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Lawler v. Globalfoundries U.S., Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 30, 2014

MICHAEL T. LAWLER, and MEGAN LAWLER, Plaintiffs,
v.
GLOBALFOUNDRIES U.S., INC., and M U.S., INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION & ORDER

LAWRENCE E. KAHN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Michael T. Lawler ("Lawler") and Megan Lawler (collectively, "Plaintiffs") commenced this personal injury action against Defendants Globalfoundries U.S., Inc. ("Globalfoundries"), and M U.S., Inc. ("M") (collectively, "Defendants"). Dkt. No. 1 ("Complaint"). Presently before the Court are the parties' Motions for summary judgment. Dkt. Nos. 35 ("Plaintiffs' Motion"); 42 ("Defendants' Motion"). For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Defendants' Motion is denied in its entirety.

II. FACTS[1]

A. The Project

Lawler worked as a pipefitter during the construction of a Globalfoundries semiconductor fabrication plant (the "Fab") in Malta, NY. Dkt Nos. 39-1 ("Plaintiffs' SMF") ¶ 1; ("Defendants' Response SMF") ¶ 1. Globalfoundries owned the building, and M was the general contractor. Pls.' SMF ¶¶ 2-3; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶¶ 2-3. M managed all construction design and construction activity on the project. Pls.' SMF ¶ 7; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 7. Lawler was employed by Westech Process Solutions ("Westech"), which was a subcontractor for certain work on the project, including installation of semiconductor fabrication tools. Pls.' SMF ¶ 9; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 9; Dkt. Nos. 46 ("Defendants' SMF") ¶ 7; 51 ("Plaintiffs' Response SMF") ¶ 7. M was in charge of hiring subcontractors for the tool installation portion of the project, and was also in charge of providing safety materials to the crew performing the tool installation in October 2011. Pls.' SMF ¶¶ 11-12; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶¶ 11-12.

The Clean Room is the portion of the Fab where semiconductor manufacturing takes place. Defs.' SMF ¶ 10. It is designed to allow the installation of the tools involved in the manufacturing process. See id. ¶¶ 8, 14. The tools sit on a raised metal floor ("RMF") that is 36 inches above a prefabricated concrete floor referred to as the "waffle slab." Id . ¶ 14. The RMF consists of 2 foot by 2 foot square floor tiles assembled over an aluminum framework that sits on the waffle slab. Id . The RMF tiles can be removed using a suction cup, allowing access to the interstitial space between the RMF and the waffle slab. Id . Various utility connections (e.g. water, gas, power, exhaust, drains) are routed up through the waffle slab. Id . ¶ 15. These utilities are then routed through the sub-RMF space and connected to the tools through openings in the RMF. Id . ¶ 16.

Lawler's job duties in relation to the Clean Room included bending piping that would eventually be installed in the sub-RMF space. Defs.' SMF ¶ 19; Pls.' Resp. SMF ¶ 19. Lawler later worked to actually install the pipes in the Clean Room. Defs.' SMF ¶ 20; Pls.' Resp. SMF ¶ 20. This work included conducting a trial run of the eventual installation of one of the initial toolings. Defs.' SMF ¶ 20; Pls.' Resp. SMF ¶ 20. In anticipation of the tool's arrival, Lawler and others situated pipes, ran piping, and installed supports both above and below the flooring. Defs.' SMF ¶ 20; Pls.' Resp. SMF ¶ 20.

B. The Accident

On the day of the accident, Lawler was working with a co-worker, Robbie Sellers ("Sellers"). Defs.' SMF ¶ 22; Pls.' Resp. SMF ¶ 22. In order to perform the assigned work, Lawler and Sellers removed two RMF floor tiles, creating two openings in the RMF eight to twelve feet from each other. Pls.' SMF ¶ 33; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 33. Sellers was assigned to work underneath the RMF installing pipe. Pls.' SMF ¶ 32; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 32. Plaintiffs state that Lawler was assigned to assist Sellers from on top of the RMF by handing him tools and materials through the hole created by the removal of one of the RMF tiles. Pls.' SMF ¶ 32. Defendants state that Lawler was acting as a spotter or hole watcher for Sellers. Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 32.

Sellers entered the interstitial space below the RMF through one of the holes created by removing the RMF tiles. Pls.' SMF ¶ 33; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 33. For multiple single tile openings, Globalfoundries and M's rules called for using either a non-rigid/soft barricade with a spotter, or a rigid barricade and no spotter. Pls.' SMF ¶ 44; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 44; Dkt. No. 37-7 ("RMF Opening Rules"). Lawler and Sellers set up plastic barricades around the perimeter of the area in which they were working. Pls.' SMF ¶ 43; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 43. These barricades were set up two tiles back from the openings and were there to protect bystanders from falling into the openings or entering the work area. Pls.' SMF ¶ 46; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 46.

