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Guard Ins. Group, Inc. v. Techtronic Indus. Co., Ltd.

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 23, 2015

GUARD INSURANCE GROUP, INC., as assignee of Scott Baxter, Plaintiff,
v.
TECHTRONIC INDUSTRIES CO., LTD., TECHTRONIC INDUSTRIES NORTH AMERICA, INC., ONE WORLD TECHNOLOGIES, INC., RYOBI TECHNOLOGIES, INC., HOME DEPOT U.S.A., INC., Defendants

For Scott Baxter, Plaintiff: Ernest J. Palazzolo, Jr., Richard J. Sullivan, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Sullivan & Sullivan, LLP, Wellesley, MA; George F. Carpinello, LEAD ATTORNEY, Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, Albany, NY; Joey M. Lampert, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

For Techtronic Industries Co., Ltd., Techtronic Industries North America, Inc., One World Technologies, Inc., Ryobi Technologies, Inc., Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., Rosario M. Vignali, LEAD ATTORNEY, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, White Plains, NY.

DECISION AND ORDER

DAVID G. LARIMER, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Guard Insurance Group (" Guard" ), as assignee for Scott Baxter (" Baxter" ), brings this action against Techtronic Industries Co., Ltd., Techtronic Industries North America, Inc., One World Technologies, Inc., Ryobi Technologies, Inc., and Home Depot, USA, Inc. (" Home Depot" ). Guard, which was at all relevant times the workers' compensation insurer for Baxter's employer, asserts product liability and negligence claims arising from personal injuries sustained by Baxter while he was using a table saw (" the saw" ) designed, manufactured and/or distributed by defendants. Guard seeks, inter alia, reimbursement for insurance payments that it made to Baxter under the relevant worker's compensation policy.

On March 14, 2013, the Court issued a Decision and Order (Dkt. #29) denying defendants' motion to dismiss, which was based on limitations and other procedural grounds, and directed the Clerk to amend the caption to list the plaintiff as " Guard Insurance Group, Inc., as assignee of Scott Baxter." 929 F.Supp.2d 227 (W.D.N.Y. 2013). Familiarity with that decision, and with the procedural history of this case, is assumed.

Now before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.

FACTS

The underlying facts are, for the most part, undisputed. On May 15, 2008, while working for his employer, Heartwood Construction (" Heartwood" ), Baxter was using a Ryobi BTS20 table saw. Baxter was cutting a piece of wood, making a " rip cut," which the operator's manual defines as " [a] cutting or shaping operation made along the length or with the grain of the work piece." Dkt. #31-8 at 9. See Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts (" DSUF" ) (Dkt. #31-12) ¶ 6; Plaintiff's Opposing Statement of Undisputed Facts (" PSUF" ) (Dkt. #39) ¶ 6. While Baxter was making a rip cut, his right hand came into contact with the saw blade, and he was badly injured.

Although the saw was sold with a plastic blade guard in place, that guard was not in place at the time of the accident in question. Baxter testified that he " never saw" the guard during his employment at Heartwood. Dkt. #31-6 at 7.

The parties agree that the purpose of the blade guard was to create a barrier between the user's body and the saw blade, although they disagree about whether the blade guard would have prevented Baxter's injury. They also agree that the operator's manual that came with the saw contained numerous warnings about the risks associated with using the saw without the blade guard in place, and that Baxter understood the intended purpose of blade guards in general. DSUF ¶ 12; PSUF ¶ 12; Dkt. #31-6 at 5.

The parties agree that following the accident, as part of its insurance investigation, Guard obtained the model and serial numbers of the saw, but did not physically take custody of it, inspect it or photograph it. At some point Heartwood disposed of the saw, which has since been destroyed. See DSUF ¶ 13; PSUF ¶ ¶ 13, 15.

Baxter himself never commenced any lawsuit arising out of his injury. After sending Baxtera notice of its intention to file a third-party claim (in response to which Baxter took no action), Guard commenced this case in May 2011. The complaint asserts six causes of action: (1) strict product liability against Techtronic Industries Co., Ltd., Techtronic Industries North America, Inc., One World Technologies, Inc., and Ryobi Technologies, Inc. (collectively " manufacturer defendants" ); (2) implied warranty against the manufacturer defendants; (3) negligence against the ...


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