United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
GIBSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment
("Motion") filed by Defendants MTD Products, Inc.,
MTD Products Limited, MTD LLC, MTD Holdings, Inc., and MTD
Consumer Group, Inc. (together "MTD") (ECF No. 26.)
The Motion has been fully briefed (see ECF Nos. 27,
35, 37) and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated
below, the Court will DENY MTD's Motion.
Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. The Court observes that Plaintiff omitted from
his Amended Complaint any assertion that venue is proper
before this Court. (See ECF No. 11.) However, MTD
waived its defense of improper venue by failing to include it
in its responsive pleading. (ECF No. 12.) See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 12(h)(1)(B). Accordingly, venue is proper.
case arises from injuries that Plaintiff sustained while
handling a snow thrower manufactured by MTD. (ECF No. 11 at
2.) Plaintiff alleges that, on or about January 19, 2015,
when he was seating the bead of a tire onto the snow thrower
rim and/or inflating the tire, the rim failed and burst,
causing Plaintiff to suffer severe injuries. (Id. at
Court accepts as true the facts in the following two
paragraphs for the sole purpose of deciding the instant
Motion for Summary Judgment:
Plaintiff is a Pennsylvania resident. (ECF No. 33 at ¶
1.) Plaintiff purchased the snow thrower in Pennsylvania
(Id. at ¶ 6) and only ever used it in
Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff's
injury occurred in Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 8.)
has manufacturing, warehouse, and distribution facilities in
four states and several foreign countries. (ECF No. 28 at
¶ 13.) MTD is incorporated in Delaware and has its
principal place of business in Ohio. (Id. at ¶
5.) The snow thrower that injured Plaintiff was engineered,
designed, manufactured, and tested by Defendant MTD in its
Valley City, Ohio plant. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-11.)
MTD produced the snow thrower in question on September 8,
2004, and shortly thereafter sold it to Lowe's, a
national retailer, FOB MTD's manufacturing facility in
Ontario, Canada. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Upon receiving
the snow thrower, Lowe's shipped it to its distribution
center located in Minersville, Pennsylvania, in September
filed his Complaint before this Court on January 10, 2017.
(ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff subsequently amended his Complaint on
February 2, 2017. (ECF No. 11.) Plaintiff asserts two claims
against MTD: (1) strict products liability (Count I) and (2)
negligence (Count II). (Id. at 3-8.) MTD filed the
instant Motion for Summary Judgment on April 4, 2017. (ECF
asserts that Pennsylvania's choice of law rules mandate
that Ohio law be applied in this case. (ECF No. 27 at 2.)
Under § 2305.10(C)(1) of Ohio's Revised Code,
Ohio's statute of repose bars a products liability claim
brought more than ten years after the product was delivered
to its first purchaser, subject to exceptions that do not
apply here. MTD contends that Plaintiff's claims
are barred by Ohio's statue of repose because Plaintiff
brought his claims in 2017, more than ten years after MTD
delivered to snow thrower to Lowe's. (Id.)
contends that Pennsylvania's choice of law rules require
that the Court apply Pennsylvania law. (ECF No. 32 at ¶
3; ECF No. 35.) Both parties agree that Pennsylvania law does
not contain a statute of repose that would prevent Plaintiff
from asserting his claims against MTD. (ECF No. 33 at 13-14;
ECF No. 27 at 5.) Plaintiff asserts that this Court should
deny MTD's Motion for Summary Judgment because
Plaintiff's claims are not barred under Pennsylvania law.
(ECF No. 35 at 6-19.) Alternatively, Plaintiff asks this
Court to preclude MTD from arguing that Ohio law applies
under the doctrine of judicial estoppel; Plaintiff avers that
in similar litigation MTD previously took the inconsistent
position that the law of other states should apply rather
than the law of Ohio. (Id. at 19-23.)
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,
477 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).
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 Sew., 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).
Pennsylvania's Choice of Law Rules Apply
choice of law rules of the forum state, Pennsylvania, apply
when a federal court is sitting in diversity."
Specialty Surfaces Int'l, Inc. v. Cont'l Cas.
Co., 609 F.3d 223, 229 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Klaxon
Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496
Court sits in diversity in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Therefore, Pennsylvania's choice of law rules apply.
A Conflict Exists Between Pennsylvania Law and Ohio
first step in a choice of law analysis under Pennsylvania law
is to determine whether a conflict exists between the laws of
the competing states." Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v.
Stevens & Ricci Inc., 835 F.3d 388, 404 (3d Cir.
2016) (quoting Budtel Assocs., LP v. Cont'l Cas.
Co., 915 A.2d 640, 644 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2006)).
"'If [the] two jurisdictions' laws are the same,
then there is no conflict at all, and a choice of
law analysis is unnecessary.'" Vac. Employers
Ins. Co. v. Glob. Reinsurance Corp. of Am., 693 F.3d
417, 432 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Hammersmith v. TIG Ins.
Co., 480 F.3d 220, 230 (3d Cir. 2007)). "If there
are no relevant differences between the laws of the two
states, the court need not engage in further choice-of-law
analysis, and may instead refer to the states' laws
interchangeably." Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 835
F.3d at 404.
best knowledge of this Court and the parties, Pennsylvania
law does not provide for a statute of repose in product
liability actions. (See ECF No. 33 at 13-14; ECF No.
