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Soto v. DCP Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

June 15, 2018

MAXIMINO SOTO, and PIEDAD SOTO, Plaintiffs,
v.
DCP INC.; DCP, LLC; DCP MIDSTREAM, LP; DCP MIDSTREAM MARKETING, LP; DCP MIDSTREAM MARKETING, LLC; DCP MIDSTREAM PAYROLL COMPANY, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER

          VICKI MILES-LaGRANGE JUDGE.

         This case is scheduled for trial on the Court's August 2018 trial docket.

         Before the Court is defendant DCP Midstream, LP's (“DCP”) Motion for Summary Judgment, filed February 1, 2018. On March 22, 2018, plaintiffs filed their response, and on April 4, 2018, DCP filed its reply. Based upon the parties' submissions, the Court makes its determination.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Maximino Soto (“Soto”) worked for Bennett Construction, Inc. (“Bennett”). In the summer of 2014, DCP hired Bennett, as an independent contractor, to help it complete a project known as the Chitwood Loop 16-Inch project. DCP was the owner and operator of both the Finley Booster Station and the pipeline comprising the Chitwood Loop 16-Inch project. The pipeline was intended to transport unrefined natural gas from well sites to nearby gas plants, where the gas would be processed into natural gas and natural gas liquids.

         On August 21, 2014, a 16-inch valve at the pipeline junction near the Finley Booster Station was damaged and needed to be replaced. The pipeline had been shut off, but gas continued to vent from the area around the valve setting that Bennett was to replace. A hot work permit was issued. Soto's supervisor brought Soto and his work crew to the site to assist with the valve removal. Soto was aware that natural gas was venting from the site, as he could both smell the gas and hear it venting, and knew that natural gas was flammable. As Bennett employees were working on the valve, a flash fire occurred, injuring Soto.

         On August 18, 2016, Soto filed the instant action. DCP now moves for summary judgment in its favor as to all claims raised by plaintiffs.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         “Summary judgment is appropriate if the record shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The moving party is entitled to summary judgment where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party. When applying this standard, [the Court] examines the record and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” 19 Solid Waste Dep't Mechs. v. City of Albuquerque, 156 F.3d 1068, 1071-72 (10th Cir. 1998) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

         “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Furthermore, the non-movant has a burden of doing more than simply showing there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Rather, the relevant inquiry is whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Neustrom v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., 156 F.3d 1057, 1066 (10th Cir. 1998) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

         III. Discussion

         To prevail on a negligence claim, a plaintiff must establish the following three elements: “1) a duty owed by the defendant to protect the plaintiff from injury; 2) a failure to perform that duty; and 3) injuries to the plaintiff which are proximately caused by the defendant's failure to exercise the duty of care.” Smith v. City of Stillwater, 328 P.3d 1192, 1200 (Okla. 2014).

         A. Reasonably safe work environment

[When] an owner of property engages an independent contractor to do work on his premises, he owes to the contractor's employees who enter the premises to perform the work the duty of exercising reasonable ...

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