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Ann Dipietro, D.D.S v. Glidewell Laboratories

November 8, 2011

ANN DIPIETRO, D.D.S., PLAINTIFF
v.
GLIDEWELL LABORATORIES, DEFENDANT IVOCLAR VIVADENT, INC., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

We are considering a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant, Glidewell Laboratories. This matter involves Defendant's allegedly defective manufacturing of dental crowns, which were sold to Plaintiff, a dentist. We will examine the motion under the well-established standard. Lawrence v. City of Philadelphia, 527 F.3d 299, 310 (3d. Cir. 2008).

II. Background

Plaintiff is a dentist with a practice in Plymouth, PA. Defendant, Glidewell Laboratories ("Glidewell"), fabricated and manufactured dental crowns and bridges for Plaintiff. Around 2001, Plaintiff began experiencing difficulties with the crowns produced by Glidewell, which Plaintiff attributes to a change in manufacturing materials and v. processes. These difficulties included discoloration, separation, and flaking of the porcelain surface of crowns. Plaintiff filed the instant suit on February 26, 2007 in the Court of Common Pleas, Luzerne County. On August 29, 2007, the action was removed to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff's complaint included claims under the Restatement of Torts, Second, § 402A, breach of warranty, and negligence. Plaintiff alleges damages of more than $400,000 from repairing the failed product, loss of goodwill, and future time required to replace the defective devices. Glidewell filed a motion for summary judgment on August 5, 2011. Glidewell asserts that Plaintiff's tort claims must be dismissed under the gist of the action and economic loss doctrines. Additionally, Glidewell seeks summary judgment on statute of limitation grounds and a limitation of liabilities clause.

III. Discussion

A. Tort Claims

Defendant has moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's tort claims under the doctrines of "gist of the action" and economic loss.

1. The Gist of the Action Doctrine

The gist of the action doctrine "precludes plaintiffs from re-casting ordinary breach of contract claims into tort claims." eToll Inc., v. Elias/Savion Adver., 2002 Pa. Super. 347, 811 A.2d 10, 14 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2002). The doctrine precludes tort claims

(1) arising solely from a contract between the parties; (2) where the duties allegedly breached were created and grounded in the contract itself; (3) where the liability stems from a contract; or (4) where the tort claim essentially duplicates a breach of contract claim or the success of which is wholly dependent on the terms of a contract.

Id. at 19. "The critical conceptual distinction between a breach of contract claim and a tort claim is that the former arises out of 'breaches of duties imposed by mutual consensus agreements between particular individuals,' while the latter arises out of 'breaches of duties imposed by law as a matter of social policy.'" Erie Ins. Exch. v. Abbott Furnace Co., 2009 PA Super 88, 972 A.2d 1232, 1238 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2009) (quoting Reardon v. Allegheny Coll., 2007 PA Super 160, 926 A.2d 477, 486-87 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2007)). In determining whether the gist of the action is in tort or contract, the test is "concerned with the nature of the action as a whole." Id.

The Defendant's duties to Plaintiff arise from contractual obligations and a violation of these duties is properly brought as a breach of contract claim. See id. at 1239 (finding defendant's obligation to plaintiff not to design a defective furnace arose from a mutual agreement between parties); New Hope Books, Inc. v. Data-Vision Prologix, Inc., 2003 Phila Ct. Com. Pl. LEXIS 62, *13-14 (Phila Ct. Com Pl. 2003) (holding negligence and strict liability counts are barred by gist of the action and economic loss doctrines where defendant failed to design and produce labels that worked properly). Plaintiff's attempt to bring breach of contract claims ...


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