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Dukes v. Millennium Ocean Shipping Co., Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

June 3, 2019

ANTONIO DUKES, Plaintiff,
v.
MILLENNIUM OCEAN SHIPPING CO. LTD., and MASTERMIND SHIP MANAGEMENT, LTD., Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM T. MOORE Jr. JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 30), to which Plaintiff has responded (Doc. 35). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED. Accordingly, Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED. The Clerk is DIRECTED to close this case.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises from an injury Plaintiff Antonio Dukes received while working as a longshoreman on the M.V ATLANTIC PENDANT ("Vessel"), a foreign-flagged vessel owned by Defendant Millennium Ocean Shipping Co. LTD ("Millennium") and managed by Defendant Mastermind Ship Management, LTD ("Mastermind"). (Doc. 31 at 1-2.) At the time of the incident, Plaintiff, a member of the International Longshoreman's Association Local 1441 since 200 6, was employed as a longshoreman by Marine Terminals Corporation-East d/b/a Ports America Stevedores ("Ports America"). (Id.) Ports America operates as a stevedoring company that carries out the actual loading of cargo onto vessels in the Port of Savannah. (Id. at 1.)

         On January 3, 2015, the Vessel called at the Port of Savannah and hired Ports America to assist with the loading of Kraft Liner Board paper rolls (``KLB rolls") . (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff Dukes was working on the Vessel as a holdman and was tasked with stowing the KLB rolls in the cargo hold of the Vessel. Plaintiff was working alongside two other members of the stevedoring company, Eugene Miller and Bobby Chisolm. (Id.)

         The process of stowing the KLB rolls required that a longshoreman, in this case Plaintiff Dukes, access the top of the KLB rolls that were 8 to 10 feet in height in order to guide subsequent drafts of the KLB rolls into place. (Id. at 2.) In order to access the top of the KLB rolls, Plaintiff was required to use a ladder. (Id. at 2-3.) In this case, Plaintiff used a 10-foot ladder that was located in the hold of the ship. (Id.) There were no identifying marks on the ladder and Plaintiff did not know who owned the ladder at the time but had possibly seen other longshoremen use the same ladder at least once or twice. (Id.) Plaintiff did not inspect the ladder or check to see if there were skid-resistant feet on the bottom of the ladder. (Id. at 3.)

         As Plaintiff was using the ladder to access the top of the KLB rolls, the ladder moved underneath Plaintiff, causing him to fall to the floor of the hold. (Id.) At this point, Plaintiff recognized that the ladder did not have any skid-resistant feet. (Id.) Despite his fall, Plaintiff continued to use the ladder to access the top of the KLB rolls for the remainder of his shift. (Id. at 3-4.) Mr. Miller held the bottom of the ladder while Plaintiff worked. (Id.)

         Plaintiff did not immediately notify any of his supervisors about the incident or that the ladder did not have any skid-resistant feet. (Id. at 4, ) Two days later, Plaintiff went to see Dr. John Murrell at the Midtown Foot Clinic about ongoing pain in his heel and ankle. (Id.)[1]Plaintiff was eventually diagnosed with an ankle sprain. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff returned to work as a longshoreman in March of 2015. (Id.)

         On July 13, 2017, Plaintiff brought this action in the State Court of Chatham County, seeking recovery for the injury he suffered while working on the Vessel. (Doc. 1 at 13-18.) In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that his injury was the result of Defendants Millennium's and Mastermind's negligence. (Id. at 16-17.) As relief, Plaintiff sought "medical expenses, past, present and future; lost wages, past, present and future; pain and suffering, both physical and emotional, past, present and future; consequential damages; and permanent impairment." (Id. at 17.)

         On January 12, 2018, Defendants removed this action to this Court. (Doc. 1.) Now, Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's claims. (Doc. 29.) Defendants contend that Plaintiff's complaint must be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to (1) demonstrate that the ladder in question belonged to Defendants; (2) provide any evidence that the ladder was actually defective or a hazard; or (3) establish that Defendants were actually negligent. (Id.) In response, Plaintiff contends that there is enough evidence in the record to demonstrate that Defendants acted negligently by providing the defective ladder which caused Plaintiff's injury. (Doc. 35.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         According to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), "[a] party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim of defense-on which summary judgment is sought." Such a motion must be granted "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." Id. The "purpose of summary judgment is to `pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 advisory committee notes).

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the nonmovant "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The substantive law governing the action determines whether an element is ...


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