Jeld-Wen Denies Liability for Driver’s Injuries, Motions for Summary Judgment

January 9th, 2023 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor

Jeld-Wen filed a motion for summary judgment last week, seeking to defer liability for injuries sustained by a transport driver while unloading doors and windows manufactured by the company and loaded by its employees. After a U.S. district judge in Oregon determined in December 2020 that the plaintiff, Gary Groeneweg, had a case against the manufacturer, counsel for Jeld-Wen now suggests the company has no liability for his injuries.

Groeneweg was not an “indirect employee,” nor did Jeld-Wen maintain custody of the involved trailer or control over the unloading process, the company’s motion states. Further, the risk of injury was “obvious to the plaintiff,” Jeld-Wen’s counsel suggests, and “intertwined” with his employer, Lincoln, Neb.-based Crete Carrier Corp. Jeld-Wen didn’t “owe duty” to the defendant, the company’s motion states, nor was it a requisite owner at the time of the incident. The primary duty for safe loading of property is therefore upon the carrier, Jeld-Wen’s filing suggests.

Groeneweg worked for Crete from 2016 to August 2022 and at the time of the incident had worked as a truck driver for approximately 12 years. Crete entered into a transportation agreement with Jeld-Wen on August 22, 2012, court documents say, and in April 2018 contracted with Jeld-Wen to deliver doors and windows from its manufacturing facility in Bend, Ore., to Professional Builder’s Supply in North Carolina.

“Therefore, the risk of falling or shifting windows was both obvious and inextricably intertwined with Crete’s performance of a specialized task,” Jeld-Wen’s motion says, adding, “Even if no specialized relationship existed, Jeld-Wen is not liable for patent defects in the loading of the windows.” Jeld-Wen hired Crete to transport and assist in unloading products, “because Crete had operation transportation expertise that Jeld-Wen did not have,” the document declares.

According to Jeld-Wen’s motion, on or about April 27, 2018, the company’s employees pre-loaded doors and windows in accordance with Jeld-Wen’s safety policies and procedures into an empty trailer owned by Crete. The doors and windows were leaned against an inside wall in units of three, with units separated by plywood, extending across the width of the trailer, court documents say. The stacks of leaning doors and windows were then secured by ratchet straps to the wall of the trailer, leaving a pathway along the opposite wall.

“When plaintiff picked up the trailer in Bend, he had no direct contact with any Jeld- Wen employees,” the motion says, adding that Greoneweg received a packet from the manufacturer’s transportation office, but did not receive any instructions or directions. When he picked the trailer up for transport, the plaintiff performed a safety inspection before leaving Jeld-Wen’s facility, the company’s motion states.

Meanwhile, the shipment was designated by Crete as a “driver unload” assignment, the document says, requiring him to assist Professional Builder’s Supply with unloading upon delivery. For this reason, “Jeld-Wen did not maintain control over, or instruct plaintiff in any way, on how to assist in the unloading of the windows and doors from the trailer,” Jeld-Wen’s motion says, adding, “Plaintiff had the option to decline this assignment, but did not do so,” and, “Contrary to written recommendations from Crete, plaintiff did not arrange for a lumper to assist in the unloading process.”

According to court documents, while assisting in the unloading process, Groeneweg removed a securement strap from a set of windows, which he then attempted to hold upright. The windows shifted and fell on him in the process. Employees of Professional Builder’s Supply removed the windows from Groeneweg, at which time another window fell on him, the document says. He was then transported by emergency personnel to a hospital.

“Based upon the undisputed facts of this case, each of plaintiff’s claims against Jeld-Wen fails as a matter of law,” Jeld-Wen’s counsel says. “Simply put, there exists no competent and admissible evidence that Jeld-Wen was negligent or that Jeld-Wen is liable for any of plaintiff’s statutory claims.”

Groeneweg’s first claim for relief (based on negligence) fails, Jeld-Wen’s motion suggests, because the defendant did not owe a duty to the plaintiff. A second “negligence per se” claim fails because Jeld-Wen was not a requisite “owner” at the time of the incident, the document says, while a third claim fails, because the plaintiff was not an “indirect” employee of Jeld-Wen, the company’s counsel suggests.

For this reason, Jeld-Wen is requesting a summary judgment to determine whether there is a genuine need for trial.

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  1. It is too bad that the attorneys cannot say how a lack of common sense of the driver was the real cause of the accident. This case goes to show you that the deeper your pockets, the bigger the target on your back.

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