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Kelter v. Wasp, Inc.

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

November 15, 2013

CHRISTOPHER S. KELTER, Plaintiff,
v.
WASP, INC., WATKINS AIRCRAFT SUPPORT PRODUCTS, CONKEN SYSTEMS, INC., DESIGNED CONVEYOR SYSTEMS, INC., GEMS CONVEYOR INSTALLATIONS, INC., and AUTOMATED MOTOR CONTROL SYSTEMS, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Defendant GEMS Conveyor Installations, Inc.'s ("GEMS") Motion for Partial Summary Judgment against Cross-Claimant Conken Systems, Inc. ("Conken") and Motion for Summary Judgment Against Plaintiff Christopher S. Kelter (Docket No. 65). Kelter has responded (Docket No. 66) and GEMS has replied (Docket No. 70). Conken has also responded (Docket No. 71). These matters are now ripe for adjudication.

Having reviewed the parties' submissions and being otherwise sufficiently advised, for the reasons that follow, GEMS's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. An appropriate order will issue separately.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Christopher S. Kelter worked as a handler at a FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. ("FedEx Ground") facility in Paducah, Kentucky. Conken manufactured the facility's conveyor system, utilizing parts and services from GEMS; Designed Conveyor Systems, Inc.; Automated Motor Control Systems; and WASP, Inc. On April 7, 2011, as Kelter tried to clear an obstruction on a moving conveyor belt, his arm was pinned between two rollers. As a result of this accident, he suffered a traumatic amputation of his right arm. Kelter alleges that the parties listed above were collectively negligent in designing, manufacturing, and installing the conveyor system used at the FedEx facility. He also brings claims against these defendants for failure to warn, breach of warranty, and negligence per se. Kelter now seeks compensatory and punitive damages for his injuries.

On March 2, Kelter filed his original Complaint in McCracken Circuit Court, naming WASP, Inc. and Watkins Aircraft Support Products ("WASP") as defendants. (Docket No. 1-1.) On April 2, 2011, Kelter added Conken Systems, Inc. as an additional Defendant in his First Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 6.) On the same day, WASP, Inc. removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446. (Docket No. 1.) On July 31, 2012, Kelter filed a Second Amended Complaint, adding Designed Conveyor Systems, Inc. ("Designed Conveyor"), GEMS, and Automated Motor Control Systems, Inc. as defendants. (Docket No. 24.)

Kelter alleges that GEMS "fabricated, worked on, and installed the Material Handling Sortation System" that caused his injuries. (Docket No. 24 at 3.) GEMS admits that it contracted with Conken Systems and installed the conveyor systems parts involved in this accident. (Docket No. 38, ¶ 3; Docket No. 65-3, ¶ 3; Docket No. 65-4, Interrogatory No. 5.) However, GEMS alleges that Designed Conveyor designed and manufactured the parts at issue. (Docket No. 65-1 at 3.)

On August 21, 2012, a summons was issued against GEMS. GEMS was then served on September 18, 2012. In the instant motion, GEMS moves for the dismissal of Kelter's claims against it as either untimely or otherwise barred as a matter of Kentucky law.

Additionally, Defendant Conken has asserted cross-claims for indemnity and contribution against GEMS, Designed Conveyor, and Automated Motor. GEMS argues that Conken's crossclaim for contribution against it must be dismissed under Kentucky's comparative fault regime.

STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show "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 determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

"[N]ot every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact." Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). The test is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case. Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence in support of his position; he must present evidence on which the trier of fact could reasonably find for him. See id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). Mere speculation will not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment: "[T]he mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must exist to render summary judgment inappropriate." Monette v. Elec. Data Sys. Corp., 90 F.3d 1173, 1177 (6th Cir. 1996), abrogated on other grounds by Lewis v. Humboldt Acquisition Corp., 681 F.3d 312 (6th Cir. 2012).

Finally, while the substantive law of Kentucky applies to this case pursuant to Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938), a federal court sitting in diversity applies the standards of Federal Rule of Procedure 56, not Kentucky's summary judgment standard as articulated in Steelvest, Inc. v. Scansteel Serv. Ctr., Inc., 807 S.W.2d 476 (Ky. 1991). Gafford v. Gen. Elec. Co., 997 F.2d 150, 165 (6th Cir. 1993), abrogated on other grounds by Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 130 S.Ct. 1181 (2010).

DISCUSSION

1. Because the statute of limitations has not been tolled, Kelter's action against GEMS is time-barred by ...


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