United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
L. RUSSELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Backwoods Productions, LLC's
Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. 56. Plaintiff Ricardo
Romero has responded. Doc. 57. Backwoods replied. Doc. 58.
For the reasons that follow, Backwoods's Motion is
suit centers around a September 2015 altercation at the
Backwoods Music Festival, an overnight campout and weekend
concert set outside Stroud, Oklahoma. Plaintiff Ricardo
Romero, a manager for one of the bands performing at the
concert, allegedly sustained a serious cut to his upper arm
during a dispute with Anthony Creek, a security guard
employed by either Pro Security, LLC, or Event Security, LLC.
Backwoods Productions contracted with Event Security to
provide security guards for the concert. The altercation
began when Creek confronted Mr. Romero after he tried to exit
the concert by hopping the fence rather than using the
designated exit point. The pair's confrontation ended
when Creek's scissors-which he was allegedly using to
remove concert-attendees' wristbands-accidentally cut Mr.
Romero's arm while the two men wrestled on the ground.
The injury required four stitches and a healthy dose of
ibuprofen but no further medical expenses. Doc. 56, at 2.
Romero sued Pro Security, Event Security, Backwoods, and
Jacob Argraves (the alleged owner of Pro Security). The Court
has already dismissed all claims against Argraves and the
claims against Event Security and Pro Security for negligent
hiring, training, and supervision. Doc. 51. While the two
security companies still face claims for negligence based on
Creek's conduct, the only remaining claim against
Backwoods is for negligent hiring, training, and supervision.
Mr. Romero claims that Backwoods breached its “duty of
reasonable care in the hiring, training and supervision
of” the security personnel when it allowed Creek-a
convicted felon who lacks an Oklahoma license to serve as a
security guard-to serve as security at the concert. Doc.
15, at 4. According to Mr. Romero, Backwoods could have
easily checked the security guards for their licenses. In
response, Backwoods argues that because the duty to confirm
that the security guards were properly licensed rested with
Pro Security or Event Security, not Backwoods, it is thus
entitled to summary judgment.
judgment is proper “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 affects the disposition of a
substantive claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 247, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
demonstrating the basis for its motion and of identifying
those portions of “the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, ” that demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d
265 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). These specific
facts may be shown “by any of the kinds of evidentiary
materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings
themselves.” Id. When considering a motion for
summary judgment, a court must view the evidence and draw all
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348,
89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).
Motion hinges on a matter of law: did Backwoods have a legal
duty to ascertain whether the employees of the security
company it had hired were properly licensed? Arguing it did
not, Backwoods points to a recently decided case, Ritter
v. Joe Cooper Ford of Midwest City, LLC d/b/a Joe Cooper
Ford, No. 113, 733 (Okla.Civ.App. March 17, 2017), in
which the Oklahoma Court of Appeals found that a car
dealership had no duty to check whether the employees of the
company it had hired to transport and then detail the
dealership's cars were licensed to drive the vehicles.
Doc. 52, Ex. 1, at 26-27. Doc. 52, Ex. 1. In absolving the
dealership of any liability, the court relied on the general
rule in Oklahoma that “an employer is not liable for
the negligent acts or omissions of an independent contractor
committed in the course of performing the contracted
service.” Id. at 14 (citing Bouziden v.
Alfalfa Elec. Co-op., Inc., 16 P.3d 450, 455 (Okla.
rule might be simple enough, the plaintiff argued, but the
dealership, Joe Cooper Ford, was nonetheless liable for
injuries plaintiff sustained because Joe Cooper Ford could
have easily verified whether the persons transporting the
vehicles had drivers licenses. Id. at 2-4. Those
persons were employees of Ultimate Detail, the company the
dealership had hired to, first, transport several
decommissioned police vehicles from the dealership location
and then, second, detail the vehicles to remove the police
decals. Id. Joe Cooper Ford learned that these
employees lacked drivers licensed only after they led police
on a high-speed chase that culminated in plaintiff's
injuries. Id. at 3.
Court of Appeals held that the general rule applied to
relieve Joe Cooper Ford of liability. Id. at 36.
Oklahoma law was clear: a hiring party may be liable for an
independent contractor's negligence where (1) “the
work is inherently dangerous or unlawful, ” the hiring
party “owes a contractual or defined legal duty to the
injured party, ” or (3) the hiring party “knows
or reasonably should have known the contractor was
incompetent for the work.” Id. at 15. Because
plaintiff had presented no evidence that Joe Cooper Ford
should have known that Ultimate Detail was incompetent to
perform the work-that is, that its employees were not
licensed-Joe Cooper Ford was not liable. Id. at 21.
Oklahoma law imposed no duty on the dealership to verify the
credentials of Ultimate Detail's employees:
[Joe Cooper Ford] should be able to rely on the assumption
that [Ultimate Detail] will follow the law; it should not be
required to do what it would do as an employer - e.g.,
require a background check of its employees - or as a seller
to its customers who are interested in purchasing its product
- e.g., require customers to present proof of insurance or a
Id. at 28.
Ritter, the general rule controls here. Backwoods
should have been able to rely on the assumption that Pro
Security would follow the law and ensure that its employees
were properly licensed to serve as security
guards. Under not only Ritter but also
the general rule that hiring parties are not liable for the
negligence of independent contractors, Backwoods had no legal
duty to check the security guards' credentials. That was
the security company's obligation as an independent
contractor. Granted, if Mr. Romero had put forth any
evidence that Backwoods should have suspected the security
guards lacked licenses, Backwoods could face liability for
its failure to check. But Mr. Romero has not put forth any
such evidence. Judgment for Backwoods is therefore
Mr. Romero raises several arguments on why judgment for
Backwoods is inappropriate, none persuades the Court. His
first argument is essentially procedural: Backwoods, he
argues, has moved for summary judgment only on the claim for
negligent hiring-not for negligent training or
supervision. Backwoods, though, expressly moved the
Court to enter summary judgment in its favor on the
claims asserted against it, see Doc. 56, at
9, and the Court finds such judgment appropriate.
Mr. Romero argues that Backwoods was negligent because there
is no evidence that the company it contracted with, Event
Security, was licensed to provide security services. Again,
the Court acknowledges the confusion over whether Event
Security or Pro Security is the proper defendant in this
case. But at any rate, Mr. Romero is asserting a new claim.
His claim has never been that Backwoods was negligent for
contracting with Event Security. Rather, it was that
Backwoods breached its duty of care by (1) allowing
unlicensed convicted felons to serve as security guards and
(2) failing to check whether security personnel had licenses.
See Amended Complaint, Doc. 15, at 4. This new
argument by Mr. Romero amounts to no more than an
inappropriate attempt to informally amend his complaint less
than two weeks before trial.
Romero's third and final argument is, simply put, that
these facts are different than those in Ritter. Of
course they are. But this does not deprive Backwoods of the
presumption under Oklahoma law that an independent contractor
will act lawfully. And it certainly does not relieve Mr.
Romero of his burden to produce evidence that Backwoods
should have known that Mr. Creek or the other security ...