Moore v. Toyota Motor Corporation et al
ORDER AND REASONS granting 31 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 53 Motion to Strike. For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's motion to strike is DENIED, except as to the affidavit of Debra Hatton. The Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE any Louisiana Products Liability Act claims against Toyota Motor Sales, Toyota Motor Corporation, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America to the extent such claims are predicated on the allegation that these defendants continued to use Takata airbags, knowing of the safety concerns of Takata airbags and inflators, and failed to warn consumers about these dangers. Further, the Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE all causes of action except those arising under the Louisiana Products Liab ility Act, including claims of negligence, intentional tort, breach of contract, breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and bad faith, as to Toyota Motor Sales, Toyota Motor Corporation, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America. Signed by Judge Sarah S. Vance on 11/20/2017. (cg)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
ROBERT L. MOORE
TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION,
SECTION “R” (5)
ORDER AND REASONS
Defendant Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. moves for partial summary
judgment. 1 Plaintiff Robert Moore moves to strike defendant’s motion and
supporting affidavits.2 For the following reasons, the Court denies plaintiff’s
motion to strike, except as to the affidavit of Debra Hatton. Further, the
Court grants Toyota Motor Sales partial summary judgment.
This case arises out of an allegedly defective airbag in Plaintiff Robert
Moore’s 2009 Toyota Corolla. 3 On January 24, 2016, plaintiff was involved
in an automobile accident while driving his Toyota Corolla. 4 According to
the complaint, plaintiff’s airbag deployed suddenly and severely injured
R. Doc. 31.
R. Doc. 53.
R. Doc. 20 at 5-7.
Id. at 5 ¶ 2.
him. 5 Plaintiff alleges that Takata manufactured or sold the airbag or airbag
inflator that caused his injuries, and that Takata knowingly sold millions of
defective airbags to automakers including Toyota.6 Further, plaintiff asserts
that Toyota knew of the safety concerns of Takata airbags and inflators, and
failed to warn consumers about the dangers of these products.7
Plaintiff filed suit in state court against Takata Corporation,
TK Holdings, Inc., Toyota Motor Corporation, and Toyota Motor Sales
U.S.A. 8 TK Holdings is a subsidiary of Takata Corporation. 9 On February
15, 2017, Defendants TK Holdings and Toyota Motor Sales removed the
matter to this Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. 10 Plaintiff later
filed an amended complaint adding as a defendant Toyota Motor
Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc.11 Toyota Motor Sales now
asks the Court to grant partial summary judgment, and enter a finding that
the airbag system in plaintiff’s car was not designed, manufactured, or
Id. at 5-6.
Id. at 7-8.
Id. at 9 ¶ 13.
R. Doc. 1-2 at 2.
R. Doc. 20 at 2.
R. Doc. 1 at 1-2.
R. Doc. 20 at 3.
distributed by any Takata entity.12 Plaintiff moves to strike the summary
judgment motion and its supporting affidavits.13
Summary judgment is warranted when “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); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069,
1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material
fact exists, the Court considers “all of the evidence in the record but refrain[s]
from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta &
Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398-99
(5th Cir. 2008).
All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the
nonmoving party, but “unsupported allegations or affidavits setting forth
‘ultimate or conclusory facts and conclusions of law’ are insufficient to either
support or defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Galindo v. Precision
Am. Corp., 754 F.2d 1212, 1216 (5th Cir. 1985); see also Little, 37 F.3d at
1075. “No genuine dispute of fact exists if the record taken as a whole could
R. Doc. 31; R. Doc. 62 at 3.
R. Doc. 53.
not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.” EEOC v.
Simbaki, Ltd., 767 F.3d 475, 481 (5th Cir. 2014).
If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the
burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must come forward with evidence
which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went
uncontroverted at trial.” Int’l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally’s, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257,
1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991) (internal citation omitted). The nonmoving party can
then defeat the motion by either countering with evidence sufficient to
demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact, or “showing
that the moving party’s evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade the
reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the moving party.” Id.
If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear
the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by
pointing out that the evidence in the record is insufficient with respect to an
essential element of the nonmoving party’s claim. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at
The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by
submitting or referring to evidence, set out specific facts showing that a
genuine issue exists. See id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest upon the
pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for
trial. See, e.g., id.; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 (“Rule 56 mandates the entry of
summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
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.” (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322)).
