The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wexler, District Judge.
Plaintiff William H. Greenfield ("plaintiff"), individually
and as Administrator of the Estate of Marcia D. Greenfield, the
deceased, brings this action against defendants Suzuki Motor
Co. Ltd. ("Suzuki"), American Suzuki Motor Corporation
("American Suzuki"), Whittle's Old Mystic Marina, Inc.
("Whittle's"), and Whittle's Marina, Inc. ("Whittle's Marina").
Plaintiff asserts causes of action based on wrongful death and
products liability. Jurisdiction is premised on diversity of
citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Currently before the
Court is defendant American Suzuki's motion, joined in by
defendant Suzuki, to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After a
brief discussion of the background facts, the Court will turn
to discuss the motion at bar.
According to the complaint, defendants Suzuki and American
Suzuki manufactured and distributed an outboard engine which
was sold to defendant Whittle's and Whittle's Marina, the
owners of Old Mystic Marina in Connecticut. According to
plaintiff, defendant Whittle's sold a pleasure boat, including
the aforementioned outboard engine, to Willie B. Hines, who
shared equal ownership of the boat and its accessories with
plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that on May 31, 1989, employees of
defendant Whittle's worked on the boat's engine, pursuant to
plaintiff's complaints that the motor constantly stalled. The
next day plaintiff William Greenfield and plaintiff's intestate
Marcia Greenfield were anchored off Race Island, in the Long
Island Sound, where Marcia Greenfield drowned.
Allegedly, the engine of plaintiff's boat did not have the
necessary fuel line connecting the fuel tank and the engine,
and as a result of this defect, the engine frequently stalled
and was difficult to restart. Furthermore, plaintiff alleges
that defendant Whittle's allowed the engine to be and remain in
a state of ill repair prior to and after the sale of the engine
According to plaintiff's complaint, the events which led to
the drowning are as follows. On June 1, 1989, plaintiff William
Greenfield and plaintiff intestate Marcia Greenfield were in
the boat when the engine stalled off Race Island. Plaintiff
alleges that while he was attempting to restart the stalled
engine, the anchor line became entangled in the engine's lower
underwater unit. Next plaintiff attempted to cut the anchor
line, but was pulled into the water. Thereafter, while
plaintiff intestate was attempting to rescue plaintiff, an
onrush of water washed her inside the boat below deck. The boat
then capsized, trapping the decedent underwater.
Plaintiff commenced this action on or about March 21, 1991.
Plaintiff then sent two copies of the summons and complaint,
unaccompanied by a Japanese translation, to defendant Suzuki,
a Japanese Corporation, through the Central Authority in Japan
pursuant to the Hague Service Convention, a treaty to which
both the United States and Japan are parties. Plaintiff's
request, which accompanied the documents, specified that "any
method of service is acceptable under the Hague Convention
Rules." Both the summons and complaint were delivered to a
clerk of defendant Suzuki.
Defendants Suzuki and American Suzuki move for dismissal of
the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. Defendants argue that the basis for dismissal
of both the negligence and breach of warranty causes of action
is the lack of proximate cause. Furthermore, defendants urge
that the products liability cause of action should be dismissed
because any alleged defect in the engine was not a substantial
factor in causing the death of decedent. Finally, defendant
Suzuki argues that the complaint should be dismissed for lack
of personal jurisdiction based on improper service, in that it
was allegedly not in accordance with the rules of the Hague
Convention. For the reasons discussed below, defendants' motion
In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the allegations of the
complaint must be accepted
as true. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319,
322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972). Furthermore,
the complaint must be considered in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Therefore, because the Rule 12(b)(6) motion is
directed only to the face of the pleadings, Goldman v. Belden,
754 F.2d 1059, 1065 (2d Cir. 1985), the task of a federal court
in reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint is a limited one.
The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail,
but whether the party is "entitled to offer evidence to support
the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct.
1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974).
Rule 12(b)(6) must be read in conjunction with Rule 8(a) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which sets forth the
requirements for pleading a claim in federal court and directs
that a pleading contain "a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. . . ."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Accordingly, in a negligence cause of
action, a detailed statement of the circumstances is not
necessary, and a general allegation of negligence will be
sufficient. See generally 5 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice
and Procedure § 1249 at 315 (1990).
In the case at bar, defendants contend that the complaint
lacks an allegation of proximate cause, an essential element of
any negligence suit. Generally, the question of proximate cause
is to be decided by the finder of fact. See Derdiarian v. Felix
Contracting Co., 51 N.Y.2d 308, 434 N.Y.S.2d 166, 169,
414 N.E.2d 666, 670 (1980). However, before the finder of fact can
be presented with the issue of proximate cause, the Court must
find that a prima facie case exists. See, e.g., Nallan v.
Helmsley-Spear, Inc., 50 N.Y.2d 507, 429 N.Y.S.2d 606, 614-15,
407 N.E.2d 451, 458-60 (1980). Thus, plaintiff has the burden
of making a prima facie showing of proximate cause to this
Court in order to avoid dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).
The aforementioned burden can be met by plaintiff generally
showing that defendant's negligence was a substantial cause of
the events which produced the injury. However, plaintiff need
not demonstrate that the precise manner in which the accident
happened, or the extent of the injuries, was foreseeable.
See Derdiarian, 434 N.Y.S.2d at 169, 414 N.E.2d at 670. As to
the complaint herein, this Court finds that the burden has been
met. Plaintiff has alleged within the complaint that American
Suzuki and Suzuki's alleged negligence in the ...