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McGehee v. Southwest Electronic Energy Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

October 23, 2017

JACOB MCGEHEE and STEVEN RAY HEATH, Plaintiffs,
v.
SOUTHWEST ELECTRONIC ENERGY CORPORATION, FOREST OIL CORPORATION, and LANTERN DRILLING COMPANY, Defendants, and SOUTHWEST ELECTRONIC ENERGY CORPORATION, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
ENGINEERED POWER LP, TELEDRIFT, INC., Third-Party Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBIN J. CAUTHRON, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Third-Party Defendant Teledrift, Inc.[1] (Dkt. No. 118.) Defendant and Third-Party Plaintiff Southwest Electronic Energy Corporation (“SWE”) has also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No.124.) The appropriate parties have responded and the Motions are now at issue. The Motions share common facts and issues and both will be discussed herein.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs McGehee and Heath were injured while working at the Teledrift facility in Moore, Oklahoma. 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 tool 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.

         Teledrift leased the ProShot in question to Defendants Forest Oil Company and Lantern Drilling Company[2] and they returned it with the MWD tool 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 lithium battery cell inside the tool exploded, causing harm to Plaintiffs.

         Plaintiffs filed suit against SWE for defective design and warnings of the battery pack that contained the exploding lithium battery cell. SWE filed a third-party complaint against Teledrift for indemnification, alleging Teledrift was the designer of the battery pack and SWE merely performed assembly tasks. SWE seeks indemnity from Teledrift pursuant to the dual-capacity doctrine and 12 Okla. Stat. § 832.1. Teledrift filed a motion for summary judgment on these issues[3] and SWE filed a motion for summary judgment asking the Court to find Teledrift was the designer of the battery pack.

         II. Standard

         The 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).

         III. Administrative Workers' Compensation Act

         The Administrative Workers' Compensation Act, (“AWCA”) 85A Okla. Stat. §§ 1 et seq., is Oklahoma's current workers' compensation statutory scheme, having replaced the Workers' Compensation Code (“WCC”), 85 Okla. Stat. §§ 1 et seq., on February 1, 2014. In its Memorandum Opinion and Order dated December 22, 2015, the Court applied the AWCA because the outcome was the same under each version of the law. (Mem. Op. and Order, Dkt. No. 58, p. 3.) Unlike the issue presented in the earlier Order, the present issues do not involve equivalent outcomes based on the statutory language. Therefore, the Court must determine which statutory scheme applies.

         The AWCA applies “only to claims for injuries and death based on accidents which occur on or after [its] effective date” and “[t]he Workers' Compensation Code in effect before the effective date of [the AWCA] shall govern all rights in respect to claims for injuries and death based on accidents occurring before the effective date of this act.” 85A Okla. Stat. § 3. Because Plaintiffs' injuries occurred on May 24, 2012, well before the effective date of February 1, 2014, the WCC shall apply to this case. See Holliman v. Twister Drilling Co., 2016 OK 82, ¶ 5, 377 P.3d 133, 134; Chaney v. Wal-mart Stores Inc., No. CIV-15-592-R, 2015 WL 6692108, at *11 (W.D. Okla. Nov. 3, 2015) (listing cases).

         IV. Workers' Compensation Immunity

         Teledrift argues that because it was Plaintiffs' employer, it is immune from paying indemnity to SWE for Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to the workers' compensation immunity statute. SWE asserts Teledrift's parent corporation ...


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