A. Effect of Bankruptcy Stay
TK Holdings and Takata Corporation (the Takata entities) have each
filed for bankruptcy, and this matter is automatically stayed as to these two
defendants. 14 See 11 U.S.C. § 362(a)(1). Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) is not
subject to a bankruptcy stay. See In re S.I. Acquisition, Inc., 817 F.2d 1142,
1147 (5th Cir. 1987) (explaining that 11 U.S.C. § 362(a)(1) generally does not
prohibit actions against nonbankrupt codefendants); In re Babcock & Wilcox
Co., No. 00-3408, 2001 WL 536305, at *2-3 (E.D. La. 2001).
Plaintiff contends that TMS’ summary judgment motion violates the
bankruptcy stay, and that TMS lacks standing to seek partial summary
judgment in favor of its codefendants. 15 The Court notes that plaintiff’s
R. Doc. 24; R. Doc. 44.
R. Doc. 53 at 2.
motion to strike fails to conform to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f),
because it was filed after plaintiff’s memorandum in opposition, and it does
not seek to “strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant,
immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f)(2);
5C Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1380 (3d. ed. 2017).
The Court nevertheless considers plaintiff’s arguments, because it has an
obligation to ensure that the bankruptcy stay is respected.
Plaintiff’s arguments regarding standing and the bankruptcy stay both
center on the proposition that TMS is seeking partial summary judgment on
behalf of the Takata entities rather than asserting its own interests.16
Plaintiff also contends that his rights to due process would be violated if the
Takata entities are permitted to litigate through a co-defendant during the
stay. 17 TMS has clarified that it does not seek dismissal of the Takata entities
from this litigation, but instead requests a finding that no Takata entity
designed, manufactured, or distributed the airbag system in plaintiff’s
vehicle.18 TMS requests this finding because plaintiff’s claims against TMS
R. Doc. 53-1.
Id. at 2-3.
R. Doc. 62 at 3.
and the other non-Takata defendants rely on Takata’s being the
manufacturer of the allegedly defective airbags. 19
These proceedings have not been stayed as to TMS, and TMS retains
the right to defend itself from plaintiff’s factual allegations. The amended
complaint asserts that the Toyota defendants, including TMS, “sold vehicles
in the United States containing airbags manufactured by the Takata
Defendants and installed as its ‘original’ parts airbag and airbag inflators
manufactured by Takata Defendants and defective [sic].”20 Plaintiff further
alleges that the Toyota defendants “knew of the safety concerns and
unacceptable quality of Takata airbags and inflators and/or any airbags and
inflators made with the same or similar materials and chemicals as Takata
and continued to use them,” and that Toyota failed to warn consumers about
the dangers of these airbags and inflators.21 Plaintiff’s factual allegations
regarding Takata’s role in manufacturing his vehicle’s airbag system are
intertwined with his claims against TMS, and TMS is not barred from seeking
summary judgment on this issue.
Id. at 4-5.
R. Doc. 20 at 3.
Id. at 9 ¶ 13. The amended complaint notes that Toyota Corporation,
Toyota Motor Sales, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North
America are collectively referred to as Toyota. See id. at 3.
B. Evidentiary Objections
TMS’ motion for partial summary judgment includes the sworn
declaration of Debra Hatton, a paralegal at TK Holdings, and the affidavit of
Barry Hare, an employee of Toyota Motor North America. 22 Plaintiff objects
that these exhibits are not competent summary judgment evidence.23
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that “[a]n affidavit or declaration
used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge,
set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant
or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(c)(4). Although summary judgment evidence need not necessarily be
presented in admissible form, “the substance or content of the evidence
submitted to support or dispute a fact on summary judgment must be
admissible.” Lee v. Offshore Logistical & Transp., LLC, 859 F.3d 353, 355
(5th Cir. 2017) (quoting 11 Moore’s Federal Practice-Civil § 56.91 (2017)).
The Court strikes Debra Hatton’s declaration because it is not based on
personal knowledge. The Hatton declaration states that, “[a]s confirmed
through communications with other TKH employees, Robert L. Moore’s
allegations are incorrect,” and no Takata entity had any involvement in the
R. Doc. 31-3.
R. Doc. 53-2.
driver airbag system of the 2009 Toyota Corolla. 24 Although TMS asserts
that Ms. Hatton is a corporate representative, 25 “a corporate representative
may not testify to matters outside [her] own personal knowledge ‘to the
extent that information is hearsay not falling within one of the authorized
exceptions.’” Union Pump Co. v. Centrifugal Tech. Inc., 404 F. App’x 899,
907 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Brazos River Auth. v. GE Ionics, Inc., 469 F.3d
416, 435 (5th Cir. 2006)). Ms. Hatton’s declaration does not indicate that
she has personally reviewed any documentation, or that she has acquired any
information regarding Takata’s involvement with the 2009 Toyota Corolla
beyond what she was told by other employees.26 Cf. Wisdom v. U.S. Tr.
