Frederick Seiferth v. Mark Camus

Filing 511106450

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Case: 09-60731 Document: 00511106450 Page: 1 Date Filed: 05/10/2010 IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS United States Court of Appeals FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT Fifth Circuit FILED May 10, 2010 N o . 09-60731 Lyle W. Cayce Clerk F R E D E R IC K M. SEIFERTH, representative of the Heirs at Law of James A. S e ife r th , Deceased, P l a i n t if f- A p p e l la n t , v. M A R K CAMUS, D e fe n d a n t-A p p e lle e . A p p e a l from the United States District Court fo r the Northern District of Mississippi U S D C No. 4:03-cv-00463 B e fo r e JONES, Chief Judge, HIGGINBOTHAM and ELROD, Circuit Judges. P E R CURIAM:* A p p e lla n t Frederick M. Seiferth appeals the district court's grant of s u m m a r y judgment in favor of Appellee Mark Camus determining that M is s i s s ip p i's Workmen's Compensation Act barred Seiferth's wrongful death a c t io n against Camus, a co-employee. He also alleges that the district court e r r e d in failing to find Camus's co-employee defense to be precluded by the "law o f the case" doctrine, collateral estoppel, and res judicata. In addition, he c h a lle n g e s the district court's denial of his motion to compel discovery of certain Pursuant to 5th Cir. R. 47.5, the court has determined that this opinion should not be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in 5th Cir. R. 47.5.4. * Case: 09-60731 Document: 00511106450 Page: 2 Date Filed: 05/10/2010 No. 09-60731 d o c u m e n ts which he alleges are relevant to his claims against Seiferth. For the fo llo w in g reasons, we AFFIRM. I. I n 2001, James Seiferth, an employee of Air2, LLC, fell to his death when t h e base of the helicopter-mounted work platform, on which he was standing, b r o k e while the helicopter was in mid-flight. The accident occurred near I n d ia n o l a , Mississippi while Seiferth and the aircrew were flying from tower to t o w e r during the inspection of a power transmission line. Mark Camus 1 had d e s ig n e d and patented the external work platform for use with a helicopter. C a m u s was a Tennessee domiciliary, and all of his design work was conducted in Florida, where he lived at the time. Camus also served as Chief Pilot for Air2 a t the time of the accident, but he was not piloting the aircraft from which S e ife r th fell. It is undisputed that Camus was not in Mississippi at the time of t h e accident, but he had inspected the work platform in Mississippi months b e f o r e Seiferth's accident. I n 2003, Frederick Seiferth, representative of James Seiferth's heirs, sued H e lic o p te r o s Auternos, Inc., the lessor of the helicopter, and Mark Camus, in his c a p a c it ie s as designer of the external work platform and as Chief Pilot for Air2, in federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Seiferth brought four c la im s against Camus: defective design, failure to warn, negligence, and n e g lig e n c e per se. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss a ll claims for lack of personal jurisdiction, and it also denied Seiferth's request f o r limited jurisdictional discovery as to Helicopteros Atuneros. Seiferth a p p e a le d to the Fifth Circuit, which affirmed in part and reversed in part. With regard to the question of personal jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit held t h a t "[a] plaintiff bringing multiple claims that arise out of different forum 1 Camus's name was misspelled "Camos" in the initial filings and in the first opinion of the district court on this matter. 2 Case: 09-60731 Document: 00511106450 Page: 3 Date Filed: 05/10/2010 No. 09-60731 c o n ta c ts of the defendant must establish specific jurisdiction for each claim." S e i f e r th v. Helicopteros Atuneros, Inc., 472 F.3d 266, 274 (5th Cir. 2006). The c o u r t determined that Seiferth's first claim--defective design--arose from C a m u s 's design of the work platform from which Seiferth fell, while the r e m a in in g three claims arose from Camus's contacts with Mississippi he e s t a b lis h e d during his employment with Air2. Based on these employment c o n t a c t s , the court concluded personal jurisdiction existed with regard to S e ife r th 's claims for negligence, negligence per se, and failure to warn. A c co r d in g ly , the court vacated the district court's dismissal of those claims and r e m a n d e d for the court to determine whether the exercise of personal ju r is d ic t io n against Camus was fair and reasonable. By contrast, the Fifth C ir c u it affirmed the district court's dismissal of Seiferth's defective-design claim, c o n c lu d in g that personal jurisdiction was lacking where "[n]one of Camus's M is s i s s ip p i contacts relate[d] to his design of the platform." Id. at 275. The F i ft h Circuit also affirmed the district court's denial of limited jurisdictional d is c o v e r y as to Helicopteros Atuneros. On remand, the district court determined that the exercise of personal ju r is d ic tio n over Camus as to the remaining claims did not violate notions of fair p la y and substantial justice and denied Camus's motion to dismiss. During the c a s e -m a n a g e m e n t conference held in January 2008, Seiferth sought to discover d o c u m e n ts relating to the design and licensing of the platform and c o m m u n ic a tio n s with the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the p l a t fo r m . Camus's counsel would not agree. Seiferth filed a motion to compel t h e documents, which the court denied. Camus filed a motion for summary ju d g m e n t , asserting that a Mississippi worker's compensation law barred tort c la im s filed against a co-employee. Concluding that Camus was an employee of A i r 2 , and thereby Seiferth's co-employee, the court granted summary judgment o n all claims in favor of Camus. 