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Grimes v. Young Life, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson Division

February 17, 2017

Phillip Wade GRIMES, Personal Representative of the Estate of O.G., Plaintiff,
YOUNG LIFE, INC., Inner Quest, Inc., and Adventure Experiences, Inc., Defendants.

          Brian T. Smith, Christina M. Bradford, Law Offices of Brian T. Smith, Greenville, SC, Lee Delton Gunn, IV, Ryan A. Lopez, Gunn Law Group PA, Tampa, FL, for Plaintiff.

          Robert Charles Rogers, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, W. Howard Boyd, Jr., Gallivan White and Boyd, Greenville, SC, for Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER


         This matter is before the court on the cross-motions for summary judgment of Defendants Young Life, Inc. ("Young Life") and Inner Quest, Inc. ("Inner Quest"). After consideration, the court grants Young Life's motion and denies Inner Quest's motion.


         This case arises out of the death of Olivia Grimes ("Olivia"), at Young Life's camp facility, Carolina Point, in July 2015. (Young Life Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 2, ECF No. 100-1.) The incident occurred when Olivia fell from a three-person giant swing (the "swing") and was fatally injured. (Id. at 2, ECF No. 100-1.)

         In January 2015, Young Life requested that Inner Quest provide a quote for the construction of the swing at the Carolina Point facility, which is located in both North and South Carolina. (Id. at 3-4, ECF No. 100-1.) Carolina Point's offices are located in North Carolina. (Id. at 4 n.2, ECF No. 100-1.) The swing was to be constructed on the South Carolina section of Carolina Point. (Id. at 3-4 n.2, ECF No. 100-1.) An Inner Quest representative conducted a site visit to Carolina Point on February 21, 2015. (Young Life Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 5 (Johnson Decl. Ex. B (Feb. 22, 2015 email)), ECF No. 100-5.) On February 22, 2015, Young Life requested by email that Inner Quest send a final contract for the construction of the swing. (Id. Ex. 5 (Johnson Ex. B (Feb. 22, 2015 email)), ECF No. 100-5.) Inner Quest emailed Young Life the final contract and requested that Young Life sign and return the contract if Young Life agreed to the contract's terms. (Inner Quest Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2 (Contract 2), ECF No. 102-2.) The contract contained an indemnification clause, which states:

The risk of use of the Challenge Course/Climbing Wall and ancillary Equipment, by any person after completion of the service performed by INNER QUEST pursuant to this Contract shall be the sole responsibility of the Client. The Client agrees to release, protect and indemnify (that is, defend and pay, including costs and attorneys [sic] fees) INNER QUEST, its staff, owners and directors from any claim for any loss or injury, including death, however caused, arising in whole or in part from the authorized or unauthorized use of the Challenge Course/Climbing Wall or Equipment. The only exception to the Client's agreement of release and indemnity is a claim of loss which arises solely (that is, no other factor- human, environmental or otherwise- contributed to such a loss) from a negligent act or omission by INNER QUEST in the performance of its contractual obligations.

(Id. Ex. 2 (Contract 2), ECF No. 102-2.) A Young Life representative signed the contract from the Carolina Point office located in North Carolina and emailed it to Inner Quest. (Young Life Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 5 (Johnson Decl. ¶ 8 & Ex. D to Johnson Decl. (Signed Contract)), ECF No. 100-1.) Subsequently, Inner Quest began construction of the swing, which was completed on April 9, 2016. (Id. Ex. 7 (Inner Quest Ans. Pl. First Interrog. ¶ 5), ECF No. 100-7.) On April 20, 2015, Young Life paid the remaining balance owed for construction of the swing. (Id. Ex. 5 (Johnson Decl. ¶ 11), ECF No. 100-5.)

         On December 2, 2015, Phillip Wade Grimes, Olivia's personal representative, filed the instant case alleging negligence and strict liability causes of action in the Circuit Court for Polk County, Florida. (Notice of Removal Ex. 1 (State Ct. Docs. 10), ECF No. 1-1.) Young Life and Adventure Experiences removed the case to the Middle District of Florida on January 5, 2016. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) The case was transferred to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). (May 2, 2016 Order, ECF No. 31.) On June 1, 2016, Grimes amended the complaint and added Inner Quest as a defendant. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 54.) On July 20, 2016, Inner Quest answered the amended complaint and crossclaimed against Young Life for contractual and equitable indemnity. (Inner Quest Ans. Am. Compl., ECF No. 74.) On December 21, 2016, Young Life filed a motion for summary judgment on Inner Quest's crossclaims for indemnity. (Young Life. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 100.) Inner Quest responded and also moved for summary judgment on its crossclaims on January 4, 2017. (Inner Quest Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 102.) On January 18, 2017, Young Life replied in support of its motion and responded in opposition to Inner Quest's motion. (Young Life Reply, ECF No. 105; Young Life Resp. Opp'n Inner Quest Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 106.) Inner Quest replied on January 25, 2017. (Inner Quest Reply, ECF No. 109.) This matter is now ripe for consideration.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id. at 248.

         A litigant "cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another." Beale v. Hardy,769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate." Monahan v. County of Chesterfield,95 F.3d 1263, 1265 (4th Cir. 1996). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement ...

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