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Polhill v. Fedex Ground Package System, Inc.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

June 6, 2014

DANIEL C. POLHILL, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDEX GROUND PACKAGE SYSTEM, INC., FEDEX GROUND, WASP, INC., TUG TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION, MOTREC INTERNATIONAL INC., TOPPER INDUSTRIAL INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

DuBOIS, JAN E., J.

I. INTRODUCTION

This case arises out of an injury pro se plaintiff allegedly suffered on February 9, 2010 while working as an employee of FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (“FedEx”) at its facility in Barrington, New Jersey (“Barrington facility”). Presently before the Court is Defendant FedEx Ground Package System, Inc.’s Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, that Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

II. BACKGROUND

Pro se plaintiff alleges, in the Third Amended Complaint, that he sustained an injury as he was loading packages onto three connected baggage carts when the tug at the front end of the carts allegedly pushed the carts backwards over pro se plaintiff’s foot. Statement of Uncontested Material Facts in Supp. of Def., FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc.’s Mot. Summ. J. ¶¶ 1–3 [hereinafter Uncontested Facts]. Pro se plaintiff claims that the carts and tug had no reverse-warning lights or sirens. Id.

After the accident, pro se plaintiff immediately resumed work at the Barrington facility. Def. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc.’s Mot. Summ. J. [hereinafter Def. Mot.] Ex. E. at 100:7–14. On December 2, 2010, pro se plaintiff filed an Employee’s Claim Petition with the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development Division of Workmen’s Compensation covering injuries he allegedly sustained in the February 9, 2010 accident. Def. Mot. Ex. G. Pro se plaintiff received worker’s compensation benefits, Def. Mot. Ex. H ¶ 2, and continued to work at the Barrington facility until his termination on or about February 20, 2011, approximately twelve months after the accident. Def. Mot. Ex. E. at 100:7–14.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

In considering a motion for summary judgment, “the court is required to examine the evidence of record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). The party opposing the motion, however, cannot “rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions” to support its claim. Fireman's Ins. Co. v. DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982). After examining the evidence of record, a court should grant summary judgment if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322–23 (1986).

A factual dispute is material when it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law” and genuine when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.’” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation omitted).

IV. DISCUSSION

Pro se plaintiff asserts four causes of action against FedEx in the Third Amended Complaint: (1) Product Liability; (2) Negligence; (3) “Responsibility to Protect Plaintiff from Harm”; and (4) “Misrepresentation and Responsibilities of Submission of the Parties.” Presently before the Court is FedEx’s Motion for Summary Judgment, in which FedEx argues that pro se plaintiff’s common law tort claims are barred by the New Jersey Workmen’s Compensation Act, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:15-1 et seq., or alternatively, by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, 77 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1 et seq. The Court addresses each cause of action in turn.

A. First Cause of Action - Product Liability

Pro se plaintiff alleges that FedEx “knowingly and willfully caused injuries to plaintiff” because FedEx knew that a defect in the “purchased product” could cause personal injury. See 3d Am. Compl., “First Cause of Action” ¶ 3, ECF No. 74. The purchaser of a product cannot be liable under either Pennsylvania or New Jersey product liability law. See, e.g., Dean v. Barrett Homes, Inc., 8 A.3d 766, 771 (N.J. 2010) (“The definition of tort liability found in the Products Liability Act is broad: ‘[a] manufacturer or seller of a product shall be liable . . . .’” (quoting N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:58C-2)); Weiner v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 718 A.2d 305, 308 n.3 (Pa. 1998) (“One who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability . . . .” (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A (1965))). Accordingly, pro se plaintiff’s cause of action for product liability fails as a matter of law. In view of this disposition of the claim, it is not necessary to determine whether such a claim is barred by Pennsylvania or New Jersey worker’s compensation law.

B. Second and Third Causes of Action - Negligence and “Responsibility to Protect Plaintiff ...


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