United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action arises from injuries plaintiff Joseph Michael Hume
suffered after he entered an enclosure containing high
voltage electrical equipment on the University of Montevallo
campus in 2015.
2002, defendant Mills-Conoly Engineering assessed the
University of Montevallo's existing
electrical-distribution system and prepared recommendations
for corrective action to the system. (Doc. 76-5, p. 13).
According to Mr. Hume, Mills-Conoly failed to identify
deficiencies in the system, including safety code violations
relating to the enclosure he entered. (Doc. 86, p. 4). Before
the close of discovery, Mills-Conoly moved for summary
judgment, arguing that Alabama's statute of repose bars
Mr. Hume's claims. (Doc. 33). The Court permitted the
parties to continue discovery and reset the dispositive
motion deadline. (Doc. 69). Mills- Conoly then filed an
amended motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 77). For the
reasons explained below, the Court grants Mills-Conoly's
motion for summary judgment.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
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). To demonstrate that there is a genuine
dispute as to a material fact that precludes summary
judgment, a party opposing a motion for summary judgment must
cite “to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). When considering a summary judgment
motion, a district court must view the evidence in the record
and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Asalde v. First Class Parking
Sys., 898 F.3d 1136, 1138 (11th Cir. 2018). “The
court need consider only the cited materials, but it may
consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Mr. Hume's Injury
factual record in this case is extensive. The facts relevant
to Mills-Conoly's motion for summary judgment are these:
at the time of his accident, Mr. Hume was a sophomore at the
University of Montevallo. (Doc. 76-68, p. 12). One summer
evening, he and two friends began playing frisbee golf on the
campus's “makeshift course.” (Doc. 76-68, pp.
19, 182). While playing, one of the frisbees fell into an
unmarked enclosure connected to Farmer Hall, the
University's Student Center. (Doc. 76-68, pp. 16, 36).
One side of the enclosure is a chain-link locked fence; the
other two accessible sides are brick. (Doc. 76-70; see
also Doc. 76-68, pp. 42-43). From where Mr. Hume was
standing, he faced a brick wall; Mr. Hume did not approach
the enclosure from the chain-link side. (Doc. 76-68, pp.
42-43; see also Doc. 76-76 (photograph where Mr.
Hume marks where he climbed onto the wall)). Mr. Hume asked
his friends if they could retrieve the frisbee. (Doc. 76-68,
p. 55). When his friends said that they could not get the
frisbee from their side, Mr. Hume “hopped up on top of
the wall and hopped in[to the enclosure] to recover the
frisbee.” (Doc. 76-68, pp. 55-56). At the time of Mr.
Hume's accident, there were no warning signs on the
enclosure indicating that it was a high-voltage area. (Doc.
57-1, pp. 276, 298; Doc. 78-12, pp. 75-76).
Hume swung into the enclosure, grabbed the frisbee, and moved
to leave the enclosure. (Doc. 76-68, pp. 74, 79; see
Doc. 76-79 (noting where the frisbee was inside the
enclosure)). As he left the enclosure, Mr. Hume contacted a
transformer and suffered a severe shock. (Doc. 26, ¶ 15;
Doc. 76-68, pp. 89-90).
Hume asserts that the enclosure should have had warning signs
warning and a protective cover. (Doc. 26, ¶ 16). Mr.
Hume contends that Mills-Conoly should have alerted the
University to the enclosure's deficiencies and
recommended installing warning signs and a protective cover.
(Doc. 26, ¶¶ 138, 142).
Mills-Conoly's Work for the University of
University first hired Mills-Conoly in 1999 to replace its
fire alarm system. (See Doc. 54-11, p. 1). By
September 2001, Mills-Conoly had fully completed the fire
alarm replacement project for the University. (Doc. 51-1, p.
30; Doc. 55-4).
October 26, 2001, the University and Mills-Conoly amended the
1999 agreement for the fire alarm replacement project. (Doc.
55-6, p. 3). According to the October 26, 2001 amendment, the
University hired Mills-Conoly to look at Montevallo's
existing electric system, verify what was there, and prepare
recommendations for corrective action based on
Mills-Conoly's engineering judgment about “what
needed to be done.” (Doc. 55-6, p. 3; Doc. 51-1, pp.
connection with Mills-Conoly's work under the 2001
amendment, Craig Mills, the President of Mills-Conoly,
visited the University's campus several times to
investigate and survey the University's existing
electrical system. (Doc. 33-4, p. 3; Doc. 51-1, pp. 46-47).
Mr. Mills testified that “[a] site visit would consist
of taking any existing documents that we had that the
[U]niversity provided to us, and creating a schematic and a
site plan of the equipment that we surveyed . . . .”
(Doc. 51-1, p. 46). According to Mr. Mills, the documents he
received were not “very good, ” and the
University “wanted  [him] to prepare the as-built
documents” because the University “didn't
have anything up-to-date.” (Doc. 51-1, p. 47). During
the site visits, Mr. Mills and University plant personnel
looked at the University's electrical installations,
“and if [they] saw anything that [they] felt like was a
code issue, [they] would make a note of it and include it in
[their]  inspection report.” (Doc. 51-1, pp. 46, 48).
work under the 2001 amendment culminated in a “Primary
Electrical Distribution Study for the University of
Montevallo” dated October 24, 2002. (Doc. 33-4). The
study identifies the scope of Mills-Conoly's work as
The scope of this project involves investigating the existing
campus primary electrical distribution system for
deficiencies, determining the most feasible solution to
alleviate deficiencies and estimating the cost to
repair/replace system(s) as required. The existing primary
distribution system(s) will be evaluated for code
compliance/deficiencies based on applicable Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers ...