United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. FITZWATER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
lawsuit arising from injuries that plaintiff-counterdefendant
Amparo Martinez (“Martinez”) sustained while
working at defendant-counterplaintiff Pilgrim's Pride
Corporation's (“Pilgrim's Pride's”)
chicken processing facility, the court must determine whether
Martinez is bound by the terms of a Partner Protection Plan
Agreement (“Protection Agreement”) that waived
her right to bring a lawsuit for damages relating to the
incident in exchange for enhanced medical coverage and wage
replacement benefits. Concluding that she is, the court
grants Pilgrim's Pride's motion for summary judgment
on its breach of contract counterclaim and dismisses this
lawsuit with prejudice by judgment filed today.
Pride, a non-subscriber to the Texas Worker's
Compensation system, maintains the Pilgrim's Pride
Corporation Partner Protection Plan (“Plan”),
ERISA- governed employee benefits plan. Under
the Plan, all covered employees are entitled to “Basic
Benefits, ” which provides for the payment of a certain
amount of medical expenses and wage replacement benefits.
After a workplace incident, employees are provided with the
opportunity to select “Premium Benefits, ” which
provides additional medical coverage and wage replacement
benefits in exchange for a full waiver and release relating
to the workplace incident. Appendix B to the Plan-the
Protection Agreement-provides for the election between Basic
and Premium Benefits. Under the rubric “OPPORTUNITY FOR
INCREASED BENEFITS - Waiver and Release, ” D. App. 69
(bold font omitted), in bold font and within a textual box,
the Protection Agreement states, in pertinent part:
If I have indicated below that I choose “Premium
Benefits” under the Plan, then I understand and
agree that I release and forever waive my rights under all
statutes and common law to bring a lawsuit or other action
against Pilgrim's and/or its officers, directors, owners,
employees, representatives, agents, subsidiaries, affiliates,
successors, or assigns, for any and all damages, death or
other harm relating to the Incident. I AGREE THAT THIS WAIVER
AND RELEASE WILL APPLY EVEN WHERE THE ONLY CAUSE OR A
CONTRIBUTING CAUSE OF ANY SUCH INJURY WAS AN ACT OF
NEGLIGENCE, GROSS NEGLIGENCE AND/OR NEGLIGENT FAILURE TO ACT
BY PILGRIM'S OR OTHER ABOVE-NAMED PARTIES. My only remedy
will be the Premium Benefits that I am eligible to receive
under the Plan.
Id. (bold font omitted).
was employed as a processor at Pilgrim's Pride's
chicken-processing facility in Nacogdoches, Texas when on
December 6, 2014 she slipped and fell while walking across
the Pilgrim's Pride processing floor, shattering her left
femur. Martinez was admitted to the Nacogdoches Memorial
Hospital (“Memorial”) the following day, and on
December 8, 2014 underwent an open reduction and internal
fixation surgery. After her surgery, Martinez was admitted to
Memorial's rehabilitation facility, where she remained
until her discharge on January 9, 2015.
Martinez's surgery, Debra K. Frazier, LVN
(“Frazier”), a licensed vocational nurse employed
by Pilgrim's Pride as an Occupational Health Manager for
its Nacogdoches facility, traveled to Memorial to meet with
Martinez on at least three occasions. Martinez and Pilgrim's
Pride dispute what Frazier and Martinez discussed during
these visits. It is undisputed, however, that on December 29,
2014 Martinez signed the signature page of the Protection
Agreement, indicating that she was choosing eligibility for
Premium Benefits under the Plan.
to her election under the Protection Agreement, Martinez
received a total of 67 full weeks and one partial week of
wage replacement benefits at $418.88 per week, through April
4, 2016. On October 31, 2016 she brought this lawsuit against
second amended complaint, Martinez alleges claims for
non-subscriber negligence and for a declaration
“determining asserted affirmative defenses of release,
waiver, and election of remedies.” 2d Am. Compl. ¶
5.10. Pilgrim's Pride counterclaims for breach of
contract, alleging, inter alia, that it fully
performed its obligations to provide Premium Benefits under
the terms of the Protection Agreement, and that, by filing
suit and making a jury demand, Martinez breached her
agreement with Pilgrim's Pride. In connection with its
counterclaim, Pilgrim's Pride seeks, inter alia,
“specific performance in the form of enforcement of the
[Protection Agreement] to dismiss Plaintiff's claims with
prejudice as a matter of law[.]” Am. Counterclaim
¶ 11. Pilgrim's Pride now moves for summary judgment
on Martinez's declaratory judgment claim and on its
breach of contract counterclaim and seeks enforcement of the
Plan through a dismissal of Martinez's lawsuit with
prejudice. Martinez opposes the motion.
summary judgment movant will not have the burden of proof on
a claim at trial, it can obtain summary judgment by pointing
the court to the absence of evidence on any essential element
of the nonmovant's claim. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once it does so, the
nonmovant must go beyond her pleadings and designate specific
facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial.
See Id. at 324; Little v. Liquid Air Corp.,
37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (per curiam). An
issue is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The
nonmovant's failure to produce proof as to any essential
element renders all other facts immaterial. See TruGreen
Landcare, L.L.C. v. Scott, 512 F.Supp.2d 613, 623 (N.D.
Tex. 2007) (Fitzwater, J.). Summary judgment is mandatory
where the nonmovant fails to meet this burden.
Little, 37 F.3d at 1076.
entitled to summary judgment on a claim for which a party
will have the burden of proof at trial, the party “must
establish ‘beyond peradventure all of the essential
elements of the claim or defense.'” Bank One,
Tex., N.A. v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 878 F.Supp.
943, 962 (N.D. Tex. 1995) (Fitzwater, J.) (quoting
Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th
Cir. 1986)). This means that the moving party must
demonstrate that there are no genuine and material fact
disputes and that it is entitled to summary judgment as a
matter of law. See Martin v. Alamo Cmty. Coll.
Dist., 353 F.3d 409, 412 (5th Cir. 2003). “The
court has noted that the ‘beyond peradventure'
standard is ‘heavy.'” Carolina Cas. Ins.
Co. v. Sowell, 603 F.Supp.2d 914, 923-24 (N.D. Tex.
2009) (Fitzwater, C.J.) (quoting Cont'l Cas. Co. v.
St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 2007 WL 2403656, at
*10 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 23, 2007) (Fitzwater, J.)).
Pride contends that the Protection Agreement is a
“settlement agreement between the parties which covers
the legal dispute at issue in this case, ” D. Br. 1,
and it seeks to enforce the Protection Agreement through its
breach of contract counterclaim ...