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Cmiech v. Electrolux Home Products

September 24, 2009

DOMICELLA CMIECH AND PETER CMIECH, H/W AND ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ELECTROLUX HOME PRODUCTS, INC., ELECTROLUX NEW PRODUCTS OF NORTH AMERICA, INC., LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, INC., AND LOWE'S, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 57). For the reasons provided below, Defendants' motion will be denied. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Domicella Cmiech [hereinafter Mrs. Cmiech] and Peter Cmiech [hereinafter Mr. Cmiech], residents of Pennsylvania, brought this personal injury suit against Defendant Electrolux Home Products, Inc. [hereinafter Elextrolux], a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Georgia, and Defendant Lowe's Home Centers, Inc. [hereinafter Lowe's], a North Carolina Corporation with a principal place of business in North Carolina, in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County on June 18, 2007. Defendants filed notice of removal on August 14, 2007. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiffs then filed a motion for remand, which this Court denied in a Memorandum and Order dated November 11, 2007. (Doc. 16.)

Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on Nov. 24, 2008, adding Allstate Insurance Company as a plaintiff; Allstate sought seven thousand five hundred seven dollars and eight cents ($7,507.08) paid by Allstate under Mr. Cmiech's homeowner's insurance policy, as a subrogee of Peter Cmiech. (Doc. 38, ¶ 41.) In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that, on September 16, 2005, they purchased a Frigidaire stove that had been placed in the stream of commerce by Defendant Electrolux at a Lowe's Store in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 38, ¶¶ 21-24.) That day, Plaintiffs transported the stove to their home and installed the stove. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-32.) The following day, Plaintiffs allege that the stove suddenly exploded due to a fuel leak from a defect in the stove, causing serious injuries to Mrs. Cmiech, including second and third degree burns on approximately fourteen and one half percent (14.5%) of her body, requiring hospitalization and surgical intervention, causing pain and suffering and other economic and financial damages. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-40.) Mrs. Cmiech brought claims for strict liability, negligence and breach of warranty, and Mr. Cmiech claimed loss of consortium as a result of the explosion.

According to Plaintiffs' depositions, Mr. and Mrs. Cmiech separated in April 2007, when Mrs. Cmiech moved out of the home they shared. (Peter Cmiech Dep. 8:19-11:17, Feb. 8, 2009; Domicella Cmiech Dep. 70:16-76:5, Feb. 20, 2009.) At the time of the depositions, divorce proceedings were pending. (Peter Cmiech Dep. 11:18-12:8; Domicella Cmiech Dep. 10:20-24; Doc. 38, Ex. D.)

On August 10, 2009, Defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment, requesting that the court grant summary judgment for the Defendants on Mr. Cmiech's loss of consortium claims. (Doc. 57.) Defendants argued that, as a result of Mr. and Mrs. Cmiech's separation, Mr. Cmiech was no longer entitled to damages for his loss of society, companionship and consortium. (Doc. 57.) Defendants also filed a brief in support of their motion for partial summary judgment. (Doc. 58.) Plaintiffs then filed its brief in opposition to Defendants' motion on August 25, 2009. (Doc. 60.) Defendants did not file a reply; thus, the current motion has been thoroughly briefed and is now ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate 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 a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

DISCUSSION

Defendants move for partial summary judgment, arguing that there exists no genuine issue of material fact regarding the Plaintiffs' April 2007 separation and, therefore, Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Mr. Cmiech's claims for loss of consortium.

I. The Erie Doctrine

This Court has jurisdiction over this case through diversity of citizenship between the parties, and therefore must decide whether to apply federal law or state law. Under Erie v. Tompkins, a federal court sitting in diversity must apply state substantive law and federal procedural law. 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938). "This substantive/procedural dichotomy of the 'Erie rule' must be applied with the objective that 'in all cases where a federal court is exercising jurisdiction solely because of the diversity of citizenship of the parties, the outcome of the litigation in the federal court [will] be substantially the same, so far as legal rules determine the outcome of a litigation, as it would be if tried in a State court.'" Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158-59 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Guaranty Trust Co. v. York, 326 U.S. 99, 109, 65 S.Ct. 1464, 89 L.Ed. ...


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