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Roudabush v. Rondo, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 5, 2017

SHELLY ROUDABUSH, Plaintiff,
v.
RONDO, INC., RONDO BURGDORF AG, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KIM R. GIBSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 59.) The issues have been fully briefed (see ECF Nos. 60, 74, 137) and the motion is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be GRANTED.

         II. Jurisdiction

         The Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the instant action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332 and 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

         III. Background

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, on October 22, 2014. (See ECF No. 1, exhibit A.) Defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on November 12, 2014. (See ECF Nos. 1, 3.) Defendants moved to transfer venue on December 1, 2014. (See ECF No. 8.) On February 4, 2015, the Honorable Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg granted the motion and transferred the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a). (ECF No. 25.)

         This products liability case arises from a gruesome injury suffered by Plaintiff while working at Shirley's Cookie Company ("Shirley's"). On January 18, 2013, two of Plaintiff's fingers were severed while she was cleaning a machine manufactured and supplied by Defendants.[1] (ECF No. 1, exhibit A, at ¶¶ 8-16.) The machine, known as a "filling depositor, " is part of an assembly line and is used to deposit filling onto a sheet or another product such as a cookie. (See ECF No. 60, exhibit 1, at 2.) To operate the depositor, an employee must pour the substance to be deposited into a hopper. (Id.) The bottom of the hopper contains pistons that direct the substance into plastic tubes that bring it to where it will be deposited. (Id.) One day, Plaintiff stuck her hand into the hopper to clean the plastic tubes at the bottom of the hopper, and another employee turned on the machine, which caused the pistons to activate and sever two of Plaintiff's fingers. (See Id. at 33.)

         Plaintiff sued Defendants on a strict products liability theory. (See ECF No. 1, exhibit A.) While Plaintiff does not state it explicitly, a careful reading of the Complaint indicates that Plaintiff alleges two theories for recovery under strict products liability.

         First, Plaintiff claims that Defendants designed a defective product because the machine allegedly lacked "guards and [or] other safety devices, " (Id. at ¶ 18, ¶ 74(c), ¶ 74(f)), did not have a "lock-out tag-out functionality, " (Id. at ¶ 74(d)), and did not have a "tool [or] machine which would have prevented Plaintiff from having to place her hand inside the machine to implement a bake." (Id. at ¶ 74(e).)

         Second, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants provided a defective product because they failed to provide "adequate warnings" (Id. at ¶ 74 (a)), failed to "adequately detail dangers and procedures in its operation manual" (Id. at ¶ 74 (b)), and failed to update warnings about the machine after its sale to Plaintiff's employer. (Id. at ¶ 74 (h), ¶ 74 (j).)

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         IV. Legal Standard

          "Summary judgment is appropriate only where ... there is no genuine issue as to any material fact... and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Melrose, Inc. v. Pittsburgh, 613 F.3d 380, 387 (3d Cir.2010) (quoting Ruehl v. Viacom, Inc., 500 F.3d 375, 380 n. 6 (3d Cir.2007)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, A77 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). 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, 477 U.S. at 323. 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 position -there must be sufficient evidence (not mere allegations) for a reasonable jury to find for the nonmovant." Coolspring Stone Supply v. Am. States Life Ins. Co., 10 F.3d 144, 148 (3d Cir.1993); see also Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (noting that a party opposing summary judgment "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue") (internal quotation marks omitted).

         V. Discussion

         a. Strict Products ...


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