United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
RENEE TERESA GOELLNER-GRANT, KYLE D. GRANT, and ALEXANDER GOELLNER, Plaintiffs
JLG INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendant
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge
Renee Teresa Goellner-Grant, Kyle D. Grant, and Alexander
Goellner (collectively “Goellner-Grant family”)
commenced this action under Missouri's wrongful death
statute, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.080, alleging claims of
strict product liability, failure to warn, and negligence.
(Doc. 1). Defendant JLG Industries, Inc. (“JLG”),
moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56. (Doc. 40). The court will grant JLG's
Factual Background & Procedural History
material facts of this case are undisputed. (See
Doc. 45 at 1). Randall Grant (“Grant”), late
husband of plaintiff Renee Teresa Goellner-Grant and father
of plaintiffs Kyle D. Grant and Alexander Goellner, was
killed in a tragic boom lift accident on April 30, 2015.
(Doc. 41 ¶¶ 1, 3). When the accident occurred,
Grant was using a JLG-manufactured 2002 E450AJ boom lift to
replace light bulbs in a parking garage in St. Louis County,
Missouri. (Id. ¶ 3). Grant, in the course of
his work, became pinned between a ceiling cross bar and the
lift's control panel and sustained fatal injuries.
February 28, 2018, the Goellner-Grant family filed their
first lawsuit (“Missouri suit”) against JLG in
the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri. (Id. ¶ 5). The district court
dismissed the Missouri suit for lack of personal
jurisdiction. (Id. ¶ 8). On October 26, 2018,
the Goellner-Grant family filed a second complaint
(“Kansas suit”) in the United States District
Court for the District of Kansas, alleging claims of strict
product liability, failure to warn, and negligence under
Missouri's wrongful death statute, Mo. Rev. Stat. §
537.080. (Doc. 1; Doc. 41 ¶ 9). In its answer, JLG moved
to dismiss, challenging personal jurisdiction and venue.
(Doc. 41 ¶ 10). The court found that venue was improper
in Kansas but declined to dismiss the case. (Id.
¶ 11; Doc. 26). Instead, the court transferred the case
to this court under to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). (Doc. 26 at
1, 3). After the case was transferred, JLG moved for summary
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The
motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
court exercises diversity jurisdiction over the instant
matter because the parties are completely diverse of
citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
(Doc. 1 ¶ 9; Doc. 9 ¶ 9); see 28 U.S.C.
summary adjudication, the court may dispose of those claims
that do not present a “genuine dispute as to any
material fact” and for which a jury trial would be an
empty and unnecessary formality. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The
burden of proof tasks the non-moving party to come forth with
“affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the
pleadings, ” in support of its right to relief.
Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F.Supp.2d 311, 315
(M.D. Pa. 2004); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The court is to view the
evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's
favor.” Thomas v. Cumberland County, 749 F.3d
217, 222 (3d Cir. 2014). This evidence must be adequate, as a
matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the
non-moving party on the claims. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
587-89 (1986). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of
action proceed. See Pappas, 331 F.Supp.2d at 315.
sole question before this court is whether the Goellner-Grant
family's claims are time-barred. JLG argues that
Pennsylvania's limitations period for wrongful death
cases applies and bars the claims. (See Doc. 42 at
1). The Goellner-Grant family contends that Section 1406(a)
saves their claims from dismissal and that Kansas and
Missouri choice-of-law rules and limitations periods apply.
(Doc. 45 at 2-3, 5-6). Embedded within the court's
summary judgment analysis are three interrelated
considerations: (1) how Section 1406(a) impacts
statutes-of-limitations questions; (2) which state's
statute of limitations governs this case; and (3) whether the
applicable limitations period bars the Goellner-Grant
family's claims. The court will address each
Statutes-of-Limitations Questions in Section 1406(a)
federal court hearing a diversity case applies state
substantive law to the claim before it, including state
statutes of limitations. Guar. Tr. Co. of N.Y. v.
York, 326 U.S. 99, 110-12 (1945) (applying Erie R.R.
Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 79-80 (1938)). In
statute-of-limitations disputes, federal courts consult the
forum state's choice-of-law rules to determine the
correct limitations period. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec.
Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496 (1941); Ross v.
Johns-Manville Corp., 766 F.2d 823, 826 (3d Cir. 1985).
When a case is transferred from one district court to
another, these general principles must be considered in light
of the rules and policies of the relevant federal transfer
law provides two avenues by which a district court may
effectuate a venue transfer. First, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)
grants district courts discretion to transfer a correctly
filed case to any other district where the case may have been
brought for the convenience of the parties and witnesses. 28
U.S.C. § 1404(a). It is well settled that a court
receiving a Section 1404(a) transfer must apply the law of
the transferor state. Ferens v. John Deere Co., 494
U.S. 516, 518-19 (1990); Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376
U.S. 612, 636, 639 (1964); Amica Mut. Ins. Co. v.
Fogel, 656 F.3d 167, 170-71 (3d Cir. 2011). This
treatment ensures that transfers made in the name of
convenience do not compromise any state-law advantages a
plaintiff may have had in the technically correct, albeit
inopportune, transferor forum. See Ferens, 494 U.S.
at 523; Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 633-34.
28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) allows a district court to transfer
a case filed in an improper venue when it is in the
“interest of justice.” 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).
Our sister circuit courts have recognized a distinction
between Section 1406(a)'s defect-curing nature and
Section 1404(a)'s eye toward convenience; the resultant
approach is that the transferee forum's substantive laws,
including statutes-of-limitations and choice-of-law rules,
apply in Section 1406(a) transfers. Courts reason that this
approach protects defendants from the potentially detrimental
impacts of an improperly chosen forum and deters plaintiffs
from filing in a jurisdictionally deficient, yet
substantively favorable, venue. McGarrey v.
Marquart, No. 2:07-CV-1556, 2010 WL 235115, at *5 (W.D.
Pa. Jan. 12, 2010) (citing Eggleton, 495 F.3d at
588). The Third Circuit has not directly addressed the issue:
in its most recent decision involving a Section 1406(a)
transfer, the limitations periods in both the transferor and
transferee forums were the same. Lafferty v. St.
Riel, 495 F.3d 72, 81 (3d Cir. 2007). The court signaled