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.

White v. The Home Depot, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 9, 2018

BENJAMIN WHITE and DAWN WHITE, Husband and Wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE HOME DEPOT, INC. and LOUISVILLE LADDER, INC., Defendants.

         Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 35-Granted

          OPINION

          JOSEPH F. LEESON, JR. United States District Judge.

         In this 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.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff 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[2] 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.

         The 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.

         In the 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.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary 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).

         Once 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. 912 (1993).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiffs' expert testimony is inadmissible under the Daubert standard.

         As part 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 fact.” Id.

         Dreyer's 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”; ...


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.