Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Dearden v. FCA U.S. LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 31, 2017

DAVID DEARDEN et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
FCA U.S. LLC et al., Defendants.

         Dearden's Motion to Remand, ECF No. 30- Granted in Part Rosner's Motion to Remand, ECF No. 37- Granted in Part FCA's Motion to Stay, ECF No. 46- Denied as Moot FCA's Motion to Sever and Transfer Venue, ECF No. 47- Granted Trucking Defendants' Motion to Strike and Dismiss, ECF No. 56- Denied

          OPINION

          JOSEPH F. LEESON, JR. United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This wrongful death and survival action was filed in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County and subsequently removed to this Court. The claims arose following a multi-vehicle accident that resulted in the death of three persons and in injuries to at least five other individuals. There was a product recall regarding the vehicle occupied by two decedents, and they have asserted independent product liability claims against one of the defendants, which arise from a Sale Order entered by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. This Court now confronts the question of whether to sever and transfer the product liability claims to the bankruptcy court, and to remand the remaining claims to the state court. For the reasons set forth below, that question is answered in the affirmative.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. The Bankruptcy Case

         Chrysler filed for bankruptcy in 2009, after which FCA U.S. LLC entered into a Master Transaction Agreement (“MTA”) to purchase Chrysler's assets and debts. See In re Chrysler LLC, No. 09-50002 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. April 30, 2009). Section 2.08(h) of the MTA, Assumption of Liabilities, provides that FCA shall assume liability for “all Product Liability Claims arising from the sale after the Closing of Products or Inventory manufactured by Sellers or their Subsidiaries in whole or in part prior to the Closing.” Notice Removal, Ex. A at 8-9, ECF No. 1. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York entered a Sale Order on June 1, 2009, approving the MTA. The Sale Order states that except for the Assumed Liabilities in the MTA, FCA is not liable for any claim that “(a) arose prior to the Closing Date, [1] (b) relates to the production of vehicles prior to the Closing Date or (c) otherwise is assertable against [Chrysler] or is related to the Purchased Assets prior to the Closing Date.” Removal ¶ 3 and Ex. B ¶ 35. Section 2.08(h) of the MTA was subsequently amended to expand liability to also include:

all Product Liability Claims arising from the sale on or prior to the Closing of motor vehicles or component parts, in each case manufactured by Sellers or their Subsidiaries and distributed and sold as a Chrysler, Jeep, or Dodge brand vehicle or MOPAR brand part, solely to the extent such Product Liability Claims (A) arise directly from motor vehicle accidents occurring on or after Closing, (B) are not barred by any statute of limitations, (C) are not claims including or related to any alleged exposure to any asbestos-containing material or any other Hazardous Material and (D) do not include any claim for exemplary or punitive damages.

         Removal, Ex. C. The bankruptcy court approved this amendment (“Amendment No. 4”) on November 19, 2009. See In re Chrysler LLC, No. 09-50002 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Nov. 19, 2009).

         B. Factual and Procedural History of the Instant Action

         Plaintiffs[2] filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County on January 12, 2016. Defendant FCA U.S. LLC removed the case to this Court. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a separate Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County based on the same incident but eliminating several Defendants, which was also removed to this Court. These cases were then consolidated into the above-captioned action, and Plaintiffs were directed to file an Amended Complaint.[3]

         Plaintiffs allege as follows: on May 12, 2014, Defendant Vincente Espinvera, who was driving a tractor-trailer on I-78, was travelling too fast for conditions and failed to observe the slow-moving traffic he was approaching. As a result, Espinvera's tractor-trailer struck the rear-end of Robert Rosner's vehicle, pushing it ahead into the vehicle occupied by Diego Frank Burns, Melissa Burns, and their four minor children. The Burnses' vehicle was moved forward into the vehicle occupied by Edward Dearden and Theresa Dearden. The Deardens' vehicle, a 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee, immediately burst into flames. Espinvera's tractor-trailer became locked with Rosner's vehicle and when Espinvera attempted to back away from the fire, he dragged Rosner's vehicle with him. Rosner died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the collision. Each member of the Burns family was injured in the collision, and Mr. and Mrs. Dearden were pronounced dead at the scene.

         Plaintiffs allege that some time before May 12, 2014, the date of the accident, Defendant Chrysler Group LLC put the Deardens' vehicle into the stream of commerce, Defendant Nanette Brickner sold[4] the vehicle to the Deardens, and Defendant Henise Tire Service, Inc. performed a state safety inspection on the vehicle and passed the vehicle. Plaintiffs further allege that prior to May 12, 2014, FCA[5] issued a product recall[6] due to the vehicle's propensity to burst into flames after rear impacts, but that neither FCA nor Brickner informed the Deardens of the recall.

         Plaintiffs make additional allegations against Espinvera, his employers, and the owners of the truck and of the trailer he was driving.[7] They also assert allegations against the contractor hired to make repairs to I-78 and the companies hired to perform construction services.[8] These allegations are not pertinent to the pending motions and, therefore, are not described herein.

         In the Amended Complaint, all Plaintiffs raise negligence and punitive damages claims against Espinvera and the Trucking Defendants. They also plead a negligence claim against the Construction Defendants. Rosner asserts wrongful death and survival claims against Espinvera, the Trucking Defendants, and the Construction Defendants. Dearden raises wrongful death and survival claims against all Defendants. Dearden pleads a negligence claim against Brickner and Henise. Dearden also asserts claims of negligence, strict product liability, and punitive damages against FCA. In the punitive damages claim, Dearden alleges that FCA knew that the location of the fuel tank in the 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees was leading to fatal post-collision fires, and engaged in legal battles and took efforts to delay a product recall. Dearden alleges that FCA eventually issued a product recall on August 6, 2013, but did not notify the Deardens of the recall prior to the accident.

         C. The Parties Arguments Relative to the Pending Motions

         1. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.