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Collick v. Weeks Marine, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 18, 2013

WEEKS MARINE, INC., et al., Defendants.


MARY L. COOPER, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Joseph Collick, brought this action against his former employer, defendant Weeks Marine, Inc. ("Weeks"), and defendant Haztek, Inc. ("Haztek"), to recover damages for personal injuries. (Dkt. entry no. 24, Am. Compl.) Weeks filed cross-claims against Haztek seeking, inter alia, "complete indemnity for all judgment(s) or settlement(s)" and "all defense costs." (Dkt. entry no. 25, Weeks Answer and Cross-cl. at 13-16.) Weeks now moves for summary judgment in its favor and against Haztek, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56, and requests that the Court enter an order (1) "requiring Haztek to defend and to indemnify Weeks with regard to plaintiff's claims asserted against Weeks in this action, " and (2) awarding Weeks attorneys' fees and costs. (See dkt. entry no. 167, Notice of Weeks Mot.; dkt entry no. 170, Weeks Br. at 25.) Haztek opposes the Motion. (See dkt. entry no. 175, Haztek Br. in Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J. ("Opp'n Br.").)

The Court will resolve the Motion on the papers and without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.1(b). The Court, for the reasons stated herein, will deny the Motion.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Motions for summary judgment are governed by Rule 56, which provides that the Court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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 has the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuinely disputed material fact relative to the claims in question. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). Material facts are those "that could affect the outcome" of the proceeding, and "a dispute about a material fact is genuine' if the evidence is sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party." Lamont v. New Jersey , 637 F.3d 177, 181 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The burden on the movant may be discharged by pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence supporting the nonmovant's case. See Celotex , 477 U.S. at 323.

If the movant demonstrates an absence of genuinely disputed material facts, then the burden shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate the existence of at least one genuine issue for trial. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Williams v. Bor. of W. Chester, Pa. , 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. , 475 U.S. at 587 (internal quotation marks omitted). The nonmovant cannot, when demonstrating the existence of issues for trial, rest upon argument; the nonmovant must show that such issues exist by referring to the record. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

When determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris , 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Wishkin v. Potter , 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). If the nonmovant fails to demonstrate that at least one genuine issue exists for trial, then the Court must determine whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See McCann v. Unum Provident, 921 F.Supp.2d 353, 357 (D.N.J. 2013). "A movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law if, at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." Id.

II. Application of Local Civil Rule 56.1

Local Civil Rule 56.1(a), a companion to Rule 56, (1) requires parties to present argument by reference to the materials in the record, and (2) allows the Court to deem the movant's factual assertions undisputed, where a nonmovant fails to present an argument by reference to the record. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), (e)(2); Carita v. Mon Cheri Bridals, LLC, No. 10-2517, 2012 WL 3638697, at *1-2 (D.N.J. Aug. 22, 2012). In pertinent part, Local Civil Rule 56.1(a) provides that:

On motions for summary judgment, the movant shall furnish a statement which sets forth material facts as to which there does not exist a genuine issue.... The opponent of summary judgment shall furnish, with its opposition papers, a responsive statement of material facts, addressing each paragraph of the movant's statement, indicating agreement or disagreement and, if not agreed, stating each material fact in dispute and citing to the affidavits and other documents submitted in connection with the motion; any material fact not disputed shall be deemed undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion.

L.Civ.R. 56.1(a) (emphasis added).

