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Luyster v. Textron

June 18, 2007

ELIZABETH LUYSTER, AS EXECUTOR AND ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATES OF ALFRED W. ZADOW AND DONNA M. ZADOW, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TEXTRON, INC.; AVCO CORPORATION : (TEXTRON LYCOMING DIVISION); LYCOMING ENGINES, SUPERIOR AIR PARTS, INC., KS BEARINGS, INC. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mckenna, D.J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before the Court is a motion by one of the Defendants, Textron, Inc. ("Defendant Textron"), to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant Textron's motion is DENIED.

I. Background

This action arises out of an aircraft accident on May 24, 2005, in which Alfred Zadow, who piloted the craft, and Donna Zadow, his passenger, lost their lives. (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶2.) Elizabeth Luyster, executor and administer of the estate ("Plaintiff"), is suing entities that played a role in the manufacture of the aircraft for negligence relating to the "design, manufacture, assembly, inspection, testing, distribution, sale, servicing, [and] maintenance . . ." of the aircraft's "engine and its component parts . . .." (Id. at ¶7.) Avco Corporation ("Avco") is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Defendant Textron, and Lycoming Engines ("Lycoming") is an unincorporated division of Avco. (Id. at ¶1.) In addition to negligence claims against these Defendants, Plaintiff also seeks to recover under a theory of strict liability and for breach of warranty. (Id. at ¶¶10-18.) Plaintiff further asserts a claim for punitive damages. (Id. at ¶¶19-23.)

Defendant Textron seeks to be dismissed from this action first because "Textron had no role in the design, manufacture, operation, maintenance, or sale of the subject aircraft engine . . .." (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 2.) Defendant Textron disclaims any direct liability for the facts or injuries that Plaintiff alleges.

Defendant Textron next characterizes Plaintiff's complaint as an apparent attempt to pierce the corporate veil under the theory that Plaintiff seeks to reach Textron through two other defendants, Avco and Lycoming. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 3.) Defendant Textron contends that Textron is a separate entity from Avco and Lycoming for the purposes of this suit and for any liability that may eventually be imposed. (Id. at 2.)

Plaintiff's complaint, and Plaintiff's opposition to the motion for summary judgment, allege direct liability on the part of Defendant Textron. (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶3; Pl.'s Opp'n Summ. J. 2.) At no point in the complaint does Plaintiff allege facts relating to piercing the corporate veil, except that Plaintiff alleges that Avco is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Defendant Textron. (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶1.) In Plaintiff's opposition papers, however, Plaintiff further argues that discovery is required before the issue of piercing the corporate veil can be resolved. (Pl.'s Opp'n Summ. J. 4.)

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss

"To survive a motion to dismiss . . . the complaint must allege facts which, assumed to be true, confer a judicially cognizable right of action." York v. Association of the Bar of the City of New York, 286 F.3d 122, 125 (2d Cir. 2002). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "the complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears that . . . [Plaintiff] could 'prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 422 (1969) (citation omitted). Accordingly, the Court accepts Plaintiff's statements in the complaint as true.

i. With Respect to Direct Liability

Plaintiff's complaint pleads direct liability on the part of Defendant Textron, as well as the other Defendants, for the injuries suffered by Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that "defendants Textron, Inc., Avco Corporation and Lycoming Engines are engaged in the business of designing, manufacturing, assembling . . . distributing and selling the subject-aircraft's O-540 series engine . . ." (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶3.) While the complaint does not distinguish between the individual Defendants, it certainly sets forth facts that, if proven about any of the Defendants, would entitle Plaintiff to relief. At this point in the pleadings Plaintiff has satisfied Rule 12(b)(6) with well- pleaded claims of negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty, sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. The motion to dismiss with respect to direct liability is therefore DENIED.

ii. With Respect to Piercing the Corporate Veil

The elements needed to be established for the Court to impose veil piercing are "(1) the owners exercised complete domination of the corporation in respect to the transaction attacked; and (2) that such domination was used to commit a fraud or wrong against the plaintiff which resulted in plaintiff's injury . . ." Novak v. Scarborough ...


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