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Luis Huitzil v. Delta International Machinery Corp

July 26, 2011

LUIS HUITZIL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DELTA INTERNATIONAL MACHINERY CORP., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John G. Koeltl, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The plaintiff, Luis Huitzil, originally sued the defendant, Delta International Machinery Corp., ("Delta"), in New York State court, alleging four causes of action in connection with a 2004 accident stemming from the plaintiff's use of a table saw manufactured by the defendant. The defendant removed the case to this Court and now brings this motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

I.The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. "The Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp.v.Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322--23 (1986); Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., LP, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994). "[T]he trial court'stask at the summary judgment motion stage of the litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are any genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding; it does not extend to issue-resolution." Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1224. The moving party bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter that "it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The substantive law governing the case will identify those facts which are material and "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Behringer v. Lavelle Sch. for Blind, No. 08 Civ. 4899, 2010 WL 5158644, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 17, 2010).

In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)). Summary judgment is improper if there is any evidence in the record from any source from which a reasonable inferencecould be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37 (2d Cir. 1994). If the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party must produce evidence in the record and "may not rely simply on conclusory statements or on contentions that the affidavits supporting the motion are not credible . . . ." Ying Jing Gan v. City of New York, 996 F.2d 522, 532 (2d Cir. 1993); see also Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114--15 (2d Cir. 1998) (collecting cases); Behringer, 2010 WL 5158644, at *1.

II.The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. On March 26, 2004, while working at Globus Cork, ("Globus"), the plaintiff was seriously injured while operating a table saw. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 1-2; Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' 56.1 Stmt ("Pl.'s 56.1 Resp."); Compl. ¶¶ 9-11.) The table saw was manufactured by the defendant, and was purchased by Globus some time in 2000. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 2, 7-10; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp.) Claiming not to know the table saw's manufacturer, the plaintiff filed suit against the "John Doe" manufacturer of the table saw in New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County, on February 9, 2007. (Statfeld Aff. Ex 1.) The plaintiff then attempted to obtain the identity of the table saw's manufacturer by contacting Globus, and claims that Globus forestalled hisefforts and refused to give him access to the table saw. (Statfeld Aff. ¶ 3.) According to the plaintiff's counsel, it was only after making a contempt motion in New York State Supreme Court that Globus revealed that the defendant was the manufacturer of the table saw. (Statfeld Aff. ¶ 8.) On December 3, 2007, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint naming "Delta Rockwell Porter Cable" as a defendant and alleging four causes of action: (1) negligence, (2) breach of express warranty, (3) breach of implied warranty, and (4) strict liability in tort. (Berman Aff. Ex. A ¶¶ 12, 20, 23, 32.) The plaintiff then moved in state court for leave to add "Delta International Machinery Corp." as a defendant. (Pl.'s Opp Mem. Ex. 5 ("Tr.") at 21.) That motion was mooted by the defendant's removal of the action, on behalf of "Delta Rockwell," to this Court on January 16, 2009. Id. at 15. On June 4, 2009, the plaintiff then moved in this Court to amend his summons and complaint to add "Delta Machinery Corp." The motion was denied, in part, because the defendant had not yet answered the complaint, and therefore the plaintiff could amend without seeking permission. (Tr. at 20, 24.)

The plaintiff filed an amended complaint naming the defendant on March 12, 2010. (Berman Aff. Ex. B.) In response, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitation.

II.A."[I]t is well established that in diversity cases state law governs not only the limitations period but also the commencement of the limitations period." Dooley v. Columbia Presbyterian Med. Ctr., No. 06 Civ. 5644, 2009 WL 129941, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 16, 2009)(collecting cases); see also Celli v. Metro-N. Commuter R.R., 891 F. Supp. 124, 125 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) aff'd, 101 F.3d 108 (2d Cir. 1996); Monaghan v. SZS 33 Assocs.,L.P., 827 F.Supp. 233, 241 (S.D.N.Y. 1993) (Sweet, J.)(a federal court must apply the substantive law of the forum state under Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487 (1941), including the statute of limitations unless the borrowing statute applies). Under New York State law, actions for "personal injury arising from a breach of warranty" are governed by the statute of limitations for "breach of any contract," which requires actions to be commenced within four years of the delivery of the product. McCarthy v. Bristol Labs., 401 N.Y.S.2d 509, 511 (App. Div. 1978)(citing N.Y.U.C.C. § 2-- 725(1)); see also Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A. v. T & N plc, 905 F. Supp. 107, 115 (S.D.N.Y. 1995); N.Y. U.C.C. § 2--725(2).

Here, it is uncontested that Globus purchased the table saw some time in 2000. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 2.);(Pl.'s 56.1 Resp.) Therefore, an action for breach of warranty must have been filed, at the latest, by December 31, 2004, more than two years before the plaintiff filed his first complaint in state court. (Statfeld Aff. ¶ 2.) Accordingly, the plaintiff's claims for breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranty are untimely.

B.Under New York State law, personal injury claims based on negligence or strict liability must be commenced within three years of the date of the accident. See N.Y.C. P.L.R. 214(5); see also Williams v. Dow Chem. Co., No. 01 Civ. 4307, 2004 WL 1348932, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 16, 2004)(citing Gianakakos v. Commodore Home Sys, Inc., 727 N.Y.S.2d 806, 808 (App. Div. 2001), leave denied, 97 N.Y.2d 606,764 (2001)). Here, the accident occurred on March 26, 2004. (Statfeld Aff. ¶ 1.) Therefore, an action based on negligence or strict liability was untimely unless it was filed on or before March 26, 2007. The defendant claims that the plaintiff's complaint is untimely because the defendant was not first added as a party until December 3, 2007.*fn1 The plaintiff contends that the filing of the "John Doe" complaint on February 21, 2007 tolls the statute of limitations under New York Civil Practice Laws and Rules ("CPLR") § 1024, and also that the amended complaint should be allowed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c). (Statfeld Aff. ¶ 2);(Pl.'s Opp. Mem. ¶ 10, 15.) In response, the defendant asserts that the plaintiff has not met his burden under CPLR § 1024 or Rule 15(c). (Berman Reply Aff. ¶¶ 4, 12.)

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1):

[a]n amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when: (A) the law that provides the applicable statute of limitations allows relation back;

(B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out--or attempted to be set out--in the original pleading; or

(C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons ...


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