Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Richetta v. Stanley Fastening Systems

August 21, 2009

BRUCE RICHETTA, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
v.
STANLEY FASTENING SYSTEMS, L.P. DEFENDANT



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This products liability action is brought by Plaintiffs Bruce Richetta and his wife, Melissa Richetta, against Defendant Stanley Fastening Systems, L.P. ("Stanley"). Plaintiffs allege that Defendant is liable for injuries Bruce Richetta ("Richetta") sustained when a nail gun manufactured by Defendant fell off a ladder and discharged a nail into his body. Plaintiffs are proceeding on a theory of strict liability.*fn1 In particular, Plaintiffs contend that the nail gun was defectively designed because it did not have a safety switch or trigger lock and that this defect caused Richetta's injuries. Plaintiffs are also seeking punitive damages against Defendant. (Am. Compl. ¶ 33).

Before the Court are two motions for summary judgment, which separately address Plaintiffs' claims for strict liability and punitive damages. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment seeking judgment as to Plaintiffs' strict liability claim (Doc. No. 45) is denied. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment seeking judgment as to Plaintiffs' claim for punitive damages (Doc. No. 35) is granted.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On September 20, 2005, Plaintiff Bruce Richetta was using a Model N80CB-1 pneumatic nail gun manufactured by Defendant Stanley Fastening Systems, L.P. while working at a construction site.

(Def.'s Second Stmt. of Facts ¶ 1). The nail gun in question was manufactured by Defendant in 2001 and purchased by Richetta in 2002. (Pls.' First Ex. C, Richetta Dep. at 37; Pls.' First Ex. B, Ponko Dep. at 22). After using the nail gun on site, Richetta-with the intention to continue using the nail gun-laid the gun on top of a six-foot ladder and exited the construction site to retrieve tools. (Pls.' First Ex. C, Richetta Dep. at 91-97). Richetta did not disconnect the air compressor from the nail gun prior to laying the nail gun on the ladder. (Id. at 99). Upon his return to the construction site, Richetta approached the ladder with screws in one hand and an electric screwdriver in the other hand. (Id. at 100). As he approached the ladder, the nail gun fell off the ladder. (Id.). The nail gun was still attached to its air compressor. (Id.). The "contact trip" of the nail gun then made contact with Richetta, making a loud "bang" sound. The nail gun discharged a nail into the upper chest/collarbone area of his body. (Id.). Richetta does not recall making contact with the ladder or the air hose attached to the air compressor leading to the nail gun, nor does he remember seeing the nail gun fall from the ladder. (Id. at 106-07). Emergency surgery was required to remove the nail from Richetta's chest and subsequent medical treatment was needed-including open chest surgery, in-patient hospitalization, and follow-up care. (Am. Compl. ¶ 13). There were apparently no witnesses to the incident.

To discharge a nail from a Model N80CB-1 pneumatic nail gun-the nail gun used by Richetta-the nail gun's trigger mechanism must be pulled simultaneously with the touching of the nail gun's "contact trip" against a surface. (Pls.' First Ex. D, Ezra Report at 4-5; Def.'s First Ex. J, Ponko Aff. ¶ 10). Plaintiffs do not contend that the gun was defective on the ground that it fired without the pulling of the trigger mechanism. Rather, Plaintiffs "concede[] that something must have depressed the trigger" at the time the nail gun's contact trip made contact with Richetta. (Pls.' First Stmt. of Facts ¶ 4; Pls.' First Ex. D, Ezra Report at 5). Plaintiffs' expert opines that Richetta made "a reflexive action to try and protect himself" that pulled the trigger near the moment the nail gun made contact with Richetta's chest, causing the nail gun to fire. (Ezra Dep. at 121-22).

STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted if the record, including pleadings, depositions, affidavits, and answers to interrogatories, demonstrates "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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In making that determination, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The question is 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." Id. at 251-52. It is not the role of the trial judge "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 250. Indeed, "[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge." Id. at 255. As Plaintiffs will bear the burden of proof at trial, Defendant may obtain summary judgment by affirmatively demonstrating that Plaintiffs have either no evidence or insufficient evidence to meet their burden at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

STRICT LIABILITY

A. Restatement (Third) of Torts v. Restatement (Second) of Torts

The Court must first determine whether, and to what extent, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals' recent decision in Berrier v. Simplicity Mfg., Inc., 563 F.3d 38 (3d Cir. 2009), applies to the case at bar.*fn2

The Court concludes that Berrier applies and, as a result, the Court must apply Sections 1 and 2 of the Restatement (Third) of Torts to Plaintiffs' strict liability claim under Pennsylvania law.*fn3

In Berrier, the Third Circuit predicted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court "would adopt the Restatement (Third) of Torts, §§ 1 and 2, thereby affording bystanders a cause of action in strict liability." Berrier, 563 F.3d at 40.*fn4 Until Berrier, strict liability claims in Pennsylvania were examined under Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. See Berkebile v. Brantly Helicopter Corp., 337 A.2d 893, 899 (Pa. 1975); see also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A (1965).*fn5 Thus, the Court must assess whether Berrier's prediction applies to the facts of the case sub judice, thereby rendering Sections 1 and 2 of the Third Restatement the standard by which Plaintiffs' strict liability claim should be evaluated. If Berrier's prediction does not apply to this case, Plaintiffs' strict liability claim must be evaluated pursuant to Section 402A of the Second Restatement. The differences between the Third Restatement and the Second Restatement are significant, as the Third Restatement emphasizes foreseeable risks of harm while the Second Restatement stresses, among other things, whether ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.