United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
August 24, 2005.
CENTERPOINT ENERGY-MISSISSIPPI RIVER TRANSMISSION CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
STEIN STEEL MILL SERVICES, INC., Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. PATRICK MURPHY, Chief Judge, District
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter came before the Court on August 15, 2005, for a
hearing on Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. For the
reasons set forth on the record and below, the motion is granted.
On or about August 13, 2003, an employee of Stein Steel Mill
Services, Inc. ("Stein Steel") was operating a heavy piece of
excavation equipment (known as a front-end loader) near a gas
line owned by Centerpoint Energy-Mississippi River Transmission
Corporation ("Centerpoint") on Stein Steel's premises in Granite
City, Illinois. No other entity was conducting excavation on
Stein Steel's premises on that date.
A representative of Centerpoint had marked the location of the
line before the excavation began, pursuant to the Illinois
Underground Utilities Facilities Damage Prevention Act,
220 ILCS 50/1-50/14 (2005). There is no dispute that the line was properly
and accurately marked.
The gas line ruptured and had to be repaired. Centerpoint filed
this suit on September 9, 2004, to recover its costs associated
with repairing the line and for the gas lost as a result of the
rupture. The Court has jurisdiction under the diversity of citizenship
statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Centerpoint Energy is a Delaware
corporation with its principal place of business in Texas; Stein
Steel is an Ohio Corporation with its principal place of business
in Ohio. (See Docs. 1, 6, and 38.) The amount in controversy,
exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds $75,000, as Plaintiff's
complaint prays for damages in excess of $129,000.
Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings and affidavits,
if any, "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Wyatt v. UNUM Life Ins.
Co. of America, 223 F.3d 543, 545 (7th Cir. 2000); Oates v.
Discovery Zone, 116 F.3d 1161, 1165 (7th Cir. 1997); see
also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The
movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of fact
issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Wollin v.
Gondert, 192 F.3d 616, 621-22 (7th Cir. 1999). The Court
must consider the entire record, drawing reasonable inferences
and resolving factual disputes in favor of the non-movant.
Schneiker v. Fortis Ins. Co., 200 F.3d 1055, 1057 (7th Cir.
2000); Baron v. City of Highland Park, 195 F.3d 333, 337-38
(7th Cir. 1999).
The non-moving party has the burden to prove that "it is
entitled to judgment under established principles." Yorger v.
Pittsburgh Corning Corp., 733 F.2d 1215, 1222 (7th Cir.
1987). It cannot simply rest on its pleadings. If it does not
discharge that burden, then it is not entitled to judgment. Id.
Centerpoint has put forth undisputed evidence that the gas line
was properly and accurately marked. The Illinois Underground
Utility Facilities Damage Prevention Act provides as follows:
Every person who, while engaging in excavation or
demolition, has provided the notice to the owners or
operators of the underground utility facilities or
CATS facilities in and near the excavation or demolition area through the State-Wide One-Call
Notice System as required by Section 4 of this Act,
but otherwise, while acting reasonably, damages any
underground utility facilities or CATS facilities,
shall not be subject to a penalty, but shall be
liable for the damage caused to the owners or
operators of the facility provided the underground
utility facility or CATS facility is properly marked
as provided in Section 10 of this Act.
220 ILCS 50/11(c). Thus, the standard is strict liability, and
the only question is causation. On that issue, the undisputed
evidence points to Stein Steel as the only cause of the gas line
rupture. Stein Steel was the only entity in the area of the
rupture the only entity operating a front loader in the
immediate vicinity of the gas line on August 13, 2003. Only
Stein Steel conducts excavation on its premises. Moreover, the
circumstances of the hole in the pipe and the undisputed fact
that Stein Steel informed Granite City Steel that it had struck
the line eliminates any reasonable inference that the line
ruptured for any other reason.
There is no genuine issue of any material fact, and Centerpoint
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 25) is
GRANTED, and the Court directs the Clerk to enter judgment in
favor of Plaintiff, Centerpoint Energy-Mississippi River
Transmission Corporation, following a determination of the amount
of damages. A trial on damages will be set by separate notice.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
© 1992-2005 VersusLaw Inc.