At the time of the accident, Lawler was lying on top of the RMF, adjacent to the access hole. Pls.' SMF ¶ 36; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 36. Another Westech employee requested a copy of a drawing that Lawler had in a tool chest. Pls.' SMF ¶ 36; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 36. Lawler stood up, took a step to his left, and fell into the access hole, sustaining serious injuries. Pls.' SMF ¶ 36; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 36.

C. Investigation

M maintains a standard operating procedure of reviewing all safety incidents with their subcontractors at a daily 6:30 a.m. meeting. See Pls.' SMF ¶ 47; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 47. M reviewed this incident with Westech management to establish what occurred, and what Westech was expected to do to resolve or mitigate any risks. Pls.' SMF ¶ 48; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 48. In response to Lawler's accident, an initial Construction Incident Analysis ("CIA") was conducted and a report was issued within 24 hours of the accident. Pls.' SMF ¶¶ 49-50; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶¶ 49-50; Dkt. No. 37-2 ("Initial CIA"). Westech was in charge of completing the Initial CIA. Pls.' SMF ¶¶ 50-51; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶¶ 50-51. The standard operating procedure called for the M safety manager to review the Initial CIA and set up a formal CIA with the subcontractor. Pls.' SMF ¶ 52; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 52. Globalfoundries expected M to conduct the investigation of the accident, perform a root cause analysis, and plan corrective actions. Pls.' SMF ¶ 53; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 53.

In response to Lawler's accident, a formal CIA was conducted and a report dated October 20, 2011, was issued. Pls.' SMF ¶ 54; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 54; Dkt. No. 37-3 ("Formal CIA"). The purpose of the CIA was to create a correct account of the facts surrounding the incident, and to identify contributing factors and potential corrective actions. Pls.' SMF ¶ 55; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 55. M provided Globalfoundries with a copy of the Formal CIA, which describes the contributing factors as inadequate inspection of the area, inattention/distraction, and inadequate guarding of hazards. Pls.' SMF ¶ 56; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 56; Formal CIA at 3. Two corrective and preventive actions are listed for consideration: (1) "Coordinate with Construction Area Lead (CAL) to have rigid barricades set around multiple tiles to allow for easier access and have the spotter conduct operations from outside of the barricade (recommendation), " and (2) "When available use the manhole type' barricade to limit exposure of spotter to open holes." Id . ¶ 4. A manhole-type barricade is placed directly over an opening and is secured with straps. Pls.' SMF ¶ 58; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 58. In October 2011, Westech did not have any manhole-type barricades on site, although other sub-contractors did. Pls.' SMF ¶¶ 59, 61; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶¶ 59, 61. M was aware that Westech did not have such barricades, and Globalfoundries did not require such barricades for multiple single tile openings. Pls.' SMF ¶¶ 60, 62; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶¶ 60, 62.

D. Procedural History

Plaintiffs commenced this action on February 24, 2012, asserting claims under New York Labor Law §§ 240(1), 241(6), and 200, as well as common-law negligence and loss of consortium claims. Compl. Plaintiffs filed their Motion on October 21, 2013, seeking summary judgment on the Labor Law § 240(1) and § 241(6) claims. Pls.' Mot.; Dkt. 39 ("Plaintiffs' Memorandum"). Defendants filed a Response and Plaintiffs filed a Reply. Dkt. Nos. 56 ("Defendants' Response"); 60 ("Plaintiffs' Reply").

Defendants filed their Motion on October 29, 2013, seeking summary judgment on the § 240(1) and § 241(6) claims, as well as the § 200 claim. Defs.' Mot.; Dkt. No. 42-1 ("Defendants' Memorandum"). Plaintiffs filed a Response. Dkt. No. 52 ("Plaintiffs' Response").

III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) instructs a court to grant summary judgment if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Although "[f]actual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary" will not preclude summary judgment, "summary judgment will not lie if... the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Taggart v. Time, Inc., 924 F.2d 43, 46 (2d Cir. 1991).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of identifying those portions of the record that the moving party claims will demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof on a specific issue at trial, the moving party may satisfy its own initial burden by demonstrating the absence of evidence in support of an essential element of the non-moving party's claim. Id . If the moving party carries its initial burden, then the non-moving party bears the burden of demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact. Id . This requires the nonmoving party to do "more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

If the moving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial, that party must support its motion with credible evidence that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 331 (Brennan, J., concurring). Such an affirmative showing shifts the burden of production to the party opposing the motion and requires that party either to produce evidentiary materials that demonstrate the ...


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