injury to North Dakota Workforce Safety and
Insurance (“WSI”) on June 25, 2013. WSI accepted
Scott’s injury claim and awarded benefits under Key
Energy’s employer account to Scott. See Doc.
No. 23-7. Scott accepted WSI benefits. Scott alleges he has
been unable to work since the accident, receiving partial
wage loss payment for the past five years and continuing to
this day. As of June 12, 2018, WSI made payments on
Scott’s claim in the amount of $341, 537.13.
See Doc. No. 23-8. The Defendants now move for
summary judgment, asserting Scott’s claims are barred
under statutory immunity.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate when the evidence, viewed in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party, indicates that no
genuine issues of material fact exist and that 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(a). 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
purpose of summary judgment is to assess the evidence and
determine if a trial is genuinely necessary. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
Court must inquire whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require the submission of the case to a jury
or whether the evidence 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 bears the responsibility of informing the court
of the basis for the motion and identifying the portions of
the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact. Torgerson v. City of Rochester,
643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011). The non-moving party may
not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own
pleading; rather, its response must set out specific facts
showing a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(1). If the record taken as a whole and viewed in a
light most favorable to the non-moving party could not lead a
rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party,
there is no genuine issue for trial and summary judgment is
appropriate. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. The Court
must consider the substantive standard of proof when ruling
on a motion for summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 252. Because the Court’s authority over the claims
alleged is based on diversity jurisdiction, the substantive
law of North Dakota applies. Atkinson v. McLaughlin,
462 F.Supp.2d 1038, 1047 (D.N.D. 2006).
purpose of workforce safety and insurance law in North Dakota
is to ensure certain relief for workplace injuries,
regardless of questions of fault. See N.D. Cent.
Code § 65-01-01. Thus, an employer may not employ any
person in a hazardous employment without first applying for
workforce safety and insurance coverage for the protection of
its employees. N.D. Cent. Code § 65-04-33. If the
employer secures “the payment of compensation to that
employer’s employees by contributing premiums to the
fund, the employee . . . do[es] not have a claim for relief
against the contributing employer . . . for damages for
personal injuries, but shall look solely to the fund for
compensation.” N.D. Cent. Code § 65-01-08. Thus,
when the employer is in compliance with the workers’
compensation statutes, the employee’s exclusive remedy
against the employer is limited to recovery under the
workers’ compensation statutes (the “exclusive
remedy rule”). See Smith v. Vestal, 494 N.W.2d
370, 373 (N.D. 1992); see also N.D. Cent. Code
§ 65-05-06 (“The payment of compensation or other
benefits by the organization [WSI] to an injured employee . .
. are in lieu of any and all claims for relief whatsoever
against the employer of the injured or deceased
employee.”). To that end, civil claims for workplace
injuries are generally barred. See N.D. Cent. Code
§ 65-01-01; see also N.D. Cent. Code §
65-04-28 (“Employers who comply with the provisions of
this chapter shall not be liable to respond in damages at
common law or by statute for injury to or death of any
employee, wherever occurring, during the period covered by
the premiums paid into the fund.”). “The sole
exception to an employer’s immunity from civil
liability under this title . . . is an action for an injury
to an employee caused by an employer’s intentional act
done with the conscious purpose of inflicting the
injury.” N.D. Cent. Code § 65-01-01.1. Because
Scott does not claim his injuries were intentionally caused
by Key Energy, this exception does not apply.
is no dispute that Key Energy is a “contributing
employer, ” or that it was in compliance with the
workers’ compensation statutes. Key Energy has
maintained workers’ compensation coverage since it
first commenced operations in North Dakota in 1998, which
includes coverage for Scott. It reported Scott’s injury
to WSI on June 25, 2013, the day after his injury occurred.
WSI accepted Scott’s injury claim and awarded him
benefits under Key Energy’s employer account. Scott
accepted WSI benefits and has received payments from WSI. As
of June 12, 2018, WSI made payments on ...