CRONCE v. TRISTATE EROSION CONTROL COMPANY INC. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 2/1/2016. (dmr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 14-3397 (JBS/KMW)
TRISTATE EROSION CONTROL
COMPANY INC., MACK TRUCKS,
INC., JOHN/JANE DOES 1-100,
FICTITIOUS PERONS, and ABC
CORP. 1-100, FICTITIOUS
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
While dismounting a “hydroseeder truck” on April 13, 2012,
Plaintiff James Cronce (hereinafter, “Plaintiff”) sustained
injuries when an allegedly “defective” step attached to the
As a result of these injuries, Plaintiff brought
this product liability action against the manufacturer of the
truck chassis and cab (i.e., an “incomplete vehicle”),1 Defendant
Plaintiff identified his employer, Tristate Erosion Control
Company Inc. (hereinafter, “Tristate”), in the caption and
introductory paragraph of his Complaint, solely “for the
purposes of discovery.” (Compl. at ¶ 2.) In other words, none
of Plaintiff’s claims seek actual relief from Tristate, a party
that would, in any event, be immune from suit under the state
workers’ compensation scheme. Accordingly, Tristate Erosion
Control Company, Inc. will be stricken as a defendant herein.
Mack Trucks, Inc. (hereinafter, “Defendant”) and various other
Defendant Mack Trucks, Inc. now moves for summary judgment
on the grounds that Plaintiff has not identified the “broken
step” as a step ever actually attached to Defendant’s
“incomplete vehicle,” and because he has failed, in any event,
to establish a qualifying defect under New Jersey’s Products
Liability Act (hereinafter, the “PLA”).
(See generally. Def.’s
Rather than file opposition, Plaintiff filed only a brief
letter response, in which he concedes that he cannot “identify
the specific defective step,” and is therefore “unable to meet
his burden to defeat [D]efendant’s motion for summary judgment.”
[Docket Item 23.]
In light of Plaintiff’s concession, and for the brief
reasons that follow, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment
will be granted.
The Court finds as follows:
Defendant assembled the “‘incomplete vehicle’” at
issue in this action on March 24, 1997.
(Def.’s SMF at ¶ 17.)
After its initial assembly, however, Defendant had no contact
with the vehicle, and shipped it to the purchaser for completion
through “the addition of a ‘construction body.’”
(Id. at ¶¶ 18-
Defendant, in turn, filed crossclaims seeking contribution
and/or indemnification, in the event of a finding of liability
on any of Plaintiff’s claims. Nevertheless, because summary
judgment will be granted in Defendant’s favor, these crossclaims
will be dismissed as moot.
Following final assembly, the vehicle appears to have
exchanged hands multiple times during the 15 years prior to the
event at issue here.
(See generally id. at ¶ 13.)
In the aftermath of his injuries, Plaintiff took
photographs of “the broken step only,” and then during discovery
years later, of the “overall view” of the alleged truck.
at ¶ 16.)
Despite these photographs, however, Defendant
admitted that the photographs “‘probably [did] not’” depict the
vehicle involved in the incident, and proffered no other
connection between the “broken step” and the “incomplete
vehicle” manufactured by Defendant years earlier.
Against that backdrop, Defendant moves for summary judgment,
which Plaintiff concedes should be granted.
[See Docket Items
22 & 23.]
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), summary
judgment is appropriate if “there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.”
Alabama v. North Carolina, 560 U.S. 330, 344
(2010) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see
also FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a).
In other words, where “the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find
for the non-moving party,” the Court may grant summary judgment.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
The PLA provides the “‘exclusive statutory cause of
action’” for harms caused by a defective product, as here.
Kemly v. Werner Co., ___ F. Supp. 3d ____, No. 13-7059, 2015 WL
8335030, at *4 (D.N.J. Dec. 8, 2015) (citations omitted).
design and/or manufacturing defect claim under the PLA, however,
requires Plaintiff to demonstrate (1) a defect that existed when
the product left Defendant’s control, and (2) that proximately
caused his injuries.
See id. (citations omitted).
however, Plaintiff concedes that he cannot create any reasonable
inference of a defect that existed at the time the incomplete
vehicle left Defendant’s control.3
[See Docket Item 23.]
result, Plaintiff concedes that he cannot defeat Defendant’s
Because Plaintiff cannot, by his own
admission, make out a prima facie case under the PLA,
Defendant’s motion for summary judgment must be granted.4
An accompanying Order will be entered.
February 1, 2016
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
Even beyond this concession, Plaintiff has produced no evidence
(expert or otherwise) that would create any reasonable inference
of a defect.
4 Despite the lengthy discovery period in this action, Plaintiff
has not named any of the fictitious defendants, and the time to
do so has long since expired. [See, e.g., Docket Items 16 &
19.] As a result, summary judgment will be granted in favor of
these fictitious parties, as well.
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