United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 35-Granted
F. LEESON, JR. United States District Judge.
personal injury case involving a fall from a ladder,
Plaintiffs bring claims of strict liability, negligence,
breach of warranty, and loss of consortium against the
manufacturer and seller of the ladder. Defendants have moved
for summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims, which
this Court grants for the reasons below.
Benjamin White bought a six-foot fiberglass ladder,
manufactured by Defendant Louisville Ladder, Inc., from
Defendant The Home Depot, Inc. Stat. Facts ¶¶ 2-3.
On July 19, 2015, Mr. White used the ladder while renovating
the master bathroom in his home. Stat. Facts ¶ 17. Mr.
White placed the ladder on a tarp he had spread on the ceramic
tile floor and climbed up to paint the skylight in the
bathroom. Stat. Facts ¶¶ 4, 20, 24; Benjamin White
Deposition 96:16-20, Ex. D to Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 35-8.
While he was painting, Mr. White fell from the ladder and
sustained various injuries. Stat. Facts ¶¶ 27-28.
Mr. White did not feel the ladder slide or move before he
fell and cannot state what happened from the time he was
painting until the time he ended up on the floor. Stat. Facts
¶¶ 30-31, 34. The parties dispute whether Mr. White
tried to move the ladder as he was standing on it. Defendants
argue that he did, and cite the report of the ambulance crew
that arrived at the scene of the accident, which states that
Mr. White told the first responders that he tried to move the
ladder. EMS Report, Ex. J to Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 35-14.
Mr. White denies telling the first responders that he tried
to move the ladder. Pls.' Stat. Additional Facts ¶
10, ECF No. 39.
ladder included a yellow warning label that advised the user
that “FAILURE TO READ AND FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS ON THIS
LADDER MAY RESULT IN INJURIES OR DEATH.” See
Warning Label marked as White 8, Ex. E to Defs.' Mot.,
ECF No. 35-9. Another label instructed the user to “Set
all four feet on firm level surface. Do not place on
unstable, loose or slippery surfaces” and “Secure
ladder from movement where possible.” See
Warning Label marked as White 12, Ex. E to Defs.' Mot.
Mr. White read and understood all of the warnings and
instructions on the ladder and knew that if he did not use
the ladder correctly, he could possibly fall and be injured.
Stat. Facts ¶¶ 14-15. He had used the ladder
without incident prior to the accident on July 19, 2015.
Stat. Facts ¶ 16. According to Mr. White, there was
nothing mechanically wrong with the ladder, its structure, or
its design, and it worked as he expected. Stat. Facts
¶¶ 36-38. During his deposition, he did not testify
that he required any additional warnings about the ladder.
Stat. Facts ¶ 39.
Complaint, Plaintiffs allege claims for negligence, strict
liability, and breach of warranties against Defendants, and
Plaintiff Dawn White alleges a separate loss of consortium
claim. ECF No. 1. Defendants have moved for summary judgment
on all counts.
judgment “should be rendered if the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Turner v.
Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990).
A disputed fact is “material” if proof of its
existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the
case under applicable substantive law, and a dispute is
“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, 257 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment
bears the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue as
to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
such a showing has been made, the non-moving party must go
beyond the pleadings with affidavits, depositions, answers to
interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate specific
material facts which give rise to a genuine issue.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324;
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (stating that the non-moving party
“must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”). The
party opposing the motion must produce evidence to show the
existence of every element essential to its case, which it
bears the burden of proving at trial, because “a
complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of
the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other
facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323;
see also Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851
(3d Cir. 1992). “Inferences should be drawn in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the
non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's,
then the non-movant's must be taken as true.”
Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am. Inc., 974 F.2d
1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S.
Plaintiffs' expert testimony is inadmissible under the
of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants move to
exclude the testimony of Paul Dreyer, P.E., whom Plaintiffs
offer as an expert in support of their position that
Defendants produced and sold the ladder with inadequate
warnings. Defendants contend that Dreyer's opinions are
“unscientific” and do not fit the facts of this
case. The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by
Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 703 as well as by
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579
(1993), and its progeny. See In re Paoli RR Yard PCB
Litigation, 35 F.3d 717, 735 (3d Cir. 1994). The Third
Circuit Court of Appeals has clarified that Rule 702
“embodies a trilogy of restrictions on expert
testimony: qualification, reliability and fit.”
Schneider v. Fried, 320 F.3d 396, 404 (3d Cir.
2003). Under the qualification element, “the witness
must possess specialized knowledge, ” which can include
“a broad range of knowledge, skills, and
training.” Id. Second, to meet the reliability
requirement, the testimony “must be based on the
‘methods and procedures of science' rather than on
‘subjective belief or unsupported speculation'; the
expert must have ‘good grounds' for his or her
belief.” Id. “Finally, Rule 702 requires
that the expert testimony must fit the issues in the case. In
other words, the expert's testimony must be relevant for
the purposes of the case and must assist the trier of
testimony is inadmissible because it does not satisfy the
reliability and fit requirements. “Reliability is the
polestar of the Daubert inquiry.” DiPaolo
v. Black & Decker (US) Inc., No. CIV.A. 07-4314,
2009 WL 5064548, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 15, 2009) (citing
United States v. Mitchell, 365 F.3d 215, 244 (3d
Cir. 2004)) (internal quotations and alterations omitted).
Courts engage in a flexible inquiry to determine the
reliability of expert testimony and, in the products
liability context, have considered such factors as
“federal design or performance standards”;
“standards published by independent standards
organizations”; “discussion of the relevant
literature” by the expert, including “general
design manuals or industry-specific journals”;
“industry practice”; “product or design
history”; the presence of “charts, diagrams, and
other visual aids”; ...