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JOHNSON v. DOVER ELEVATOR CO.

April 30, 1993

ARVENA JOHNSON and EDWARD JOHNSON, Plaintiffs,
v.
DOVER ELEVATOR COMPANY, Defendant. DOVER ELEVATOR COMPANY, Third-Party Plaintiff, v. SHELTERED WORKSHOP FOR THE DISABLED, INC., Third-Party Defendant.


Hurd


The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID N. HURD

U.S. Magistrate Judge

 MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

 Presently before this court is third-party defendant, Sheltered Workshop for the Disabled, Inc.'s ("Workshop"), motion for summary judgment dismissing the third-party complaint. The defendant/third-party plaintiff, Dover Elevator Co. ("Dover"), filed in opposition to the motion. Plaintiffs join the motion on behalf of the Workshop. The court heard oral argument on April 8, 1992, and at that time reserved decision.

 FACTS

 On September 14, 1990, plaintiff, Arvena Johnson, along with two other employees of the Workshop, were riding in an elevator car when it plunged nearly four floors to the basement. Plaintiff allegedly sustained serious and permanent injuries. At the time of the accident the elevator was loaded with a forklift, weighing 5,235 pounds, and the three passengers, for a total weight of 5,702 pounds. The rated lifting capacity for the elevator was 6,000 pounds. The elevator was manufactured by the Rotary Lift Company of Memphis, Tennessee, and installed by the Houser Elevator Company in approximately 1957. At the time of the accident there was an examination and lubrication service agreement ("Agreement") in effect between the Workshop and Dover.

 The elevator involved in the accident is hydraulic which is operated by pumping hydraulic fluid from the pump unit or hydraulic reservoir into a piston beneath the elevator car. The elevator has two doors; the "front" door is automatic and slides open in a horizontal motion upon reaching each floor; the "back" door is manual, that is, the operator must first slide open a gate on the inside of the car and then push open the door in a vertical motion. The front, or automatic door, opens on the ground, second, and third floors. The back, or manual door, opens on the basement and loading platform floors.

 On August 28, 1990, seventeen days before the accident, pursuant to the Agreement, Timothy DuMond, a Dover employee, replaced several obsolete leaking fittings with two Victaulic Style 99 fittings (or couplings) and gaskets in the hydraulic line of the elevator. Mr. DuMond testified in his deposition that he had never installed that style coupling before, although he had installed other types of victaulic couplings in the past. The repair involved replacing the gaskets and fittings in the feeder line, which connects the hydraulic reservoir in the elevator machine room to the hydraulic piston at the base of the elevator.

 The Workshop claims it is entitled to summary judgment dismissing the third-party complaint based on its contention that the elevator crashed through no fault of their own, and that the accident was caused by the negligence of Dover. For the reasons set forth infra, Workshop's motion for summary judgment is denied.

 MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

 A motion for summary judgment may be granted only when the moving party carries its burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Goldman, Antonetti, Ferraiuoli, Axtmayer & Hertell v. Medfit Int'l, Inc, 982 F.2d 686, 689 (1st Cir. 1993); Thompson v. Gjivoje, 896 F.2d 716, 720 (2d Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). "Ambiguities or inferences to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment motion." Id. In other words, a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 56 shall be granted only when the pleadings, evidence obtained through discovery, and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Lang v. Retirement Living Pub. Company, 949 F.2d 576, 580 (2d Cir. 1991). Therefore, "summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is genuine, that is, 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, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).

 Thus, if the nonmoving party can not produce sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict, summary judgment is proper. Id, at 249. "In determining how a reasonable jury would decide, the Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences against the moving party." Lang, 949 F.2d at 580. However, when the moving party has met the burden, the nonmoving party must do more than "simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Electric Industrial Company v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986); see also Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 247-48. At that point, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. "The judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter," Liberty Lobby, at 248, "such is the prerogative of the finder of fact." Murphy v. Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company, 923 F.2d 923, 930 (2d Cir. 1990)(Kearse, J., dissenting), cert. denied, U.S. , 116 L. Ed. 2d 40, 112 S. Ct. 65 (1991). The judge's role is "to determine whether there does indeed exist a genuine issue for trial." Liberty Lobby, at 249.

 DISCUSSION

 The Workshop and the plaintiffs allege that the accident was a result of the failure of the two newly replaced couplings, which in turn allowed all the hydraulic oil to spill out, and hence all the elevator's hydraulic pressure was lost. In addition, it is alleged that the end load of the fittings used in the feeder line were 1,000 pounds less than the original equipment parts, and the maximum working pressure of the replacement parts was 100 pounds per square inch less than the original. Moreover, the Workshop claims that none of its ...


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