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.

MARSHALL v. SHELDAHL

July 18, 2001

SHERRY MARSHALL, F.K.A. SHERRY HARRINGTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHELDAHL, INC.; SCHJELDAHL CORPORATION; GLOUCESTER ENGINEERING CO., INC.; AND BATTENFELD COMPANY A.K.A. GLOUCESTER ENGINEERING COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANTS. SHELDAHL, INC. AND SCHJELDAHL CORPORATION, CROSS-CLAIMANTS, V. GLOUCESTER ENGINEERING CO., INC. AND BATTENFELD COMPANY A.K.A. GLOUCESTER ENGINEERING COMPANY, INC., CROSS-DEFENDANTS. SHELDAHL, INC. AND SCHJELDAHL CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF, V. ASTRO-VALCO, INC. A.K.A. PENNECO PACKAGING-AVI, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT. ASTRO-VALCOUR, INC. A.K.A. PENNECO PACKAGING-AVI, CROSS-CLAIMANT, V. SHELDAHL, INC., SCHJELDAHL CORPORATION, GLOUCESTER ENGINEERING CO., INC., AND BATTENFELD COMPANY A.K.A. GLOUCESTER ENGINEERING COMPANY, INC., CROSS-DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lawrence E. Kahn, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment by defendants Sheldahl, Inc. and Schjeldahl ("Sheldahl Defendants"). For the following reasons this motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

On November 28, 1994, Plaintiff sustained serious injuries to her left hand while operating a "bubble out bag machine" at her place of employment. The machine, owned by her employer and third party defendant Astro-Valcour, Inc., was manufactured by defendant Schjeldahl Corporation in April of 1964. The machine is designed to manufacture plastic bags using polyethylene film or tubing that is supplied by a continuous rolling mechanism. When operating properly, the supply rolls feed the machine on one end and discharge finished bags at the other end.
On the date in question, Plaintiff was operating the machine but briefly stopped it in order to adjust the size of bags being produced. After splicing a new roll of polyethylene material to the roll currently in the machine, she restarted it. As the material began to pass through the feeder end of the machine, Plaintiff noticed that it began to tear apart. Without turning the machine off, she walked back to its rear and attempted to reattach the moving material as it entered the machine by grasping hold of it. As she did so, her left hand was drawn between the machine's rollers, resulting in injury to, and eventual amputation of, her index finger.*fn1
She commenced the instant suit in 1997, alleging four causes of action against the machine's manufacturers, including negligent manufacture, defective design, failure to warn, and breach of warranty. In their answer, Sheldahl Defendants brought a cross-claim against Gloucester Engineering Co., Inc., asserting product liability, breach of warranty, negligence, breach of contract, and a right to indemnification. Sheldahl Defendants also filed a third party complaint against Plaintiff's employer, alleging negligent training and failure to instruct Plaintiff as to how to properly operate the machine. Sheldahl Defendants have now moved for summary judgment, in part, on the grounds that the machine's design was not defective and that the alleged defects were open and obvious. The Court now addresses this motion.*fn2

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review for Summary Judgment

The standard for summary judgment is well-established. Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A material fact is genuinely disputed only if, based on that fact, a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, all evidence must be viewed and all inferences must be drawn in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See City of Yonkers v. Otis Elevator Co., 844 F.2d 42, 45 (2d Cir. 1988).
The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter "it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Upon the movant's satisfying that burden, the onus then shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), but "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial." First Nat'l Bank of Az. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288 (1968).

B. Negligence and Strict Product Liability Claims Based Upon Design Defect

Under New York's strict product liability law, a manufacturer is liable to an injured party if:

(1) the product is "defective" because it is not reasonably safe as marketed; (2) the product was used for a normal purpose; (3) the defect was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's injuries; (4) the plaintiff by the exercise of reasonable care would not have discovered the defect and apprehended its injury; and (5) the plaintiff would not have otherwise avoided the injury by the exercise of ordinary care.
Urena v. Biro Mfg. Co., 114 F.3d 359, 363 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting Fane v. Zimmer, Inc., 927 F.2d 124, 128 (2d Cir. 1997) (citing Wolfgruber v. Upjohn Co., 72 A.D.2d 59, 62 (4th Dep't 1979), aff'd 52 N.Y.2d 768 (1980))). When an injured party asserts that a design defect caused the injury, the focus of the Court's inquiry is on whether the product, as designed, was reasonably safe or presented an unreasonable risk of harm to the user. See Voss v. Black & Decker Mfg. Co., 59 N.Y.2d 102, 107 (1983). Specifically, the standard is whether, "if the design defect were known at the time of manufacture, a reasonable person would conclude that the utility of the product did not outweigh the risk inherent in marketing a product designed in that manner." Id. at 108. Thus, Plaintiff has the burden of "presenting evidence that the product, as designed, presented a substantial likelihood of harm and feasibly could have been designed more safely." ...

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.