Reiske v. Black & Decker (US) Inc
ORDER granting Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 58 ). Signed by Judge Alvin W. Thompson on 3/2/2012. (Gallagher, Robyn)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
BLACK & DECKER (U.S.) INC.
Civil No. 3:09CV1086(AWT)
RULING RE MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
The plaintiff, Eugene Reiske, brings product liability
claims pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-572m, et seq., commonly
referred to as the Connecticut Products Liability Act.
respect to each claim he seeks statutory punitive damages
pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-240b.
The defendant has moved
for summary judgment on the issue of statutory punitive damages.
For the reasons set forth below, the motion is being granted.
On November 24, 2008, the plaintiff was operating a DeWalt
DPH 3800 power washing unit, manufactured by the defendant, Black
& Decker (U.S.) Inc. (“Black & Decker”), within the scope of his
employment at Derecktor Shipyards in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
While the plaintiff was using the power washer, the power
washer’s hose unscrewed or uncoupled from the spray nozzle and
struck the plaintiff in the eye.
The hose connection was covered
by a hard rubber sleeve which was subsequently removed with a
utility knife by a second Derecktor Shipyards employee.
The plaintiff’s liability expert, Michael Shanok, opined
that the connection was inadequately engaged and torqued during
assembly, and thus there was a manufacturing defect.
The defendant conducts periodic audit tests of all its
products for performance and life-span related issues. Intertek
Testing Services, an independent third party, issued a report
verifying that the DPH 3800 power washer complied with
Underwriters Laboratories and Canadian safety standards.
only incident known to the defendant involving an uncoupling of
the hose on the DPH 3800 power washer is the incident in which
the plaintiff was injured. During 2008, the defendant sold 2,022
DPH 3800 power washers.
A motion for summary judgment may not be granted unless the
court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact
to be tried and that the facts as to which there is no such issue
warrant judgment for the moving party as a matter of law.
R. Civ. P. 56(c).
See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322-23 (1986); Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., 22 F.3d
1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994).
Rule 56(c) “mandates the entry of
summary judgment . . . against a party who fails to make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322.
When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must
respect the province of the jury.
try issues of fact.
The court, therefore, may not
See, e.g., Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire
Comm’rs, 834 F.2d 54, 58 (2d Cir. 1987); Heyman v. Commerce &
Indus. Ins. Co., 524 F.2d 1317, 1319-20 (2d Cir. 1975).
well-established that “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing
of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from
the facts are jury functions, not those of the judge.”
477 U.S. at 255.
Thus, the trial court’s task 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 . . . to issue-finding; it does not extend to
Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1224.
Summary judgment is inappropriate only if the issue to be
resolved is both genuine and related to a material fact.
Therefore, the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment.
An issue is “genuine
. . . if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return
a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248
(internal quotation marks omitted).
A material fact is one that
would “affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.”
As the Court observed in Anderson: “[T]he materiality
determination rests on the substantive law, [and] it is the
substantive law’s identification of which facts are critical and
which facts are irrelevant that governs.”
Thus, only those
facts that must be decided in order to resolve a claim or defense
will prevent summary judgment from being granted.
confronted with an asserted factual dispute, the court must
examine the elements of the claims and defenses at issue on the
motion to determine whether a resolution of that dispute could
affect the disposition of any of those claims or defenses.
Immaterial or minor facts will not prevent summary judgment.
Howard v. Gleason Corp., 901 F.2d 1154, 1159 (2d Cir. 1990).
When reviewing the evidence on a motion for summary
judgment, the court must “assess the record in the light most
favorable to the non-movant and . . . draw all reasonable
inferences in its favor.”
Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d
33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Delaware & Hudson Ry. Co. v.
Consol. Rail Corp., 902 F.2d 174, 177 (2d Cir. 1990)).
credibility is not an issue on summary judgment, the nonmovant’s
evidence must be accepted as true for purposes of the motion.
Nonetheless, the inferences drawn in favor of the nonmovant must
be supported by the evidence.
“[M]ere speculation and conjecture
is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.”
v. Trustees of Columbia Univ., 131 F.3d 305, 315 (2d Cir. 1997)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Western World Ins.
Co. v. Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d. Cir. 1990)).
“Punitive damages may be awarded if the claimant proves that
the harm suffered was the result of the product seller’s reckless
disregard for the safety of product users, consumers or others
who were injured by the product.”
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-240b.
“Reckless misconduct refers to highly unreasonable
conduct, involving an extreme departure from ordinary
care, in a situation where a high degree of danger is
apparent. Recklessness requires a conscious choice of a
course of action either with knowledge of the serious
danger to others involved in it or with knowledge of
facts which would disclose this danger to any reasonable
man, and the actor must recognize that his conduct
involves a risk substantially greater . . . than that
which is necessary to make his conduct negligent.
Recklessness, therefore, is more than negligence and also
is more than gross negligence.”
Sutton v. Soul for Real, LLC, No. NNCV095031816S, 2010 WL 1052934
at *1 (Conn. Super. Feb. 16, 2010) (quoting Rubel v. Wainwright,
86 Conn.App. 728, 740-41 (2005)).
The defendant has presented evidence that the DPH 3800 power
washer had been tested by an independent third party and that it
complied with Underwriters Laboratories and Canadian safety
The defendant has also presented evidence that its
products were subject to periodic audit tests to ensure proper
The only incident known to the defendant involving
an uncoupling of the hose on a DPH 3800 power washer is the
incident in which the plaintiff was injured.
The plaintiff summarizes the evidence he contends creates a
genuine issue of material fact as follows:
In this case, the part of the hose that uncoupled was
covered by a hard rubber sleeve. A user could not see the
parts uncouple, nor would he know from reviewing the
accompanying product manual that there was a quickdisconnect coupling underneath the rubber sleeve. Chuck
Webster, a co-worker of the plaintiff, was asked by the
Derecktor supervisor to repair the power washer hose so that
workers could finish washing the boat. He testified in his
deposition that in order to repair the hose, he had to cut
off a hard rubber sleeve that covered the connection. He
states that the hose was unscrewed from the quick connect
and that the quick connect was underneath a seven inch long
rubber sheath. He further testified that he could not
remove that rubber sheath with his own hands and had to cut
it off with a knife. The defendant’s Senior Safety
Assurance Manager stated at his deposition that “ . . . it’s
manufactured in a fashion that with the amount of torque
applied on that joint, that the design is such that you
would not expect it (the hose) to uncouple.” Exhibit B,
Mitrou deposition, p. 84-85.
(Pl.’s Br. in Opp. 4-5, Doc. No. 75-1.)
However, taking as true the plaintiff’s assertions, they
could not support a finding of recklessness.
There is no
evidence of a conscious choice by the defendant of a course of
action with knowledge of the serious danger to others, or with
knowledge of facts that would disclose this danger to a
Because the defendant had no prior notice of
any manufacturing defect (or notice of facts that would have
disclosed such a defect to a reasonable person) with respect to
the hose connection, it could not have recklessly disregarded the
risk associated with such a defect.
Therefore summary judgment
is being granted as to the plaintiff’s claims for statutory
For the reasons set forth above, the Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. No. ) is hereby GRANTED.
It is so ordered.
Signed this 2nd day of March, 2012 at Hartford, Connecticut.
Alvin W. Thompson
United States District Judge
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