from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Oklahoma (D.C. No. 5:15-CV-00145-C)
N. Whitten (Michael Burrage and J. Revell Parrish with him on
the briefs), of Whitten Burrage, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for
W. Crapster of Steidley & Neal, P.L.L.C, Tulsa, Oklahoma,
BRISCOE, LUCERO, and MATHESON, Circuit Judges.
MATHESON, Circuit Judge.
Jacob McGehee and Steven Ray Heath appeal the district
court's grant of summary judgment to defendants Forest
Oil Corp. and Lantern Drilling Co. Forest and Lantern leased a
drilling device from Teledrift, the plaintiffs' employer,
and returned the device after using it in drilling
operations. Plaintiffs then proceeded to clean and
disassemble it. Mr. McGehee discovered that, in addition to
mud and other debris, several small bolts had fallen into the
device. While he attempted to remove these materials, the
lithium battery inside the device exploded, injuring himself
and Mr. Heath. They sued Forest and Lantern for negligently
causing the explosion by allowing bolts to fall into the
device. Following discovery, Forest and Lantern moved for
summary judgment, which the district court granted, holding
they did not owe the plaintiffs a duty of care under Oklahoma
tort law. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1291, we affirm.
and Lantern leased a drilling device from Teledrift. The
plaintiffs' expert, Joseph D. Jolson, submitted a report
that described the device as follows:
From about 2004 - 2008, Teledrift and an acquired
company's engineers designed the Proshot; a measurement
while drilling (MWD) tool that uses wireless positive mud
pulsing technology to provide inclination and azimuth
measurements to workers at the well surface during vertical
downhole drilling. Teledrift and the acquired company's
design team knew Excell and [Southwest Electronic Energy
Corporation ("SWE")] as designers and manufacturers
of the lithium-thionyl chloride cell containing battery packs
used to power MWD tools. Both companies were asked to design
battery packs for the Proshot MWD tool. Excell was chosen as
the initial manufacture[r].
The Proshot MWD tool's cylindrical battery pack contains
six spirally-wound, high-rate, high-capacity DD,
lithium-thionyl chloride cells arranged in series. To make a
Proshot MWD tool battery assembly, the battery pack is
slipped inside a copper-beryllium tube with a wall thickness
of almost 0.2 inches. Bulkheads at each end of the
copper-beryllium tube keep the battery pack in place and
allow electrical connection to the instrument package. The
Proshot's battery assembly is approximately 4½
The Proshot MWD tool instrument package is approximately
3-feet long. It has a valve body with a diameter of about
4½ inches which becomes one end of the fully assembled
Proshot MWD tool. Near the valve body is the locking collar.
When the Proshot instrument package is connected to the
battery assembly, the Proshot MWD tool is 89.85 inches long.
The centralizer has a diameter of about 3½ inches and
is the part of the battery assembly furthest from the valve
body. Between the valve body and the centralizer, the
diameter of the Proshot MWD tool is mostly much smaller than
3½ inches with the locking collar having the largest
Before shipment to a drill site, Teledrift connects the
Proshot's instrument package to a battery assembly. The
Proshot MWD tool's valve body is inserted into the box
end of the cylindrical drill collar which has an opening of
about 4¾ inches. It is pushed further in until it
comes to rest on a shoulder at the pin end of the drill
collar which has an opening of about 2½ inches.
The length of the resulting drill collar assembly can range
from 10 to 16 feet. For most of the Proshot MWD tool's
length, there is a gap between its outside diameter and the
inside diameter of the drill collar. When the drill collar
assembly is downhole, the Proshot MWD tool is vertical and
the battery assembly is above the instrument package. During
drilling, lubricating mud or lubricating mud mixed with loss
circulation material (LCM) is forced into the opening at the
box end of the drill collar. The mud or mud/LCM mixture
travels down the gap between the battery assembly and drill
collar, reaches the instrument package, passes the narrowing
gap at the locking collar, slips through holes in the
Proshot's valve body and exits at the pin end of the
drill collar assembly.
