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Ryle v. NES Rentals

April 11, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conaboy


In this Memorandum, we consider two motions for summary judgment: the Motion for Summary Judgment by the Defendant NES Rentals, (Doc. 33), and the Motion for Summary Judgment of Genie Industries, Inc., (Doc. 34). Plaintiffs filed the underlying action on December 27, 2004, based on injuries sustained by Plaintiff Rodney Ryle when a rented lift device tipped over causing him to fall approximately thirty to forty feet. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiffs have filed opposition briefs to both motions, (Docs. 41, 42), and Defendant Genie filed a reply brief on March 30, 2006, (Doc. 43). Defendant NES did not file a reply and the time for such filing has passed. Therefore, the pending motions are ripe for disposition. For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that Defendants have not met their burden and we deny both motions.

I. Background

The accident at issue occurred on June 24, 2003, at the Milford Bible Church in Milford, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1.)

Plaintiff Rodney Ryle, was then and continues to be the pastor of the church. (Id.) Plaintiff Cathy Ryle is his wife. (Id.) George Lewis, a member of the church, had arranged to rent lift equipment from Defendant NES to change light bulbs in the church. (Doc. 34 Att. 1 ¶¶ 4-5.) The products rented were the 1999 Genie Model AWP-40S aerial lift ("AWP") and 1999 Model AWP Super-Straddle ("the Super-Straddle"). (Id. ¶ 1.) Defendant Genie designed both pieces of equipment and sold them to NES in 1999. (Id. ¶ 2.) Mr. Lewis was not at the church to accept delivery from NES employee William Wruble, but Plaintiff Ryle and the church sexton, Robert Barber, were. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.)

Normally Wruble would set up and run through a demonstration of the Super-Straddle for NES customers. (Doc. 34 Att. 1 ¶ 13.)

He was unable to do so at the time of delivery because a class was in session at the front of the Church sanctuary and there was a low ceiling in the rear of the sanctuary. (Id. ¶ 14.) Instead of the demonstration, Wruble gave Ryle some verbal instruction on the setup and operation of the equipment. (Id. ¶ 15; Docs. 41, 42 at 4.) At some time after Wruble left, Ryle set up the AWP/Super-Straddle. (Doc. 42 at 4.)

The AWP and Super-Straddle are two separate pieces of equipment. (Doc. 42 at 2.) The AWP is a work platform that can be raised to a height of forty feet. (Id.) Before it can be raised, four outriggers must be installed for stability purposes - once they are engaged, an electrical interlock on the AWP allows the platform to be raised. (Id.) Once the outriggers are properly installed, four green lamps corresponding to the four outriggers become illuminated. (Id.) If the outriggers are not engaged, the electrical interlock system disables the lift controls and, therefore, the platform cannot be raised. (Id.) The Super-Straddle allows the AWP to be used over fixed objects such as pews. (Id. at 3.) The AWP/Super-Straddle combination is intended to be used only with the outriggers, but the electrical interlock system does not have the same effect. (Id. at 3-4.) Rather, once the Super-Straddle sockets are inserted into the outrigger receptacles located at the base of the AWP, the outrigger interlock and visual alerts activate as if the outriggers were engaged. (Id. at 3.) This means that the platform can be raised without the outriggers in place. (Id.) Several warning decals and notices are placed on the Super-Straddle. (Doc. 34 ¶¶ 17-27.) Information about the installation of the outriggers and the danger of failing to do so is included in the decals affixed to the Super-Straddle. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 24, 26.)

Plaintiff Rodney Ryle set up the AWP/Super-Straddle but did not attach the outriggers. (Doc. 42 at 4.) He then stepped on the platform and elevated the AWP/Super-Straddle. (Id.) When the AWP neared its full extension of approximately forty feet, the Super-Straddle tipped over, partially ejecting Ryle, who struck his head on one of the Church pews. (Doc. 34 ¶ 39.)

Claiming severe and permanent brain injuries, Rodney Ryle and his wife Cathy filed suit against Genie and NES on December 27, 2004. (Doc. 1.) The Complaint includes counts for negligence, breach of implied warranties, breach of express warranties, strict products liability and loss of consortium against both Defendants. (Id.)

NES and Genie filed the pending motions on February 28, 2006. (Docs. 33, 34.) Plaintiffs filed briefs in opposition to each motion on March 20, 2006. (Docs. 41, 42.) Genie filed a reply on March 30, 2006. (Doc. 43.) NES did not file a reply and the time for such filing has passed. Therefore both summary judgment motions are ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion


Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997)(citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the law applicable to the case. Id. at 248; Levendos v. Stern Entertainment Inc., 860 F.2d 1227, 1233 (3d Cir. 1988). An issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257. In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, a court must resolve all factual doubts and draw all reasonable ...

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