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Robinson v. Cemex Southeast LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 28, 2018

CEMEX SOUTHEAST, LLC, et al., Defendants.


          John E. Ott Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         This is a personal injury case, filed after Plaintiff James Robinson fell from a platform on which he was working and sustained physical injuries. (Doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 14-15, 17-18).[1] Robinson asserts claims for negligence, wantonness, and subsequent negligence against Defendants CEMEX Southeast, LLC (“CEMEX”) and Randy Martin. (Id. ¶¶ 24-27). The court[2] has before it Defendants' motions to dismiss. (Docs. 3, 20). The motions are fully briefed, (docs. 27, 28), and are ripe for decision. For the reasons that follow, both motions are due to be granted.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes a motion to dismiss all or some of the claims in a complaint on the ground that its allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. That provision is read, in turn, in light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) which requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). The court is required to accept the well-pled factual allegations of the complaint as true and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable factual inferences. See Hazewood v. Foundation Financial Group, LLC, 551 F.3d 1223, 1224 (11th Cir. 2008). However, “courts ‘are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) (“Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.”). Nor is it proper to assume that the plaintiff can prove facts it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the law in ways that have not been alleged. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8 (citing Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983)).


         A. Allegations in the Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges he fell several feet from an elevated work platform at a CEMEX facility and suffered severe injuries as a result. (Doc. 1-1 ¶ 15). The platform “was constructed[, ] operated and maintained by the Defendants.” (Id. ¶ 19). The platform where Robinson was working did not have “proper guards or devices . . . to prevent the Plaintiff or any other person from suffering a fall . . . ” and causing injuries. (Id. ¶ 17). Defendant Martin was the supervisor or project manager for CEMEX when Plaintiff fell from the platform. (Id. ¶ 12). Robinson contends both Defendants had “an obligation to properly guard the platform and to have guardrails and other protective guarding systems or devices to prevent” a fall from the platform. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16). They also had, according to the complaint, an “obligation and duty” to provide Robinson with a safe place to work. (Id.). Robinson contends both Defendants breached their duties “by [their] negligence and wantonness which caused the serious permanent injuries to the Plaintiff.” (Id.).

         At the time of the accident, Robinson “was working as an employee of a temporary agency Labor Finders.” (Id. ¶ 8). Robinson “never considered himself an employee of CEMEX” and “was told on numerous occasions by CEMEX personnel that he was not an employee of CEMEX.” (Id. ¶¶ 9, 10). He was, however, “performing a function of Defendant CEMEX as a result of his contract of employment with Labor Finders” when he fell from the platform. (Id. ¶ 14). Additionally, Robinson alleges “[a]t all times wherein Plaintiff was the employee of Labor Finders who contracted with CEMEX for the contract labor of the Plaintiff.” (Id. ¶ 20).

         B. Procedural History

         On July 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama, against CEMEX and Randy Martin, as well as fictitious defendants.[3] (Doc. 1-1 at 5-12). On August 30, 2018, Defendant CEMEX filed a notice of removal based on diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446, (doc. 1), as well as a motion to dismiss. (Doc. 3). Defendant Martin consented to removal and filed a separate motion to dismiss. (Doc. 1-3 ¶ 6; Docs. 20, 22). On September 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). (Doc. 7). Plaintiff contended the court does not have diversity jurisdiction over his complaint because CEMEX has failed to meet its burden of proof as it relates to the amount in controversy requirement. (Id.). The court denied the motion to remand on October 18, 2018. (Doc. 26). The motions to dismiss (docs. 3, 20) remain and are addressed below.


         A. CEMEX's Motion to Dismiss

         CEMEX argues that Plaintiff's claims against it are barred by the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act because it was a “special employer” of Plaintiff. (Doc. 3 at 4-11). “Alabama law, like that of other states, stipulates that when an employee covered by the [Alabama Workers' Compensation] Act suffers from an injury in an on-the-job accident, benefits under the Act are the exclusive remedy available against the employer.” Tweedy v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 882 F.2d 477, 479 (11th Cir. 1989) (citing Steagall v. Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron Co., 205 Ala. 100, 101, 87 So. 787, 788 (1920); Ala. Code § 25-5-53 (1975)). Specifically, the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act includes an exclusive remedy provision, which provides that no employer “shall be held civilly liable for personal injury . . . to the employer's employee . . . whose injury . . . is due to an accident . . . which . . . originates in the employment.” Ala. Code § 25-5-53 (1975). Alabama law is well established that this “exclusive remedy provision extends to ‘special employers,' which have been described as ‘individuals or businesses who, for practical purposes, may be considered primary or co-employers of the injured employee.'” Gaut v. Medrano, 630 So.2d 362, 364 (Ala. 1993) (quoting Rhodes v. Alabama Power Co., 599 So.2d 27, 28 (Ala. 1992)).

         The Alabama Supreme Court has adopted the following test to determine whether an employer qualifies as ...

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