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Haile v. Hickory Springs Manufacturing Co.

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

June 9, 2014

MUSIE W. HAILE, Plaintiff,
v.
HICKORY SPRINGS MANUFACTURING COMPANY, a North Carolina company; INTERNATIONAL FOAM SUPPLY, INC., a California corporation; SEA MASTER LOGISTICS, INC., a California corporation; INTERNATIONAL CONTAINER TERMINAL SERVICES, INC., a foreign corporation in the Philippines; SHENZHEN ZHONGFU TRADING COMPANY, a foreign corporation in China; JOHN DOE 1; JOHN DOE 2; JOHN DOE 3; JOHN DOE 4; and JOHN DOE 5, Defendants. HICKORY SPRINGS MANUFACTURING COMPANY, a North Carolina company, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
PORTLAND CONTAINER REPAIR CORPORATION, an Oregon corporation, Third-Party Defendant.

Jeffrey W. Hansen, Joseph A. Rohner IV, Smith Freed & Eberhard P.C., Portland, OR, Attorneys for Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff.

Kurt C. Peterson Kilmer, Voorhees & Laurick, P.C., Attorneys at Law, Portland, OR, Attorneys for Third-Party Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING THIRD-PARTY COMPLAINT

GARR M. KING, District Judge.

Plaintiff Musie Haile brings a complaint for injuries he sustained while attempting to deliver (via semi-truck hauler) a container packed with scrap foam to defendant Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company ("Hickory Springs"). Hickory Springs filed a third-party complaint against Portland Container Repair Corporation ("Portland Container"), the company for whom plaintiff was delivering cargo at the time of the injury. Following additional discovery and briefing, I now have pending before me Portland Container's Motion for Summary Judgment against Hickory Springs' third-party complaint.

BACKGROUND

I. Allegations

Plaintiff, an independent contractor who delivered goods on behalf of Portland Container, brings a complaint for injuries he sustained after delivering cargo by truck to Hickory Springs. After arriving at Hickory Springs' property, plaintiff opened the container and two pallets of cargo, weighing approximately 600 pounds each, fell on him. He alleges he was knocked unconscious, suffering a concussive traumatic brain injury. Plaintiff had brain surgeries for subdural hematoma, had to have his fractured tibia reconnected with hardware, and was in the hospital for two months. He alleges economic damages of $348, 000 and non-economic damages of $5 million.

Plaintiff brings a claim for premises liability against Hickory Springs, alleging he was a business invitee of the company's. He alleges Hickory Springs had experience receiving overseas shipments like this and that it knew or should have known such containers posed an unreasonable risk of harm to delivery drivers. Hickory Springs, plaintiff alleges, owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect plaintiff from the unreasonable risk of danger and defective conditions arising from its regular receipt of such containers, and that it knew or should have known the cargo was not properly secured in the container. As a result, Hickory Springs was negligent for failing to implement or maintain reasonable and protective measures to prevent injuries to delivery drivers; failing to provide a reasonable warning to delivery drivers of the defective conditions; failing to instruct International Foam [the seller] to ensure the cargo in the container was immobilized; and failing to assist plaintiff in light of its knowledge that the cargo was likely to fall out.

Hickory Springs, in turn, filed a third-party complaint against Portland Container seeking contribution and indemnity. Hickory Springs alleges that because Portland Container hired plaintiff to transport and deliver the container to Hickory Springs' premises, Portland Container was negligent for failing to instruct and train plaintiff; failing to retain a qualified truck driver; failing to ensure the products and cargo were properly immobilized; and failing to provide plaintiff with the proper tools and assistance to open the container.

The negligence claims plaintiff brought against the American company who sold the cargo to Hickory Springs (International Foam), the shipper (Sea Master), and the company responsible for removing the container from the ship (International Container Terminal Services) have been dismissed. Plaintiff has failed to serve the Chinese company who sold the foam to the American seller (Shenzhen Zhongfu Company) and the John Does responsible for packing the cargo.

II. Additional Facts Offered by Portland Container

Plaintiff's contract with Portland Container explicitly describes their relationship as one of independent contract, as follows:

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR: The relationship of [plaintiff] to [Portland Container] shall, at all times, be that of an independent contractor. [Plaintiff's] employees or leased operators shall not be deemed the employees or agents of [Portland Container] for any purpose. [Plaintiff] shall have sole responsibility to determine and direct the manner, method and course of performing transportation service.

Millican Decl. Ex. 1, at ΒΆ 3. Portland Container notes that plaintiff's workers' compensation claim was denied because plaintiff was deemed an ...


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