A movant's statement of facts and a nonmovant's related response serve a vital purpose, in that they assist the Court in identifying whether material facts are truly in dispute. See Am. Plaza, LLC v. Marbo Cross Shop, LLC, No. 08-5963, 2010 WL 455349, at *2 (D.N.J. Feb. 3, 2010). Local Civil Rule 56.1(a) thus puts the onus on the parties, rather than the Court, to find evidence of record supporting their respective arguments. See Baker v. Hartford Life Ins. Co., No. 08-6382 , 2010 WL 2179150, at *2 n.1 (D.N.J. May 28, 2010) ("It is not the Court's responsibility to comb the record on behalf of Plaintiff's counsel."), aff'd, 440 Fed.Appx. 66 (3d Cir. 2011); N.J. Auto. Ins. Plan v. Sciarra , 103 F.Supp.2d 388, 408 (D.N.J. 1998) ("[I]t is the responsibility of each party to support its own contentions with a proper basis in the record of the case."). "Given the vital purpose that such rules serve, litigants ignore them at their peril." McCann, 921 F.Supp.2d at 358 (quoting Cabán Hernández v. Philip Morris USA, Inc. , 486 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2007)).

Weeks, pursuant to Local Civil Rule 56.1(a), filed a statement of facts in support of the Motion. (See generally dkt. entry no. 169, Weeks Statement of Material Undisputed Facts ("Weeks SOF").) Haztek filed a response to the Weeks SOF. (See generally dkt. entry no. 174-1, Haztek Resp. to Weeks SOF.) Haztek also filed a Counter Statement of Material Facts. (See generally dkt. entry no. 174-2, Haztek Counter Statement of Material Facts ("Haztek Counter SOF").) The Court will consider the facts recited by Weeks and Haztek, and any material fact not disputed will be deemed undisputed for purposes of the Motion. The Court will incorporate the undisputed facts into the following findings of fact.


A. The Agreement Between Weeks and Haztek

Weeks, a marine contractor, was hired by the United States Navy to reconstruct a pier at the Earle Naval Weapons Station in Colts Neck, New Jersey (the "Earle Project"). (Weeks SOF at ¶¶ 1-2.) The Navy contract for the Earle Project required Weeks to have a Certified Safety Professional ("CSP") on site whenever work was being performed at the pier. (Id. at ¶ 3.) Weeks contracted with Haztek to provide a CSP to serve as Site Safety Officer at the Earle Project. (See id. at ¶ 5; Haztek Resp. to Weeks SOF at ¶ 5.)

On July 12, 2005, Haztek sent a Proposal to Weeks for the services of a CSP, proposing a rate of $91.00 per hour for the CSP. (Haztek Counter SOF at ¶ 2; Opp'n Br. at 20.) Haztek began to provide a CSP to work for Weeks at the Earle Project during the week of July 12, 2005. (Haztek Counter SOF at ¶ 1.) Haztek's Proposal does not contain any terms concerning choiceof-law, insurance requirements, or indemnification. (Id. at ¶ 3; see dkt. entry no. 174-4, Decl. of Timothy J. Jaeger, Ex. B, Haztek Proposal.) Haztek's Proposal requested that Weeks sign and return a copy of the Proposal and send a purchase order to confirm Weeks's acceptance of the Proposal's terms and conditions. (See Haztek Proposal at 2.)

While Weeks never signed and returned a copy of the Proposal to Haztek, Haztek was nevertheless already providing services to Weeks. (See Opp'n Br. at 20.) On September 2, 2005, Weeks issued a purchase order to Haztek regarding the CSP for the Earle Project. (See Opp'n Br. at 20; Haztek Counter SOF at ¶ 5; see generally dkt. entry no. 174-5, Decl. of Timothy J. Jaeger, Exs. C-D, Weeks Purchase Order (the "Purchase Order").) The Purchase Order indicated a labor rate of $91.00 per hour for the CSP. (See Opp'n Br. at 21; Purchase Order.) The front of the Purchase Order does not contain any terms regarding choiceof-law, or requirements for insurance or indemnification. (See Haztek Counter SOF at ¶ 8; Purchase Order.) The front of the Purchase Order does not make any reference to the "Purchase Order Terms and Conditions" listed on the rear side of the Purchase Order. (See Haztek Counter SOF at ¶¶ 9-10; Purchase Order.) The Purchase Order Terms and Conditions do ...

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