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Pridgen v. Parker Hannifin Corp.

May 15, 2009

KAREN PRIDGEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF LENDON N. PRIDGEN, DECEASED, AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF ANTHONY W. CIPPARONE, DECEASED; DENISE DIGGEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF DANIEL DIGGEN, DECEASED; AND DEBRA JOHNSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF TYLER JOHNSON, AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF TYLER JOHNSON, A MINOR
v.
PARKER HANNIFIN CORPORATION, BASCO FLYING SERVICE, INC., TEXTRON LYCOMING RECIPROCATING ENGINE DIVISION, TEXTRON, INC. AND AVCO CORPORATION
APPEAL OF: TEXTRON, INC., AVCO CORPORATION AND TEXTRON LYCOMING RECIPROCATING ENGINE DIVISION



Appeal from the Order Entered February 19, 2008, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Civil Division, at Nos. 003838 and 004008, July Term, 2001.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shogan, J.

BEFORE: KLEIN, SHOGAN, JJ. and McEWEN, P.J.E.

OPINION

¶ 1 Textron, Inc., AVCO Corporation and Textron Lycoming Reciprocating Engine Division (collectively "Appellants") appeal from the order entered on February 19, 2008, in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas that denied Appellants' motion for summary judgment. The appellees in this matter are Karen Pridgen, individually and as Personal Representative of the estate of Lendon N. Pridgen, deceased, and as Personal Representative of the estate of Anthony W. Cipparone, deceased; Denise Diggen, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Daniel Diggen, deceased; and Debra Johnson, individually and on behalf of Tyler Johnson, as parent and natural guardian of Tyler Johnson, a minor (collectively "Appellees"). Additionally, we are faced with a motion to quash filed by Appellees. Upon review, we grant Appellees' motion to quash.

¶ 2 The relevant facts and procedural history of this matter are summarized as follows. This case arises from a fatal airplane accident that occurred in 1999, when a thirty-one-year-old Piper PA-32-260 airplane crashed. Several people were killed, and another suffered serious injuries. Appellees, who were the plaintiffs in the trial court, initiated suit against Appellants and others, and the actions were consolidated in the common pleas court in 2001.

¶ 3 Appellees' complaints asserted claims of negligence, strict liability, and breach of express and implied warranties. Appellees alleged that the crash was caused by a failure of engine and fuel system components that were replaced and overhauled within eighteen years of the date of the accident.

Additionally, Appellees claimed that Appellants had knowledge of the alleged defects and engaged in intentional misrepresentation, concealment, and withholding relative to these defects. These sets of allegations were included to implicate exceptions to the 18-year statute of repose included in the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994*fn1 and its rolling provisions.*fn2

Under GARA, claims for death, injury, and property damage involving certain types of aircraft asserted against a manufacturer are generally barred if the accident occurred more than 18 years after delivery of the aircraft to the first purchaser. The rolling provision preserves causes of action against manufacturers related to potentially defective replacement parts after 18 years, but it instructs that the 18-year time-period begins to run from the date of installation of the replacement part. See 49 U.S.C.A. § 40101, Note. ¶ 4 Appellants filed motions for summary judgment in the underlying actions based on the statute of repose in GARA. Appellants argued that more than eighteen years had elapsed between the date of manufacture and the date of the accident. Appellees argued that the rolling provision applied and that Appellants were not entitled to GARA protection because Appellants had installed and overhauled engine components within 18 years prior to the accident. Additionally, Appellees claimed that there were material facts in dispute concerning the misrepresentation, concealment, and withholding exception in GARA.*fn3

¶ 5 In September 2003, the common pleas court denied Appellants' motion for summary judgment. Appellants timely appealed from the interlocutory order. Appellants' argued that they were entitled to appellate review of the denial of summary judgment under the collateral order doctrine, as set forth in Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 313. See Pa.R.A.P. 313(b) ("A collateral order is an order separable from and collateral to the main cause of action where the right involved is too important to be denied review and the question presented is such that if review is postponed until final judgment in the case, the claim will be irreparably lost.").

¶ 6 Upon review, this Court quashed the appeal. Appellants then sought review in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and were granted allowance of appeal. As noted by the Supreme Court, Appellants acknowledged in the earlier appeal that the United States Supreme Court has found some summary judgment orders will not fit within the collateral order doctrine, where they merely reflect the trial court's determination that material facts are in issue concerning immunity, as opposed to the resolution of one or more dispositive legal questions. Pridgen v. Parker Hannifin Corp., 588 Pa. 405, 414, 905 A.2d 422, 428 (2006) (citing Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. part, that is causally related to the harm which the claimant allegedly suffered[.] 49 U.S.C.A. § 40101, Note. 304, 310 (1995) (holding, in the context of the assertion of a qualified immunity defense, that a trial court's summary judgment order that merely determines that the pretrial record sets forth a genuine issue of fact for trial does not meet the requirements of the federal collateral order doctrine)). In that initial appeal to our Supreme Court, Appellants argued, however, that the issue was not simply a challenge to the common pleas court's judgment that material facts are in issue with regard to GARA's applicability. Rather, Appellants claimed that they sought to challenge the legal standard employed by the common pleas court in determining which entities may be subject to GARA's rolling provision relative to replacement parts. Pridgen v. Parker Hannifin Corp., 588 Pa. at 417, 905 A.2d at 430.

¶ 7 Ultimately, the Supreme Court held that, because the issue presented a question of law as opposed to a question of fact, Appellants were entitled to review under the collateral order doctrine. The Court reasoned that:

for the most part, [Appellants] have focused the substantive challenge that they seek to raise on appeal on the scope of an original manufacturer's ongoing liability under GARA's rolling provision for the alleged failure of replacement parts that it did not physically manufacture.n9 Such limitation disposes of a number of Appellees' contentions, since, contrary to their arguments, there is no need to assess a broad range of merits issues, such as what components (if any) actually caused the accident and whether any such parts were defective. Nor is it necessary to assess the actual age of the replacement parts alleged to have caused the accident for purposes of GARA. In this regard, the question of whether or not the replacement parts were actually installed within a new eighteen-year period implicated by the rolling provision is immaterial if Appellants are correct that no new period arises under the rolling provision in the first instance in relation to entities who are not the actual manufacturers of the relevant replacement components.[] Appellants' framing of the central question presented therefore is consistent with an appropriate application of the collateral order doctrine under the United States Supreme Court's distinction between summary judgment orders reflecting legal versus factual determinations, see Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. at 313-20, 115 S.Ct. at 2156-59,[] as Appellants have plainly sought to present a focused legal challenge on appeal.[]

n9 As noted, Appellants did also seek to demonstrate that there are no material facts in dispute concerning the application of the misrepresentation, concealment, and withholding exception. Since, however, the common pleas court's supplemental Rule 1925(a) order has revealed that this argument was not a basis for its decision, and because its resolution will entail a fact-based review of affidavits, depositions, and other discovery materials, as opposed to resolution of a central legal controversy, we agree with Appellees' position that it should not be considered in the present appeal. See Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. at 313-20, 115 S.Ct. at 2156-59.

Pridgen v. Parker Hannifin Corp., 588 Pa. at 421, 905 A.2d at 432 (footnote 9 in original, footnotes 10-12 ...


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