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Layne v. Gavilon Grain, LLC

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

July 10, 2015

SHAWANA LAYNE (f/k/a Shawna Singleton) as Guardian Ad Litem and Next Friend to FRANK LAYNE, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
GAVILON GRAIN, LLC, et. al., Defendants.

Submitted: June 29, 2015

Upon Consideration of the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants, Gavilon Grain LLC and Hector Cabrera GRANTED

Jeffrey M. Gentilotti, Esquire, David A. Denham, Esquire, Bifferato and Gentilotti LLC, Newark, Delaware, Attorneys for Plaintiff Shawana Layne (f/k/a Shawna Singleton) as guardian ad litem and next friend to Frank Layne, Jr.

Robert G. Devine, Esquire, Michael W. Horner, Esquire, Rochelle L. Gumapac, Esquire, White and Williams LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorneys for Defendants Gavilon Grain, LLC and Hector Cabrera.

ERIC M. DAVIS JUDGE

I. Introduction and Procedural History

This is a negligence action brought by Plaintiff Shawana Layne (f/k/a Shawna Singleton) as guardian ad litem and next friend to Frank Layne, Jr. This matter arises from a November 10, 2011, work place accident which caused injury to Mr. Layne and Defendant, Jair "Hector" Cabrera. The accident took place at a facility operated by Defendant Gavilon Grain LLC ("Gavilon"). Access Labor Services, Inc. ("Access") had assigned Mr. Layne as a general laborer to Gavilon's facility. Several lawsuits arose from that accident, including the instant action wherein Mr. Layne[1] filed suit against several parties, including Gavilon, Mr. Cabrera, MSP Equipment Rentals, Inc., ("MSP") and Terex Corporation which was subsequently substituted with Genie Industries, Inc. ("Genie").

As to Gavilon, Mr. Layne claims that he was an employee of Access, and makes claims of negligence, agency and respondeat superior, and negligent entrustment. With respect to Mr. Cabrera, Mr. Layne claims that Mr. Cabrera, while acting as an agent, servant and/or employee of Gavilon, operated equipment in a negligent, careless and reckless manner. In addition to general and special damages, Mr. Layne also seeks punitive damages.

On September 19, 2014, Gavilon filed the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants, Gavilon Grain LLC and Hector Cabrera (the "Motion"). On October 3, 2014, Mr. Layne filed the Plaintiff's Response to Defendants Gavilon Grain LLC and Jair Cabrera's Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment.

On October 3, 2014, defendant Genie filed Defendant Genie Industries, Inc.'s Response in Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants Gavilon Grain LLC and Jair Cabrera. Also on October 3, 2014, MSP filed its Defendant MSP Equipment Rental, Inc.'s Response to Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants Gavilon Grain, LLC and Hector Cabrera.

On October 17, 2014, Gavilon and Mr. Cabrera filed the Reply Brief of Defendants Gavilon Grain LLC and Hector Cabrera to the Opposition of Plaintiff Shawna Layne, as guardian ad litem and next friend to Frank Layne Jr. to their Motion for Summary Judgment.

The same day Gavilon and Mr. Cabrera also filed the Reply of Defendants Gavilon Grain LLC and Hector Cabrera to the Opposition of Defendant Genie Industries, Inc. to their Motion for Summary Judgment and the Reply Brief of Defendants Gavilon Grain LLC and Hector Cabrera to the Opposition of Defendant MSP Equipment Rental, Inc. to their Motion for Summary Judgment.

The Court held a hearing on the motions and cross motions on March 16, 2015. All parties appeared and presented arguments in support of their respective positions. Moreover, the parties seemed to agree that the issue of whether Mr. Layne was a "borrowed servant" or not was ripe for adjudication by the Court. After the hearing, the Court reserved its decision.

Subsequently, on May 29, 2015, Mr. Layne's counsel completed a second deposition of James Engler, the facility manager for Gavilon. After the deposition, Mr. Layne immediately requested that the Court refrain from issuing any formal ruling on the pending dispositive motions so that the parties could supplement the record. The Court held a hearing on June 22, 2015, and granted the parties leave to file supplemental briefing. On June 25, 2015, Mr. Layne filed the Supplemental Brief in Support of Plaintiff's Response to Defendants Gavilon Grain LLC and Jair Cabrera's Motion for Summary Judgment and Cross Motion for Summary Judgment. On June 29, 2014, Gavilon filed the Reply Brief of Defendants Gavilon Grain LLC and Hector Cabrera to the Supplemental Opposition Brief of Plaintiff Shawna Layne, as guardian ad litem and next friend to Frank Layne Jr. to their Motion for Summary Judgment.

The Court has reviewed all the pleadings in this matter, as well as the deposition transcripts of Mr. Layne, Access employee Dennis Yetman, and Mr. Engler's two depositions. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants, Gavilon Grain LLC and Hector Cabrera is GRANTED.

II. Factual Background

On August 31, 2009, Mr. Layne completed a Pre-Applicant Job Questionnaire and an Employment Application with Access.[2] As part of the Employment Application, Mr. Layne also completed a W4 form and executed the Substance Abuse Policy.[3] Access has the power to terminate an employee if it finds a violation of the Substance Abuse Policy.[4] All Access employees must complete and execute Access' Policies and Procedures checklist. Paragraph 6 of that checklist provides: "I understand that I am an employee of this staffing company and only this staffing company…"[5] An Access employee is required to report any absence or late arrivals at work to Access.[6]

Mr. Layne was interviewed by Access, hired, and subsequently placed as a general laborer with Gavilon. Access did not expect general laborers to ride on boom lifts, and expected Gavilon and Mr. Layne to contact Access before it directed a general laborer onto a boom lift.[7]This is supported by the Client Safety Partnership Letter executed between Gavilon and Access which stated "Our employees will only work on jobs for which they have been assigned and trained. Any variance must be reported to our office before work begins."[8]

The Contract between Access and Gavilon has the following clauses:
ACCESS LABOR SERVICES takes care of our worker's Federal, Delaware State & Delaware Local taxes, as well as FICA, Unemployment, Worker's Comp. and General Liability Insurance. We bill you weekly and payment ...

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