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State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. General Electric Co.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 23, 2015

STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, Defendant.

STUART D. MARKOWITZ, ESQ, OFFICE OF STUART D. MARKOWITZ, PC, Jericho, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

JOHN P. FREEDENBERG, ESQ, GOLDBERG SEGALLA LLP, Buffalo, New York, Attorneys for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

FREDERICK J. SCULLIN, Jr., Senior District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff State Farm Fire & Casualty Company ("Plaintiff" or "State Farm") is a foreign corporation, with a principal place of business in Illinois. See Dkt. No. 1, Complaint at ΒΆ 1. Plaintiff asserts that it issued an insurance policy to Mr. Drexinger, insuring him against certain property damage and related expenses to his real property and other personal property located at his residence in Ballston Lake, New York. See id. at 11. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant designed, manufactured, built, tested, distributed, delivered, sold, repaired, serviced and/or inspected a refrigerator, which Mr. Drexinger owned. See id. at 12. Plaintiff further alleges that on or about February 4, 2011, a fire originated in the area of the line cord to the refrigerator unit, causing substantial damage to Mr. Drexinger's property. See id. at 14. Plaintiff alleges that, pursuant to the provisions of its insurance policy, it paid Mr. Drexinger $215, 750.92 for property damages and other expenses related to the fire. See id. at 22.

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff brings three causes of action against Defendant for (1) negligence based on defective design, (2) breach of express and implied warranty, and (3) strict products liability. See id. at 3-6.

Currently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff's complaint in its entirety. See Dkt. No. 20, Notice of Motion at 1.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of review

Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he 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). At the summary judgment stage, the court's role is to determine "whether there is the need for a trial- whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). In making this determination, the court must view the evidence in the record and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Consol. Risk Servs., Inc. v. Auto. Dealers WC Self Ins. Trust, No. 1:06-CV-871, 2010 WL 2735701, *3 (N.D.N.Y. July 9, 2010) (citation omitted).

B. Plaintiff's first cause of action for negligence based on defective design

This Court has recognized that "New York courts generally consider strict products liability and negligence claims based on defective design to be functionally synonymous.'" Pinello v. Andreas Stihl, No. 8:08-CV-452, 2011 WL 1302223, *16 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2011) (citing Penny v. Ford Motor Co., 87 N.Y.2d 248, 639 N.Y.S.2d 650, 662 N.E.2d 730 (1995)). Courts analyze both types of claims under a single test. See id. (citations omitted).

This Court has identified the requirements for a defective design claim under New York State law:

"In order to establish a prima facie case in strict liability for design defects, the plaintiff must show that the manufacturer breached its duty to market safe products when it marketed a product designed so that it was not reasonably safe and that the ...

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