The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Plaintiff, John P. Tyler, ("plaintiff" or "Tyler") brings this action for negligence, strict products liability, and breach of express and implied warranties against defendants Kawaguchi, Inc. ("Kawaguchi"), General Plastex, Inc. ("Plastex"), and DSM Engineering Plastics, Inc. ("DSM"). Plaintiff alleges that each defendant is liable for the injuries he sustained in a work related accident. Each defendant moves for summary judgment dismissing the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). In addition, defendants, Kawaguchi and Plastex move to preclude plaintiff's proposed expert testimony as conclusory and unreliable pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702.
For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motions to preclude plaintiff's expert testimony are denied. Kawaguchi's motion for summary judgment with respect to plaintiff's negligence claim is denied, with respect to plaintiff's strict products liability claim is denied, and with respect to plaintiff's breach of warranty claim is granted. Plastex's motion for summary judgment is denied in its entirety. DSM's motion for summary judgment with respect to plaintiff's negligence claim is denied, with respect to plaintiff's strict products liability claim is granted, and with respect to plaintiff's breach of warranty claim is granted.
Harbec Plastics is an Ontario, New York-based plastics manufacturing company that produces plastics for various industrial uses. Plaintiff was employed by Harbec Plastics as a maintenance person. His job included maintaining complex machines such as plastic injection molding machines. At the time of plaintiff's injury, Harbec utilized between 14 and 20 plastic injection molding machines for the manufacture of plastics parts. Two of these injection molding machines were manufactured by the defendant Kawaguchi, and of the two Kawaguchi machines, the K265-B plastic injection molding machine was involved in the incident giving rise to this litigation. The machine contained a 55-millimeter screw manufactured by defendant, Plastex. The Plastex screw was not the original screw, but was a replacement part that Harbec had purchased from Plastex when the original Kawaguchi screw had worn out. Additionally in manufacturing the plastic parts, a heat stabilized nylon plastic manufactured by defendant, DSM, called Stanyl flowed inside the machine. The Kawaguchi plastic injection molding machine, the Plastex screw and, the DSM Stanyl plastic all are subjects of the present action.
On May 7, 1999, the plaintiff was told by his shift supervisor that a hydraulic line had broken on the Kawaguchi K 265-B plastic injection machine ("the machine"). Plaintiff, together with his supervisor, cleaned the hydraulic spill, replaced the hydraulic line, and refilled the machine with hydraulic fluid. The machine was shut down for approximately three hours while the repair was completed during which time the Stanyl plastic inside the machine was allowed to harden in the machine's barrel. When the machine was turned back on, the screw within the barrel would not move or purge because the Stanyl plastic inside the machine had hardened. In an attempt to dislodge the plastic, the plaintiff and his co-workers pivoted the barrel away from its normal operating position and away from its guards into the aisle of the factory. They removed the nozzle, the end cap and the screw collar, leaving the barrel end exposed. The employees unsuccessfully tried to push the screw out using a hydraulic press and a brass rod. Plaintiff then left the area to complete another task. Fellow employees continued to attempt to loosen the screw. One employee, whose identity remains a point of contention, turned the temperature on the machine up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit in a final attempt to loosen the screw. The Stanyl plastic continued to heat for an additional twenty minutes. However, this high degree of temperature was in excess of the stability point for the Stanyl plastic and during this time, the barrel became excessively hot and dripped melted plastic. In the meantime, the plaintiff returned to the machine and approached his toolbox which was immediately in front of the barrel. As the plaintiff was walking from his toolbox down the factory aisle in front of the barrel, the fractured screw tip and molten plastic were forcibly ejected from the barrel inflicting numerous burns on his chest and neck. Plaintiff claims the injuries caused permanent scarring on his arms and neck.
Plaintiff alleges that Kawaguchi, the manufacturer of the machine, General Plastex, the manufacturer of the screw and DSM, the manufacturer of the Stanyl, are responsible for his injuries. Defendants claim that Harbec Plastics, Inc., plaintiff's employer, is solely responsible for the accident.
I. Preclusion of Expert Testimony
Defendants Kawaguchi and Plastex move to preclude plaintiff's expert testimony because they allege the expert's opinions are conclusory and unreliable pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702.
Federal Rule of Evidence 702 outlines the admissibility of expert testimony:
If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.
The Court must determine whether or not proposed expert testimony is sufficiently reliable under the standards set forth in Rule 702, and if the proposed testimony is not reliable, such testimony must be precluded. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharamceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993)(holding that the Court, "must ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.") Moreover, "the principles governing admissibility of evidence do not change on a motion for summary judgment." Raskin v. The Wyatt Co., 125 F.3d 55, 66 (2d. Cir. 1997).
Here, plaintiff's expert Igor Paul ("Paul") is a qualified registered professional engineer with extensive education and training, and experience with the history, development and practice of industrial machine and product design and safety in the workplace. He has personally participated in the design, evaluation and/or testing of clamping equipment, hydraulic systems, point-of-operation guarding, injection and heating barrels, and the associated control systems for various horizontal and vertical injection ...