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Wood v. United Parcel Service Inc.

Court of Appeals of Utah

October 18, 2019

Stuart Wood and Laurie Wood, Appellants,
v.
United Parcel Service Inc., Appellee.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Patrick Corum The Honorable Matthew Bates No. 160900437

          Douglas B. Cannon, Christopher F. Bond, and Craig T. Jacobsen, Attorneys for Appellants

          Andrew M. Morse and Nathan R. Skeen, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in which Judges David N. Mortensen and Diana Hagen concurred.

          OPINION

          CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE

         ¶1 Stuart Wood and Laurie Wood appeal from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS). We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 In 2013, a UPS truck driver backed up and collided with a loading dock at a warehouse managed and operated by KNS International LLC (KNS).[1] The collision damaged the loading dock and an overhead vinyl curtain system KNS had purchased and installed to regulate warehouse temperature. To install the curtain system, KNS drilled sixteen holes in the cinderblock above the loading dock and attached a metal bracket in line with the holes using sixteen concrete anchors. Vinyl curtains were then attached to the overhead bracket.

         ¶3 On inspection of the area after the collision, one of KNS's assistant managers noticed that the cinderblock to which the curtain system was attached had cracked, that several of the concrete anchors were loose, and that one or two of the concrete anchors had fallen out altogether.[2] The assistant manager recalled that he "probably tightened a couple" of the concrete anchors on the overhead bracket, but he did not put the dislodged anchors back into the bracket, because "the structure was compromised" and no longer would have held the anchors. No evidence was submitted to demonstrate that KNS took any further steps to fix the cracked cinderblock or install new concrete anchors to replace the one or two that had fallen out. After tightening the anchors, the assistant manager felt that the curtain system was "secure enough at least for [his] liking."

         ¶4 On February 4, 2013, sometime from a week to a month after the collision, the vice president of KNS noticed the damage to the same vinyl curtain system above the loading dock door.[3]As he was driving away from the warehouse, he "had a clear view" and could see that approximately "8 to 12 inches" of the curtain bracket was "hanging down at an angle." The vice president did not immediately contact anyone at KNS because he "didn't think that there was any risk [in] it hanging down" as there were "a lot of bolts holding it." He also "didn't think there was any danger to anyone," because "no one, to [his] knowledge, ever goes there throughout the rest of the day."

         ¶5 Unfortunately, that same day, Stuart Wood, a driver for a delivery company used by KNS, was present at that same loading dock. As Wood walked through the loading dock door, the curtain system dislodged from the cinderblock, and a bracket fell on his head, knocking him to the ground. The bracket weighed approximately forty-five pounds. After Wood was able to stand, a KNS employee helped him wash blood off of his face. Another employee approached and asked Wood if he was all right. The employee told Wood that "he was sorry, [and] that he knew [the bracket] was going to fall," saying that KNS "should have taken care of it." Wood suffered permanent injuries from the accident.

         ¶6 Thereafter, Wood filed negligence claims against UPS and KNS, alleging each was liable for his injuries. Wood argued that UPS was negligent as the party that caused the dangerous condition and that KNS was negligent as the party on whose property the dangerous condition existed. At the close of fact discovery, UPS moved for summary judgment, arguing that (1) UPS owed no duty to Wood because UPS did not possess or control the property and (2) UPS's actions were not the proximate cause of Wood's injury. The district court granted UPS's motion on both bases, and the Woods appeal.[4]

         ISSUE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶7 To answer whether UPS is liable for the harm to Wood, the threshold issue is whether UPS owed a legal duty of care to Wood at the time of his injury.[5] "Whether a duty of care is owed is entirely a question of law to be determined by the court." Rose v. Provo City, 2003 UT App 77, ¶ 8, 67 P.3d 1017 (quotation simplified). "Duty must be determined as a matter of law and on a categorical basis for a given class of tort claims." B.R. ex rel. Jeffs v. West, 2012 UT 11, ¶ 23, 275 P.3d 228. We therefore review the district court's determination ...


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