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Gadley v. Ellis

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 23, 2014

GARY GADLEY, Plaintiff,


KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This matter comes is before the Court on a motion for partial summary judgment (ECF No. 16) filed by Defendants Jerry Ellis ("Ellis") and Marcia Ellis ("Marcia"). The Plaintiff, Gary Gadley, filed a brief in opposition (ECF No. 24), to which Defendants filed a reply (ECF No. 29). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment will be granted.

II. Jurisdiction and Venue

The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

III. Background

The events underlying this action center upon a timber frame home built by Gadley between 2010 and 2011 for his personal use. Gadley designed the home with the assistance of an architectural firm and served as his own general contractor during its construction. (ECF No. 18-1 at 9-14). For his roof, Gadley decided to use structural insulated panels ("SIPs") after learning about them from a friend and discussing the product with representatives from an SIP manufacturer at a timber frame conference. ( Id. at 22-23). Gadley eventually contracted with a company in the state of Indiana, Thermocore, to design and construct the SIPs for his home. ( Id. at 24-25).

In response to an inquiry from Gadley, Thermocore identified Jerry Ellis Construction as a panel installer and provided Gadley's contact information to Ellis. ( Id. at 30). Shortly thereafter, Marcia contacted Gadley on behalf of Jerry Ellis Construction and sent Gadley a proposal for the installation of the SIPs. (ECF No. 18-2 at 19, 21). She also provided a letter from Jerry Ellis explaining the process of installing SIP panels. ( Id. at 22). Gadley initially believed Marcia to be Ellis's wife, but later learned that she was his mother. (ECF No. 18-1 at 32-33). Throughout her communications with Gadley, Marcia frequently used the words "we" and "us" in reference to Jerry Ellis Construction. (ECF No. 18-2 at 19-22). However, while Ellis's mother helped him out by serving as his secretary and filing his taxes, she was never paid for her work, never received any share of the profits of Jerry Ellis Construction, and had no ownership stake in the company. (ECF No. 18-6 at 5-7).

On October 5, 2011, Gadley agreed to hire Jerry Ellis Construction to install the SIP panels on his roof for $7, 550. (ECF No. 18-1 at 30-31). The contract identified Jerry Ellis Construction and Jerry Ellis as the parties with whom Gadley was contracting. (ECF No. 26-4). The contact information listed on the contract included Marcia's email address and phone numbers for both Ellis and Marcia. ( Id. ). Ellis installed the SIPs on Gadley's home between October 27, 2011, and October 29, 2011. (ECF No. 1-2 at ¶ 15, 22). Almost immediately, Gadley identified several shortcomings in the quality of the installation. These issues included numerous gaps and misalignments between the panels, a lack of proper overhang at the edge of the roof, and the fact that the end of each SIP did not properly rest on a support rafter. (ECF No. 18-1 at 34-36, 39-40). Gadley also became alarmed at the amount of cutting and sledgehammering that Ellis had to do in order to get the panels to fit properly. (ECF No. 26-12 at 6-7). When Gadley raised these concerns, Ellis repeatedly assured him that the installation was proceeding in a normal manner and that nothing was wrong. ( Id. ).

Based on his belief that the SIP panels had been improperly installed, Gadley initiated the instant action by filing a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County on December 21, 2012. (ECF No. 1-2 at 3). Defendants removed the complaint to this Court on January 18, 2013. ( Id. at 1). In his complaint, Gadley asserts a claim for breach of contract at Count I, a claim for breach of express and implied warranties at Count II, and a private cause of action pursuant to the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL") at Count III. Gadley named both Ellis and Marcia as defendants based on his belief that both individuals had an ownership interest in Jerry Ellis Construction. (ECF No. 18-1 at 32-33).

On January 6, 2014, Defendants filed the instant partial motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of Marcia Ellis and arguing that Gadley's UTPCPL claim is barred by the gist of the action doctrine and/or the economic loss doctrine. (ECF No. 16). Gadley filed a brief in opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment on February 24, 2014. (ECF No. 24). Defendants filed a reply brief on March 20, 2014. (ECF No. 29). Both parties filed concise statements of material facts and supporting exhibits. Thus, Defendants' motion is fully briefed and ripe for review.

IV. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate only where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Melrose, Inc. v. Pittsburgh, 613 F.3d 380, 387 (3d Cir. 2010). Issues of fact are genuine "if 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); see also McGreevy v. Stroup, 413 F.3d 359, 363 (3d Cir. 2005). Material facts are those that will affect the outcome of the trial under governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The Court's role is "not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but only to determine whether the evidence of record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009). "In making this determination, a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party's favor.'" Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co., 206 F.3d 271, 278 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Armbruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 777 (3d Cir. 1994)).

The moving party bears the initial responsibility of stating the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party meets this burden, the party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials" of the pleading, but "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 n.11 (1986)). "For an issue to be genuine, the nonmovant needs to supply more than a scintilla of evidence in support of its ...

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