United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson Division
Eric M. Lewis and Scott Lewis, Plaintiffs,
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P.; Kinder Morgan Management, LLC; Kinder Morgan, Inc.; Kinder Morgan G.P., Inc.; and Plantation Pipe Line Company, Inc., Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
M. Herlong, Jr. Senior United States District Judge.
matter is before the court on Defendants Kinder Morgan Energy
Partners, L.P., Kinder Morgan Management, LLC, Kinder Morgan,
Inc., Kinder Morgan G.P., Inc. (collectively “Kinder
Morgan”) and Plantation Pipe Line Company, Inc.'s
(“PPL”) motion for partial summary judgment or,
alternatively for a bifurcated trial. After consideration,
the court denies the Defendants' motion.
Factual and Procedural Background
an action arising out of a petroleum leak from an underground
pipeline (“Pipeline”) on Plaintiffs Eric and
Scott Lewis' property, which is located in Anderson
County, South Carolina near Belton, South Carolina
(“Property”). PPL owns and operates the 3, 100
mile pipeline that originates in Louisiana and ends in
Washington, D.C. (Defs. Mem. Supp. Partial Summ. J. 2, ECF
No. 91-1.) Kinder Morgan's pipeline network is over 84,
000 miles of pipeline. (Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 1-1.) PPL is
owned and operated by Kinder Morgan. (Id. ¶ 7,
ECF No. 1-1.) The Pipeline is located on the Defendants'
easement on the Property. (Defs. Mem. Supp. Partial Summ. J.
6, ECF No. 91-1.) In December 2014, a leak caused by the
failure of a patch over a dent was discovered on a section of
the Pipeline located on the Property. (Id. at 2, ECF
No. 91-1.) The leak resulted in a discharge of an estimated
369, 000 gallons of petroleum. (Id., ECF No. 91-1.)
The Pipeline leak was repaired within a few days of
discovering the leak and remediation efforts commenced.
(Id., ECF No. 91-1.)
Plaintiffs instituted this action on November 5, 2015, in
state court alleging claims for negligence, trespass,
punitive damages, and injunctive relief. The Plaintiffs
allege that the petroleum leak has permanently impaired the
Property. The Defendants removed the case to this court.
March 30, 2017, the Defendants filed the instant motion
requesting that the court:
(1) dismiss Plaintiffs' claims to the extent they relate
to the 1990 dent repair [based on the 13-year statute of
repose set forth in S.C. Code § 15-3-640]; (2) dismiss
Plaintiffs' claim for punitive damages or, alternatively,
order that the trial in this case be bifurcated for purposes
of liability and damages; and (3) limit Plaintiffs'
recovery to the depreciation in the rental or usable value of
the Lewis Property caused by the petroleum impacts to the
Partial Summ. J., ECF No. 91.) The Plaintiffs filed a
response in opposition on April 13, 2017. (Resp. Opp'n
Mot. Partial Summ. J., ECF No. 93.) On April 25, 2017, the
Defendants replied. (Reply, ECF No. 98.) This matter is now
ripe for consideration.
Discussion of the Law
Partial Summary Judgment Standard
summary judgment “is merely a pretrial adjudication
that certain issues shall be deemed established for the trial
of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 advisory committee's
note (1946). A motion for partial summary judgment is judged
by the same standard as a full motion for summary judgment.
In re Boston Sci. Corp., Pelvic Repair Sys. Prods. Liab.
Litig., No. 2:12-cv-00904, 2015 WL 1527678, at *1 (S.D.
W.Va. Apr. 2, 2015) (unpublished). 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.
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. Cty. 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 is that there be
no genuine issue of material fact.”
Ballenger v. N.C. Agric. Extension Serv., 815 F.2d
1001, 1005 (4th Cir. 1987).
Discussion of the Law
1990 Dent Repair Claims
Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs' claims that the
Defendants were negligent with respect to the 1990 dent
repair are barred by the 13-year statute of repose set forth
in S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-640. (Defs. Mem. Opp'n Mot.
Partial Summ. J. 4, ECF No. 91-1.) Section 15-3-640 provides
in pertinent part:
[n]o actions to recover damages based upon or arising out of
the defective or unsafe condition of an improvement to real
property may be brought more than thirteen years after
substantial completion of the improvement. For purposes of
this section, an action based upon or arising out of the
defective or unsafe condition of an improvement to real
(1) an action to recover damages for breach of a contract to
construct or repair an ...