ROA, Vol. I at 137. In their opposition to summary judgment,
the plaintiffs submitted the following diagram and photograph
of the ProShot MWD. ROA, Vol. II at 190-91.
described by Dr. Jolson and as depicted above, the ProShot
Measurement While Drilling ("ProShot MWD" or
"ProShot") tool, when fully assembled, includes a
valve body, a paddle, a locking collar, a lithium battery, a
piston, a centralizer, and a debris catcher. This assembly
fits into a cylindrical drill collar, also called a drill
pipe or "sub." ROA, Vol. I at 145-46.
addition to the foregoing names of the ProShot MWD collar
assembly parts, this opinion uses terms related to the
drilling operator's use of the tool. The "drill
hole" is the hole in the ground where the drill pipe
containing the ProShot assembly is inserted.
"Downhole" refers to the shaft of the "drill
hole." Thus, mud or rocks falling "downhole"
necessarily drop into the "drill hole," and may
also fall into the "drill pipe" containing the
ProShot assembly, including the lithium battery.
terms "debris catcher" and "drill screen"
(or "debris screen") appear in the record without
much explanation or discussion. We understand "debris
catcher" to be a part of the ProShot MWD assembly that
sits on top of the ProShot tool and is placed along with the
tool inside the drill pipe (or collar). We understand
"drill screen" to be an item that is used to
prevent debris from falling into the drill hole.
drilling companies use the ProShot MWD to guide the drilling
process by sending information to the controllers at the
surface level. Mud and rocks frequently enter the drill
collar assembly during the tool's use. After the device
is returned, Teledrift cleans and disassembles it by pulling
the ProShot MWD tool from the drill collar. Mud and rocks
lodged inside the collar frequently can impede removal of the
ProShot. Teledrift employees use various methods to extract
McGehee and Mr. Heath worked for Teledrift. Their jobs
included disassembling the ProShot devices when they were
returned after use. In this case, having received the
drilling device from Forest and Lantern, the Teledrift crew
consisting of Mr. McGehee, who was the foreman, and Mr. Heath
and Charles Wheeler, commenced the process to remove the
ProShot MWD tool from the drill collar (or drill pipe). Mr.
McGehee sprayed water into the collar to loosen mud. Then he
used a pulling tool to remove the ProShot, but it was stuck.
He continued to spray water into the collar and observed
three or four bolts come out. He then tapped the valve body
inside the collar with a 125-pound metal rod to dislodge the
ProShot, a method he had used before.
McGehee struck the valve body in this manner approximately
120 times after spraying water to loosen dried mud. After
about 30 minutes of work to remove the ProShot from the
collar, the ProShot's lithium battery pack exploded,
injuring Mr. McGehee and Mr. Heath, who was standing nearby.
Mr. Wheeler was not injured. No evidence was adduced that
Forest or Lantern knew that bolts had dropped into the
drilling device. See Oral Arg. at 3:36-4:02.
McGehee and Mr. Heath filed an action in the Oklahoma State
District Court of Cleveland County. They alleged that at
least one of the bolts inside the drilling device compromised
the lithium battery pack and caused the explosion. They
further alleged that Forest and Lantern negligently allowed
the bolts to fall downhole, resulting in the explosion and
their injuries. The case was removed to the Western District
of Oklahoma under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and
the parties completed discovery, Forest and Lantern moved for
summary judgment, which the district court granted, holding
that Forest and Lantern did not owe a duty of care to the
plaintiffs. It relied on Beugler v. Burlington Northern
& Santa Fe Railway Co., 490 F.3d 1224 (10th Cir.
2007). In Beugler, Burlington Northern & Santa
Fe ("BNSF") had lowered a crossing gate to repair a
broken rail. Id. at 1229. When the plaintiff, a
Union Pacific Railroad employee, lifted the gate for traffic
to pass by, he turned toward a honking truck and injured his
neck. Id. at 1226-27. He sued BNSF for negligence.
We affirmed summary judgment for BNSF, holding that BNSF did
not owe a duty to the plaintiff under Oklahoma law. Because
the plaintiff had been trained to lift crossing gates and had