27 at 5.) By contrast, Ohio recognizes a ten-year statute of
repose in products liability cases. Ohio Rev. Code §
2305.10(C)(1). Therefore, a conflict exists between the laws
of the two jurisdictions.
The Conflict Between Pennsylvania and Ohio is a
the case that a conflict does exist, the court proceeds to
the second step of the analysis: characterizing the conflict
as 'true, ' 'false, ' or 'unprovided
for.'" Stanford v. Natl Grange Mut. Ins.
Co., No. CV 11-7144, 2014 WL 12607743, at *1 (E.D. Pa.
Feb. 28, 2014) (citing Hammersmith, 480 F.3d at
'true' conflict exists where both states have an
interest in applying their own law." Atl. Pier
Assocs., LLC v. Boardakan Rest. Partners, 647 F.Supp.2d
474, 487 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (citing Hammersmith, 480
F.3d at 229). If a "true" conflict exists, the
Court must determine "which state has the greater
interest in the application of its law" and must apply
that state's law. Cipolla v. Shaposka, 439 Pa.
563, 566 (1970).
"false" conflict exists "'[i]f only one
jurisdiction's governmental interests would be impaired
by the application of the other jurisdiction's law
...'". Wolfe v. McNeil-PPC, Inc., 703
F.Supp.2d 487, 492 (E.D. Pa. 2010) (quoting Lacey v.
Cessna Aircraft Co., 932 F.2d 170, 187 (3d Cir. 1991)).
When confronted with a "false" conflict, "the
court must apply the law of the state whose interests would
be harmed if its law were not applied." Lacey,
932 F.2d at 187.
situation is 'unprovided for' when neither state has
an interest in applying its own law." Atl. Pier
Assocs., 647 F.Supp.2d at 487 (citing
Hammersmith, 480 F.3d at 229). When confronted with
an "unprovided for" situation, the Court must apply
lex loci delicti (the law of the place of the
wrong). Budget Rent-A-Car Sys., Inc. v. Chappell,
407 F.3d 166, 170 (3d Cir. 2005).
conflict exists here. Pennsylvania clearly has an interest in
providing redress for Pennsylvania citizens injured by
products they purchased and used within Pennsylvania. The
fact that Pennsylvania has not adopted a statute of repose
indicates that the Pennsylvania legislature believes that the
interest in indefinitely protecting consumers from faulty
products outweighs the interest in insulating manufacturers
from lawsuits brought long after they produced the injurious
product. Similarly, Ohio has a strong interest in protecting
Ohio manufacturers from product liability lawsuits brought
more than ten years after the injurious product was first
sold as evidenced by the ten-year statute of repose codified
in Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.10(C)(1). Because both
jurisdictions have an interest in their laws being applied to
the instant dispute, this is neither a "false"
conflict nor an "unprovided for" situation, but
rather a "true" conflict.
Court rejects Plaintiff's assertion that this case
represents a "false" conflict because Ohio does not
have an interest in its law being applied in this case. (ECF
No. 35 at 11-14.) Plaintiff argues that Ohio enacted its
statute of repose out of a concern that evidence and
witnesses would be difficult to locate more than ten years
after a product was initially sold. (Id. at 13.)
Plaintiff states that Ohio does not have an interest in its
statute of repose being applied here because evidence and
witnesses are abundant in this case as MTD has been sued
numerous times in the last decade by other consumers injured
by the same model of snow thrower that injured Plaintiff.
(Id.) While Plaintiff's weak argument does not
merit detailed discussion, the Court merely notes that
Plaintiff underappreciated Ohio's interest in this case
because he failed to recognize the many rationales beyond the
unavailability of evidence and witnesses that motivated Ohio
to enact its statute of repose.
Pennsylvania's Interest in the Application of Its Law
Outweighs Ohio's Interest in the Application of Its
noted above, "[i]f a true conflict exists, the Court
must then determine which state has the 'greater interest
in the application of its law.'" Harris v.
Kellogg, Brown & Root Servs., Inc., 151 F.Supp.3d
600, 611 (W.D. Pa. 2015) (quoting Cipolla v.
Shaposka, 439 Pa. 563, 267 A.2d 854, 856 (1970)).
"To do so, courts in Pennsylvania apply a hybrid
contacts/interest analysis." Rose, 2017 WL
3008747, at *3 (citing Taylor v. Mooney Aircraft
Corp., 430 F.Supp.2d 417, 421 (E.D. Pa. 2006)). The
hybrid approach is "a combination of the 'approaches
of both [the] Restatement II (contacts establishing
significant relationships) and [the] 'interests
analysis' (qualitative appraisal of the relevant
States' policies with respect to the controversy").
Hammersmith, 480 F.3d at 231 (quoting Melville
v. Am. Home Assur. Co., 584 F.2d 1306, 1311 (3d Cir.
1978)). "This analysis requires more than a 'mere
counting of contacts'" and requires that the Court
"weigh the contacts on a qualitative scale according to
their relation to the policies and interests underlying the
[particular] issue." Atl. Pier Assocs., 647
F.Supp.2d at 487 (citing Hammersmith, 480 F.3d at
231) (internal citations omitted).
Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws
("Restatement") governs the "significant
relationships" inquiry. In personal injury cases