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Greg Kida, et al. v. Ecowater Systems LLC

September 30, 2011


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


I. Introduction

Judges generally avoid deciding motions based on procedural failures of counsel. The decided preference is to ignore those procedural defaults which have not caused prejudice to another side, and to adjudicate motions based on substantive rules of law. This policy is, at its most fundamental level, a fair approach to make sure that the parties achieve justice and that the faults of lawyers do not affect the substantive rights of their clients.

In this products liability action, EcoWater Systems LLC and Sears, Roebuck & Co. (collectively, "Defendants") seek summary judgment on the claims brought by Greg Kida and Sophia Kida (collectively, "Plaintiffs") relating to the malfunction of a water filtration system.

II. Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, July 2010, No. 001944. On August 25, 2010, Defendants removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Not. Removal (ECF No. 1). On September 16, 2010, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 3), which alleged Negligence (Count I), Strict Liability (Count II), Res Ipsa Loquitor (Count III), and Breach of Warranty (Count IV).

Plaintiffs allege they are New Jersey residents who own real and personal property at 404 Lakeview Street, Lakeville, Pennsylvania 18438 ("the Lakeville Property"). Am. Compl. ¶ 3 (ECF No. 3).

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants "were engaged in the business of designing, manufacturing, fabricating, assembling, inspecting, marketing, distributing, selling, and/or supplying, among other things, water filters, water filtration systems, accumulator tanks, and other water service products." Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiffs had installed in the Lakeville Property kitchen "a water filter, water filtration system, accumulator tank, and/or other water service product." Id. at ¶ 12. The water filter was a Kenmore product. Id. at ¶ 19. Sears Roebuck & Co. is a corporate parent of Kenmore. Id. at ¶ 6.

Defendants allegedly designed, manufactured, and sold the water filter system in a defective, dangerous, and/or hazardous condition, and failed to warn of the dangerous or hazardous condition. Id. at ¶¶ 21-22. The malfunction of the water filtration system caused extensive flooding in and property damage to the Lakeville Property. Id. at ¶¶ 14-18.

Defendants moved for summary judgment on August 12, 2011 (ECF No. 25). Plaintiffs responded on August 30, 2011 (ECF No. 26), and Defendants replied on September 9, 2011 (ECF No. 27).

III. Legal Standards

A. Jurisdiction

The Court has diversity jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.Plaintiffs are residents of New Jersey. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2. Defendant Ecowater Systems, LLC, is a Minnesota citizen, and Defendant Sears Roebuck & Co. is an Illinois citizen. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5. The amount in controversy is in excess of $75,000, as Plaintiffs seek recovery in excess of $50,000 for each count.

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant can show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).*fn1 A dispute is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id.

Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue at trial, the moving party's initial burden can be met simply by "pointing out to the district court . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-moving party fails to rebut by making a factual showing "sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Under Rule 56, the Court must view the evidence presented on the motion in the light most favorable to the opposing party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

IV. The Parties' Contentions

Defendants contend that, based on the evidence in the record, including matters deemed admitted in their unanswered Requests for Admission, there is no genuine dispute of material fact and Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiffs' claims. Defendants assert that Plaintiffs have admitted the water filter system failed because of mishandling during ...

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