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Vaughn v. Konecranes, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

April 15, 2015

GEORGE VINCENT VAUGHN, Plaintiff,
v.
KONECRANES, INC., Defendant/Third Party Plaintiff,
v.
DEMAG CRANES AND COMPONENTS CORP.; HETRONIC USA, INC.; and CENTRAL MOTOR WHEEL OF AMERICA, INC., Third Party Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

This action is pending for consideration of the Defendant Konecranes, Inc.'s ("Konecranes) motion for summary judgment. [Record No. 90] Konecranes argues that there are no material issues of fact in dispute with respect to Plaintiff George Vincent Vaughn's remaining claims and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Having reviewed the materials filed in support of and in opposition to the motion, the Court agrees with Konecranes. No genuine issue of material fact exists regarding the plaintiff's product liability claim and the plaintiff has failed to establish the causation element of his negligence claim. As a result, the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

I.

As discussed in prior orders, this action arises from an accident involving an industrial overhead crane. On May 8, 2012, while working at Central Motor Wheel of America, Inc. ("CMWA"), the plaintiff was injured when a crane, allegedly moving "independent of human control, " pinned his foot. [Record No. 1-2, p. 21] On April 18, 2013, Vaughn filed suit in Bourbon Circuit Court against Konecranes, alleging, inter alia, negligent repair, failure to warn, and product liability for the manufacture, design, sale, and delivery of the crane. [Record No. 1-1] Thereafter, Konecranes filed Third-Party Complaints against Demag, Hetronic, and CMWA for apportionment, indemnification, and contribution. The action was removed to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. [Record Nos. 1, 1-5, 24]

On October 2, 2014, the Court granted partial summary judgment to Konecranes on Vaughn's claims regarding the design, manufacture, sale, and delivery of the subject crane. [Record No. 59] As a result, the only remaining claims against Konecranes involve allegations of negligence and product liability for the Konecranes-brand components of the modified crane. [ Id. ] Following the close of discovery, Konecranes moved to preclude the plaintiff's expert liability witness, Frederick G. Heath, from testifying at trial. [Record No. 96] And after reviewing the parties' briefs and conducting a Daubert determination, the Court granted the motion to exclude Heath's testimony. [Record No. 137]

Konecranes current motion for summary judgment involves all of the remaining claims asserted against it. [Record No. 90] Also pending are motions in limine by the defendant [Record Nos. 96, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104] and the plaintiff [Record Nos. 107, 108], as well as a motion for summary judgment and motion in limine by third-party defendant CMWA. [Record Nos. 105, 106] The motions in limine will be addressed here only to the extent that they bear on the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

II.

This action is pending in this Court based on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Because Kentucky is the forum state, its substantive law will be applied. Erie Railroad v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 (1938); Raw v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 462 F.3d 521, 526 (6th Cir. 2006). However, federal procedural law will govern, as applicable, including establishing the standard for summary judgment. Weaver v. Caldwell Tanks, Inc. 190 F.Appx. 404, 408 (6th Cir. 2006). Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine disputes regarding any material facts and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Chao v. Hall Holding Co., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). A dispute over a material fact is not "genuine" unless a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. That is, the determination must be "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986); see Harrison v. Ash, 539 F.3d 510, 516 (6th Cir. 2008).

The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing conclusively that no genuine issue of material fact exists. CenTra, Inc. v. Estrin, 538 F.3d 402, 412 (6th Cir. 2008). Once the moving party has met its burden of production, the nonmoving party must present "significant probative evidence" of a genuine dispute in order to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Chao, 285 F.3d at 424. The nonmoving party cannot rely upon the assertions in its pleadings; instead, it must pressent probative evidence, such as sworn affidavits, to support its claims. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the Court views all the facts and inferences drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

III.

A. Products Liability Claim

On October 2, 2014, summary judgment was granted on the plaintiff's products liability claims against Konecranes, with the exception of claims regarding the Konecranes hoist and trolley components that had been installed on the Demag crane. [Record No. 59] Konecranes now seeks summary judgment on the remaining products liability claims. In Kentucky, product liability actions are governed by the Kentucky Product Liability Act ("KPLA"). See KRS § 411.300-.350. Kentucky law recognizes three theories of product liability: (i) defective design, (ii) defective manufacture, and (iii) failure to warn. Clark v. Hauck Mfg. Co., 910 S.W.2d 247, 251 (Ky. 1995), overruled on other grounds by Martin v. Ohio Cnty. Hosp. Corp., 295 S.W.3d 104 (Ky. 2009). To recover under any product liability claim, a plaintiff must prove the existence of a defect, McCoy v. Gen. Motors Corp., 47 F.Supp.2d 838, 839 (E.D. Ky. 1998), and legal causation. Morales v. Am. Honda Motor Co., Inc., 71 F.3d 531, 537 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Huffman v. SS. Mary & Elizabeth Hosp., 475 S.W.2d 631, 633 (Ky. 1972)).

In the present case, the plaintiff concedes that no finding has been made "that any product manufactured by Konecranes was defective, " and evidently does not intend to pursue such a claim at trial. [Record No. 126, p. 19] ...


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