Program, 232 F. Supp. 3d 97, 115 (D.D.C. 2017) (finding that a FOIA
declarant satisfies Rule 56’s personal knowledge requirement if he has
personal knowledge of the procedures used and relevant documents). Thus,
the Court finds that the declaration is not competent summary judgment
evidence, and does not consider it.
The Court denies plaintiff’s request to strike the affidavit of Barry Hare.
Mr. Hare is a National Design and Technical Analysis Manager at Toyota
R. Doc. 31-3 at 2.
R. Doc. 62 at 7-8.
R. Doc. 31-3 at 1-2.
Motor North America. 27 He states in his affidavit that a review of the design
drawings for the 2009 Toyota Corolla shows that the driver front airbag
module was manufactured by Toyoda Gosei Co., Ltd.28 In contrast to Ms.
Hatton’s declaration, Mr. Hare’s affidavit indicates that he has personally
reviewed the relevant designs. See LSR Consulting, LLC v. Wells Fargo
Bank, N.A., 835 F.3d 530, 534 (5th Cir. 2016) (finding that affidavits were
properly admitted because they “contain sufficiently specific statements for
the district court to infer that the affiants had personal knowledge of the facts
attested therein”). That Mr. Hare is employed by a Toyota entity rather than
by Takata does not call into question his competence to testify about the
component parts of Toyota vehicles. Nor was TMS required to provide a copy
of the design drawings. See RBC Real Estate Fin., Inc. v. Partners Land
Dev., Ltd., 543 F. App’x 477, 479 (5th Cir. 2013) (rejecting argument that
affiant had to provide a foundation for how he calculated amounts due).
Therefore, the Court finds that the affidavit contains facts that would be
admissible in evidence, and shows that Mr. Hare is competent to testify
about the matter asserted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4).
Id. at 3.
Id at 4.
C. Adequate Time for Discovery
Plaintiff argues that partial summary judgment should be denied
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) because he is unable to present
facts essential to justify his opposition to the motion. 29 Plaintiff’s counsel
submits a declaration stating that plaintiff has been unable to request
discovery from TK Holdings, Takata Corporation, or any other Takata entity
because of the bankruptcy stay.30
Although Rule 56(d) motions for
additional discovery are broadly favored in the Fifth Circuit, “a party must
‘set forth a plausible basis for believing that specified facts, susceptible of
collection within a reasonable time frame, probably exist and indicate how
the emergent facts, if adduced, will influence the outcome of the pending
summary judgment motion.’” Prospect Capital Corp. v. Mutual of Omaha
Bank, 819 F.3d 754, 757 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Am. Family Life Assurance
Co. of Columbus v. Biles, 714 F.3d 887, 894 (5th Cir. 2013)).
The Court finds that additional discovery is “not likely to produce the
facts needed by the plaintiff to withstand a motion for summary judgment.”
Washington v. Allstate Ins. Co., 901 F.2d 1281, 1285 (5th Cir. 1990). Barry
Hare’s affidavit states that the driver front airbag module in the 2009 Toyota
R. Doc. 49.
R. Doc. 49-1.
Corolla was manufactured by Toyoda Gosei.31 Plaintiff has failed to present
specific reasons to doubt that statement, or to indicate that Mr. Hare is likely
to contradict himself in a future deposition. See Biles, 714 F.3d at 894-95.
Nor has plaintiff produced any evidence from his own vehicle or other
sources to affirmatively suggest that Takata manufactured the airbag system
in the 2009 Toyota Corolla. See Smith v. Regional Transit Auth., 827 F.3d
412, 423 (5th Cir. 2016).
Plaintiff’s argument that he has been prevented from requesting
discovery because of the bankruptcy stay is without merit. Barry Hare is an
employee of Toyota Motor North America, not Takata, and plaintiff has
identified no obstacle to deposing him. Plaintiff was also free to pursue
discovery against TMS and other Toyota defendants. Moreover, to the extent
that plaintiff argues that any summary judgment motion should be
postponed until the bankruptcy stay is lifted, plaintiff cannot show that
relevant facts could be collected within a reasonable time frame.
Prospect Capital Corp., 819 F.3d at 757.