3 Case: 09-60731 Document: 00511106450 Page: 4 Date Filed: 05/10/2010 No. 09-60731 II . We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. See P a u l v. Landsafe Flood Determination, Inc., 550 F.3d 511, 513 (5th Cir. 2008). S u m m a r y judgment is appropriate only when "`the pleadings, depositions, a n s w e r s to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the m o v in g party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In determining whether a fact issue exists, we review all facts and inferences in th e light most favorable to the non-movant. Moore v. Willis Indep. Sch. Dist., 2 3 3 F.3d 871, 874 (5th Cir. 2000). After adequate time for discovery, Rule 56(c) " m a n d a te s the entry of summary judgment . . . against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that p a r ty 's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." C elo tex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "We review a district court's d i s c o v e r y decisions for abuse of discretion and we will affirm such decisions u n le s s they are arbitrary or clearly unreasonable." Moore, 233 F.3d at 876 (c it in g Krim v. BancTexas Group, Inc., 989 F.2d 1435, 1441-42 (5th Cir. 1993)). III. O n appeal, Seiferth argues (1) that the district court's conclusion was c o l la t e r a lly estopped by the Fifth Circuit's decision in Seiferth v. Helicopteros A t u n e r o s , Inc.; (2) the district court erred in concluding that Mississippi's W o r k m e n 's Compensation Act barred his claims against Camus; and (3) that the d is t r ic t court abused its discretion in denying his discovery request regarding t h e alleged defective design of the work platform. We address these arguments in turn. 4 Case: 09-60731 Document: 00511106450 Page: 5 Date Filed: 05/10/2010 No. 09-60731 F ir s t, Seiferth argues that the "law of the case" doctrine and the principles o f res judicata and collateral estoppel prevented the district court from finding t h a t Seiferth's claims against Camus were barred by the exclusive remedy p r o v is i o n s of Mississippi's Workmen's Compensation Act because the prior Fifth C i r c u it panel decision determined that Camus's co-employee defense was in a p p lic a b le . These arguments are without merit. "The law of the case doctrine p r o v id e s that an issue of law or fact decided on appeal may not be examined . . . b y the appellate court on a subsequent appeal." Fuhrman v. Dretke, 442 F.3d 8 9 3 , 896 (5th Cir. 2006) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). S im ila r ly , collateral estoppel, or "issue preclusion," bars the relitigation of " is s u e s actually adjudicated and essential to the judgment" in a prior litigation b e tw e e n the same parties." Kaspar Wire Works, Inc. v. Leco Eng'g & Machine, I n c ., 575 F.2d 530, 535-36 (5th Cir.1978). According to Seiferth, the Fifth Circuit m a d e a finding that "the co-employee defense is precluded" by virtue of its s t a te m e n t that: "[i]n short, Camus is alleged to have directly participated in the c o m m is s io n of a tort in Mississippi. It is immaterial whether he did so within t h e scope of his Air 2 employment." Seiferth, 472 F.3d at 272. The court made t h is statement in the context of refuting Camus's argument that the Mississippi c o n ta ct s he made through his employment could not be considered for the p u r p o s e of establishing personal jurisdiction; it did not suggest that Camus's s ta tu s as a co-employee was "immaterial" to Seiferth's ability to ultimately p r e v a il on his claims. Indeed, the court never even reached the merits of the c a s e , as the opinion addressed only the issues of personal jurisdiction and ju r is d ic tio n discovery. Thus, Seiferth's arguments fail. S e ife r t h also argues that the district court's grant of summary judgment w a s improper because material issues of fact existed as to whether Mississippi's W o r k m e n 's Compensation Act bars Seiferth's claims for relief where the d e c e d e n t died as a result of Camus's actions in designing the mounted platform, 5 Case: 09-60731 Document: 00511106450 Page: 6 Date Filed: 05/10/2010 No. 09-60731 n o t from Camus's actions in his capacity as an Air2 employee. This argument is without merit. The Fifth Circuit's prior decision in Seiferth held that the d is tr ic t court lacked jurisdiction to consider Seiferth's defective design claim a g a in s t Camus. See Seiferth, 472 F.3d at 277. Seiferth may not now attempt to e s c a p e this ruling by transforming his defective- design claim into his claims for n e g lig e n c e , negligence per se, and failure to warn. Consequently, we find no e r r o r in the district court's grant of summary judgment concluding that S e ife r t h 's remaining claims against Camus are barred by the Mississippi W o r k m e n 's Compensation Act and the co-employee defense pursuant to Perkins v . Insurance Co. of North America, 799 F.2d 955 (5th Cir. 1986).2 F in a lly , Seiferth argues that the district court erred by denying his motion t o compel discovery of documents "relating to design of the platform . . . and c o m m u n ic a tio n s with the Federal Aviation Administration." We find that the c o u r t did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion. See Moore, 233 F.3d at 8 7 6 . Accordingly, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court. A F F IR M E D . Perkins, 799 F.2d at 959 ("[I]t is clear that under the Mississippi worker's compensation statute, an employee injured in the scope of his employment by the negligence of a co-employee may not recover from the co-employee because workers' compensation is the injured employee's exclusive remedy for work-related injuries against either his employer or his employees."); accord Medders v. U.S. Fid. & Guar. Co., 623 So. 2d 979, 984 (Miss. 1993); McClusky v. Thompson, 363 So. 2d 256, 264 (Miss. 1978). 2 6

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