United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. CAUTHRON United States District Judge
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants
Forest Oil Corporation & Lantern Drilling Company
(collectively, the “moving Defendants” or
“Forest and Lantern”) (Dkt. No. 96). Plaintiffs
have responded and the Motion is now at issue.
McGehee and Heath were injured while working at Teledrift,
Inc. The incident occurred while Plaintiffs attempted to
remove a Measurement While Drilling (“MWD”) tool
from an encasing drill collar and a battery inside the tool
exploded. The MWD is a long cylinder that fits inside a
slightly larger collar; once combined, the tool is called the
Teledrift ProShot. Teledrift manufactures and leases out the
ProShot for drilling operations.
and Lantern leased the ProShot for drilling operations in May
2012 and when they returned the tool, the MWD was stuck or
wedged inside the drill collar. This was a common way the
tools were returned to Teledrift due to the snug fit and the
tendency for dirt and other drilling debris to get wedged
between the tool and collar during drilling operations.
Plaintiffs commonly used a combination of tapping or pushing
on the inner tool with a steel bar and spraying water inside
the gap to separate the parts. Unfortunately, the technique
was not successful on May 24, 2012, when the battery cell
inside the tool exploded, causing harm to Plaintiffs.
investigation that followed, bolts were discovered lodged
inside the ProShot that were not part of the tool. It is
disputed whether the bolts damaged the battery cell, causing
the explosion. This led Plaintiffs to assert negligence
claims against the moving Defendants, arguing it was
Defendants' duty to keep foreign debris from entering
downhole operations. The moving Defendants argue for
favorable summary judgment on the negligence claim and for a
determination that punitive damages are not available as a
matter of law. Plaintiffs argue there are disputed material
facts that preclude summary judgment and a determination on
the punitive damages question is premature.
standard for summary judgment is well established. Summary
judgment may only be granted if the evidence of record shows
“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). The movant bears the initial
burden of demonstrating the absence of material fact
requiring judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is material
if it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). If the movant carries this initial burden, the
nonmovant must then set forth specific facts outside the
pleadings and admissible into evidence which would convince a
rational trier of fact to find for the nonmovant.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). All facts and reasonable inferences
therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
establish the claim, Plaintiffs must prove the following:
“1) a duty of care owed by defendant to plaintiff, 2)
defendant's breach of that duty, and 3) injury to
plaintiff caused by defendant's breach of that
duty.” Lowery v. Echostar Satellite Corp.,
2007 OK 38, ¶ 12, 160 P.3d 959, 964 (citations omitted).
Whether a duty existed is a threshold question of law.
Rose v. Sapulpa Rural Water Co., 1981 OK 85, 631
P.2d 752, 756. “The most important consideration in
determining the existence of a duty of care is foreseeability
of harm to the plaintiff. Generally, a defendant owes a duty
of care to the plaintiff who is foreseeably endangered by
defendant's conduct with respect to all risks that make
the conduct unreasonably dangerous.” Lowery,
2007 OK 38, ¶ 14, 160 P.3d at 964 (citation omitted).
Another consideration is “the relationship between the
parties and the general risks involved in the common
undertaking.” Wofford v. E. State Hosp., 1990
OK 77, 795 P.2d 516, 519 (citation omitted).
argue they owed no duty as a matter of law to Plaintiffs to
prevent the MWD from becoming stuck. Defendants state that as
Teledrift's customers, there is no duty of care for the
customer to ensure the returned tool is safe for
Teledrift's employees to disassemble. Only Teledrift had
the ability to ensure its employees were safely removing the
MWD that often became stuck. Plaintiffs argue foreseeability
is more material to the duty inquiry than the relationship of
the parties. Defendants owed a duty to safely operate the
tool to all of those within the zone of risk of its
operations; this included workers on the jobsite and the
Teledrift employees who were expected to disassemble the tool
after its use.
compare this case to Delbrel v. Doenges Bros. Ford,
Inc., 1996 OK 36, 913 P.2d 1318, where the Oklahoma
Supreme Court found a duty of care extended to the general
public when an automobile dealer repaired a car in a poor
manner that later failed. The injury of a passenger pushing
the inoperable car off the road was a foreseeable risk to the
defendant dealer. Id. at 1996 OK 36, ¶¶
7-13, 913 P.2d at 1321-22. However, the holding is not
analogous to this case. In Delbrel the holding was
[O]ne who is paid to repair a car owes a duty of care to both
the owner of the car and to the general public to assure that
the repair is properly performed or the owner is warned of
its dangerous condition, where the dangerous condition is
discoverable in the exercise of ordinary care.
Id. at 1996 OK 36, ¶ 11, 913 P.2d at 1322.
Here, Defendants paid Teledrift to deliver a safe tool, not