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.

GREENFIELD v. SUZUKI MOTOR CO. LTD.

October 29, 1991

WILLIAM H. GREENFIELD, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF MARCIA D. GREENFIELD, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUZUKI MOTOR CO. LTD., AMERICAN SUZUKI MOTOR CORPORATION, WHITTLE'S OLD MYSTIC MARINA, INC., AND WHITTLE'S MARINA, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wexler, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

BACKGROUND

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 to plaintiff.

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 is denied.

DISCUSSION

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).

Proximate Cause

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 ...


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.