D. Louisiana Products Liability Act Claims
Under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA), the plaintiff bears
the burden of establishing the identity of the manufacturer of the allegedly
R. Doc. 31-3 at 4.
unreasonably dangerous product. See La. R.S. 9:2800.54; Stahl v. Novartis
Pharm. Corp., 283 F.3d 254, 260-61 (5th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff has offered no
evidence to create a genuine issue of fact that Takata manufactured the
airbag system in his vehicle. The affidavit of Barry Hare indicates that
Toyoda Gosei manufactured the driver front airbag module in the 2009
Toyota Corolla. 32 Because plaintiff “has failed to make a sufficient showing
on an essential element of [his] case with respect to which he has the
burden of proof,” TMS is entitled summary judgment on this issue. Celotex,
477 U.S. at 2552.
The Court finds that no Takata entity manufactured the airbag system
in plaintiff’s 2009 Toyota Corolla, as manufacturer is defined by the LPLA.
See La. R.S. 9:2800.53(1). The Court dismisses any LPLA claims predicated
on plaintiff’s allegation that TMS continued to use Takata airbag systems,
knowing of the safety concerns of Takata airbags and inflators, and failed to
warn consumers about these dangers. 33 The Court does not dismiss the
LPLA claims to the extent that plaintiff alleges that TMS used, and failed to
properly warn about, defective “airbags and inflators made with the same or
R. Doc. 31-3 at 3-4.
See R. Doc. 20 at 9 ¶ 13.
similar materials and chemicals as Takata,” with knowledge of their
E. Non-LPLA Claims
TMS also moves for partial summary judgment as to all non-LPLA
claims in plaintiff’s complaint because the LPLA provides the exclusive
remedy against a manufacturer for damage caused by its product. 35 See
La. R.S. § 9:2800.52. In granting plaintiff leave to amend his complaint,
Magistrate Judge North ordered that all causes of action except those arising
under the LPLA be deleted from the amended complaint.36 TMS asks that
plaintiff’s claims for negligence, intentional tort, breach of contract, breach
of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and bad faith be
dismissed.37 Plaintiff does not defend the legal validity of these claims, and
the Court dismisses them in light of the exclusive remedy provided by the
LPLA.38 See Stahl, 283 F.3d at 262 (finding that the LPLA exclusivity
R. Doc. 31-1 at 8.
R. Doc. 18 at 2.
R. Doc. 31-1 at 8-9.
Plaintiff asserts that the non-LPLA claims in the amended complaint
were not subject to Magistrate Judge North’s order because they were
included in the original complaint, and are therefore not new claims. See
R. Doc. 49-2 at 2. This argument ignores the portion of Judge North’s
order that directs that all non-LPLA causes of action “be deleted from the
amended complaint.” See R. Doc. 18 at 2. Regardless, plaintiff’s claims
must be dismissed because they fail to state a valid legal claim.
provision precludes intentional tort claims such as fraud); Jefferson v. Lead
Indus. Ass’n, Inc., 930 F. Supp. 241, 245 (E.D. La. 1996).
F. Other Toyota Defendants
The complaint includes identical allegations against TMS, Toyota
Motor Corporation, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North
America.39 Thus, the Court’s reasons for granting partial summary judgment
to TMS apply equally to the other two Toyota defendants. Because plaintiff
had notice and an opportunity to respond to the arguments in TMS’ motion,
the Court finds it appropriate to grant partial summary judgment to Toyota
Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North
America. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(f)(1) (permitting courts to grant summary
judgment for a nonmovant).
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff’s motion to strike is DENIED,
except as to the affidavit of Debra Hatton.
Toyota Motor Sales’ motion for partial summary judgment is
GRANTED. The Court finds that no Takata entity manufactured the driver
airbag system in plaintiff’s 2009 Toyota Corolla, as manufacturer is defined
R. Doc. 20 at 3.
in La. R.S. 9:2800.53(1). The Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE any
Louisiana Products Liability Act claims against Toyota Motor Sales, Toyota
Motor Corporation, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North
America to the extent such claims are predicated on the allegation that these
defendants continued to use Takata airbags, knowing of the safety concerns
of Takata airbags and inflators, and failed to warn consumers about these
Further, the Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE all causes of action
except those arising under the Louisiana Products Liability Act, including
claims of negligence, intentional tort, breach of contract, breach of warranty,
negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and bad faith, as to Toyota Motor Sales,
Toyota Motor Corporation, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing
New Orleans, Louisiana, this _____ day of November, 2017.
SARAH S. VANCE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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