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Turner v. Archer Western Contractors, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 7, 2019



          Ellen Lipton Hollander United States District Judge.

         In this tort suit, plaintiff Steven Turner, who is self-represented, sued defendant Archer Western Contractors, LLC (“Archer Western”), a private construction contractor that, at the relevant time, was performing work for the City of Baltimore.[2] ECF 2 (“Complaint”); see also ECF 64-1 at 15 (claim denial from City of Baltimore). Turner, an employee of Baltimore City's Department of General Services, Fleet Management Division (ECF 64-1 at 13), filed suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. However, defendant timely removed the case to this Court, based on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. ECF 1; see also ECF 25.

         In particular, Turner alleges that Archer Western sprayed “hazardous chemicals” onto Turner's two motor vehicles, which were “on the parking lot at work, ” damaging their paint and causing him to develop medical ailments. Id. at 1. Turner seeks $20 million in damages. Id. Although the Complaint does not contain specific counts, plaintiff appears to allege two claims of negligence. Id. The first is for the medical problems he has allegedly sustained. The second is for the alleged damage to plaintiff's two vehicles.

         Following discovery, defendant moved for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, on the ground that it was not negligent. ECF 62. The motion for summary judgment is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 62-1) (collectively, “Motion”) and over 300 pages of exhibits. Plaintiff opposes the Motion (ECF 64) (“Opposition”) and filed two supplements. ECF 65; ECF 66. Defendant replied. ECF 67 (“Reply”). Thereafter, plaintiff filed four additional supplements. ECF 68; ECF 69; ECF 70; ECF 73.

         Throughout the litigation, plaintiff has also submitted exhibits. They include the following: Maaco Collision Repair & Auto Painting damage estimates (ECF 2-1); plaintiff's medical records (ECF 36-1 at 1; ECF 38-1 at 13-15; ECF 51 at 3-5; ECF 64-1 at 3-9; ECF 65 at 1, 10-13; ECF 73); health insurance forms (ECF 28 at 6-13); slides on hazardous materials (ECF 36-1 at 2-4, 8-13); a community risk assessment guide on hazardous materials (ECF 36-1 at 5-7); a letter dated December 11, 2017, from plaintiff's employer, the Fleet Management Division of Baltimore City's Department of General Services (ECF 64-1 at 13); a claim denial from the City of Baltimore, dated July 27, 2016 (ECF 64-1 at 15); plaintiff's answers to defendant's interrogatories (ECF 65 at 3-8); and photos of plaintiff's vehicles (ECF 68 at 15-22).[3]

         The Court is mindful of its obligation to construe liberally the pleadings of a pro se litigant, which are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-23 (4th Cir. 1989). Nevertheless, no hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6.

         For the reasons that follow, I shall grant the Motion as to the claim pertaining to plaintiff's personal injuries and deny it as to the claim pertaining to plaintiff's two vehicles.

         I. Factual Summary

         Turner alleges that Archer Western sprayed a “hazardous chemical[], ” “Vexcon-LL01 Certivex-Envio Cure White LAS8052-41-3, ” onto his two motor vehicles-a Ford F150 and a Hyundai Sonata. ECF 2 at 1; ECF 62-3 at 2 (plaintiff identifying the particular chemical); ECF 64-1 at 12 (description of vehicles). At the time, Turner worked for the City of Baltimore in the Fleet Maintenance Repair Shop, and he was located at the Back River Treatment Plant on “Eastern Blvd.” ECF 64-1 at 12. The precise dates of the incidents are not clear. But, they appear to have occurred in late November of 2016. See ECF 62-4 at 2 (alleging sprayings on November 21 and 23, 2016); ECF 62-5 at 2 (alleging he “noticed a gray . . . spray paint and chemical spray on [the] vehicles” on November 25, 2016).

         According to plaintiff, shortly after the incidents, the paint on his vehicles peeled, requiring an estimated $8, 968.42 in repairs. ECF 2; ECF 2-1 at 1-2 (Maaco Collision Repair & Auto Painting damage estimates, dated December 5, 2016). As a result of the spraying, Turner also claims that “hazardous chemical[] [got] on [his] hands and skin” and face and also got into his eyes. ECF 2 at 1. Further, because the chemical entered both of his vehicles, Turner allegedly breathed in the hazardous chemical. Id. Moreover, as a consequence of Turner's exposure to the chemical, he maintains that he has developed several medical conditions, including breathing problems and problems with his eyes, skin, and throat. Id.; see, e.g., ECF 64-1 at 2 (medical record describing Turner's rash); id. at 4 (medical record describing “[b]lurring of visual image” and “[c]hronic rhinitis”]).

         For the purposes of the Motion only, Archer Western accepts plaintiff's allegations as undisputed facts. But, Archer Western maintains that there is no causal relationship between the sprayings and Turner's medical problems or between the sprayings and the damage to Turner's vehicles. ECF 62-1 at 2-4, 2 n.1.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate only “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.” See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986); see also Formica v. Aylor, 739 Fed.Appx. 745, 754 (4th Cir. 2018); Iraq Middle Mkt. Dev. Found. v. Harmoosh, 848 F.3d 235, 238 (4th Cir. 2017). The nonmoving party must demonstrate that there are disputes of material fact so as to preclude the award of summary judgment as a matter of law. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86 (1986); see also Gordon v. CIGNA Corp., 890 F.3d 463, 470 (4th Cir. 2018).

         The Supreme Court has clarified that not every factual dispute will defeat a summary judgment motion. “By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of materia ...

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