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CLARKE v. TRW

April 9, 1996

PETER J. CLARKE, EDWARD J. DIXON, BRIAN R. FISHER, AND PAUL J. WHEELER, Plaintiffs,
v.
TRW, INC., Defendant.


Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., U.S. District Judge


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SCULLIN

DECISION AND ORDER

 Introduction

 This is an action under New York's whistleblower law, N.Y. Lab. Law § 740. The plaintiffs in this action are former employees of defendant TRW, Inc., who, among other things, manufactures automobile parts which are sold to automobile manufacturers for installation in finished automobiles. Plaintiffs allege that TRW retaliated against them in response to their identification of manufacturing practices that they claim present a substantial danger to public health and safety. *fn1" Jurisdiction is based upon diversity of citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

 Presently before the Court are defendant's motion to dismiss the amended complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and plaintiffs' cross-motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. The court heard oral argument on these motions at its March 23, 1995 motion calendar and reserved decision at that time.

 Background

 There are four plaintiffs in this action, each of whom alleges separate but related retaliation by TRW for his role in bringing the alleged safety violations to light. The facts set out below are derived from the Proposed Second Amended Complaint ("Proposed Complaint").

 TRW hired (1) plaintiff Peter J. Clarke as a Senior Tool Design Engineer in November 1991; (2) plaintiff Edward J. Dixon in June 1992 as a Junior Tool Designer; (3) plaintiff Brian R. Fisher in February 1989 as an Electrical Test Engineer; *fn2" and (4) plaintiff Paul J. Wheeler in December 1991 as a Controls Engineer. Proposed Complaint PP 17, 20, 23, 27.

 Clarke, Dixon, Fisher, and Wheeler were responsible for testing the safety effectiveness of various automobile parts TRW was manufacturing, assembling, and shipping to its customers including Ford, Chrysler, Carter Manufacturing, and Federal Mogul. Proposed Complaint PP 18, 21, 24, 28. Plaintiffs' allegations concern their work on two particular projects: the Carter RFI Module and the Ford ISO Relay.

 A. The Carter RFI Module Project

 TRW manufactured a family of assembled products, known as the RFI Module, for its customer Carter Manufacturing. Plaintiffs Clarke, Dixon, and Wheeler were involved in the manufacture of the RFI Module.

 
The RFI Module is . . . manufactured by TRW's Union Springs Facility. It is a subassembly, or more appropriately, a fuel outlet nozzle for an electrical fuel pump. The RFI [Module] primarily functions as a fuel outlet nozzle and it has built-in capacitors which minimize sparking and prevent any leaked gasoline from igniting.

 Proposed Complaint, P 31.

 Carter Manufacturing specified that the RFI Module "must" be tested by TRW at 100% capacitance value. Amended Complaint, P 16; Proposed Complaint P 32. Plaintiffs allege that TRW consistently tested the modules at less than a 100% capacitance level, allowing allegedly defective modules to be installed in fuel pumps and, ultimately, finished automobiles. Proposed Complaint P 32.

 In addition to improper testing, plaintiffs also allege that the RFI Module terminal was manufactured beyond prescribed tolerance limits, frequently resulting in cracks in the component. Proposed Complaint PP 42-44. Plaintiffs contend that TRW consistently "ignored the fact, verified with x-ray equipment, that the manufacturing process itself caused the internal capacitors to crack, rendering the capacitors incapable of suppressing motor brush sparks" which can lead to vehicle fires. Proposed Complaint PP 44, 51-52.

 B. The Ford ISO Relay Project

 TRW manufactured a relay known as the ISO relay for its customer Ford Motor Company. Plaintiffs Fisher and Wheeler were involved in the manufacture of the ISO Relay.

 
A relay is an electro-mechanical switch [that] consists of a wire wound solenoid that is energized to move contacts. The contacts act as switches to provide electrical energy to desired locations of a motor vehicle. An example would be to provide battery power to a vehicle's headlights. The ISO relay is the International Standards Organization Relay, manufactured as a general purpose device due to its ISO terminal layout. This particular relay lends itself to many applications within a vehicle. Its uses include control of anti-lock brakes, the fuel pump, EEC command modules, headlights, windshield wipers, and ignition.

 Proposed Complaint, P 59.

 In late 1990, plaintiff Wheeler alleges he investigated a defect in the software that controlled the ISO Relay manufacturing equipment. Proposed Complaint P 60. Plaintiffs allege that this defect caused a corresponding defect in the relays which could result in relay failure, placing a motor vehicle driver in danger. Proposed Complaint, P 61. They further claim that one of every ...


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