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Joan Mendoza v. Gribetz International

May 27, 2011

JOAN MENDOZA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GRIBETZ INTERNATIONAL, INC.,
DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Joan Mendoza claims that he suffered injuries after he placed his hand in a quilting machine manufactured by Defendant Gribetz International ("Gribetz"). He alleges that the machine was defective and did not feature adequate warnings. Gribetz filed a motion for summary judgment which is now before the Court. Because Plaintiff has failed to offer any evidence that a genuine issue of material facts exists, the Court must grant the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

As part of his job at Reliance Bedding Corporation, Joan Mendoza operated a quilting machine. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A [Compl. ¶¶ 6-7].) Mendoza alleges that the quilting machine was a Legacy 4/2 High Speed Multi-Needle Chain Stitch Quilting Machine, bearing Serial No. 48101L, and was manufactured, fabricated, assembled, marketed, sold or otherwise placed into the stream of commerce by Defendant. (Id. ¶ 3.) As alleged in his Complaint, Mendoza was hurt on March 31, 2008 "when the machine suddenly and without warning pulled [his] left arm into the machine and into the pressing component." (Id. ¶ 7.) However, according to Mendoza, there were two separate incidents involving the machine. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. D [Mendoza Dep.] at 32.) The first incident occurred on March 3, 2008 and involved a bar falling off and caused Mendoza to injure his right shoulder, his elbow, and his back. (Id. at 32, 40.) Specifically, he hurt his right elbow when "a roll rolled down [his] right arm" and cracked his elbow as he tried to stop it from hurting him. (Id. at 41.) The March 31, 2008 incident involved the machine catching Mendoza's left hand between two of the rolls as he tried to straighten out material. (Id. at 32, 50-52.) Mendoza was able to shut the machine off after his hand got stuck in the rollers, but workers had to break part of the machine to free his trapped hand. (Id. at 55.) The only injury he suffered as a result of the March 31, 2008 incident was to his left hand. (Id. at 56.) The injury to his left hand did not affect the earlier injuries to his right shoulder or his right elbow, and his back no longer bothers him. (Id. at 40, 61.)

The machine at issue displays a warning that states:

DANGER KEEP HANDS AWAY FROM ROLLERS (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Exs. E, F, & G [Machine Pictures].) That same sign also warns of possible severe injuries and shows a hand caught between two rollers. (Id.) Another posted sign warns individuals to "NEVER PLACE YOUR HANDS, HEAD OR ANY OTHER BODY PART NEXT TO OR BETWEEN THE LARGE MATERIAL CARRIAGE AND THE FRONT FIXED END COVER" and that "ELECTRICAL POWER MUST BE TURNED OFF BEFORE ANY MACHINE ADJUSTMENTS, REPAIRS, OR MALFUNCTION CORRECTIONS ARE PERFORMED." (Id.) Although Mendoza testified that he did not read English well, he stated that he was aware that he was to keep his hands away from all of the rollers and that the signs were posted at the time of the incidents. (Id. at 65-66.)

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on March 29, 2010, asserting products liability, breach of warranty, and negligence claims. Defendant removed to this Court. Following a Rule 16 conference on November 10, 2010, the Court issued a Scheduling Order which stated that fact and expert discovery would close on Monday, April 4, 2011. The Court also set forth its procedure for responding to a motion for summary judgment, including filing a separate statement of disputed facts responding to the movant's statement of undisputed facts and setting forth, in numbered paragraphs, any additional facts which the responding party asserts precludes summary judgment. Pursuant to this order, all facts contained in the statement of undisputed facts are deemed admitted unless opposed by the responding party.

To date, Plaintiff has "not conducted any discovery on the defendant, taken a deposition, served any interrogatories, document request or admissions upon the defendant, nor has he identified a medical expert for trial, nor produced any medical expert reports regarding the injuries allegedly sustained on March 31, 2008."*fn1 (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 17; see also Def.'s Statement of Uncontested Facts ¶¶ 14-19.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record that it believes illustrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the moving party makes such a demonstration, then the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must offer evidence that establishes a genuine issue of material fact that should proceed to trial. Id. at 324; see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986). "Such affirmative evidence -- regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial -- must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance." Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989).

When evaluating a motion brought under Rule 56, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); see also Pollock v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). A court must, however, avoid making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); see also Goodman v. Pa. Tpk. Comm'n, 293 F.3d 655, 665 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant offers several reasons to grant summary judgment, but ultimately the Court concludes that Plaintiff's failure to put forth any evidence that would allow a jury to find in his favor requires dismissal of his case. This Court cannot allow a case to go to a jury simply because Mendoza suffered an injury while using Defendant's quilting machine.

Gribetz claims that any injuries suffered as a result of the March 3, 2008 incident fall outside the statute of limitations and are not part of this case. (Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. at 16-18.) Plaintiff responds that whether the statute of limitations has run is a question for a jury because material issues of fact remain as to when Plaintiff suffered his injuries. (Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Pl.'s Opp'n] at 5-6.) This response lacks any basis in the record. Plaintiff clearly stated that he hurt his right shoulder, his elbow and his back on March 3, 2008 and the only body part he injured on March 31, 2008 was his left hand.*fn2 Plaintiff points to no other testimony, either from his own testimony or from a doctor or other medical expert, to suggest that "issues of fact still remain as to when Plaintiff's injuries manifested and to when he ...

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