Dzhunaydov v. Emerson Electric Co.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER: The Defendants motion 50 for summary judgment as to Dzhunaydovs failure-to-warn claims is denied and Emersons motion for summary judgment as to all claims is granted. Ordered by Judge Frederic Block on 3/17/2016. (Innelli, Michael)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
-againstEMERSON ELECTRIC CO., HOME
DEPOT U.S.A., INC., TECHTRONIC
INDUSTRIES COMPANY LIMITED,
ONE WORLD TECHNOLOGIES, INC.,
TECHTRONIC INDUSTRIES NORTH
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
12-CV-2188 (FB) (RER)
For the Plaintiff:
Certain and Zilburg PLLC
909 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022
For the Defendant:
ROSARIO M. VIGNALI
Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edleman,
& Dicker, LLP
3 Gannett Drive
West Harrison, NY 10604
BLOCK, Senior District Judge:
On July 1, 2011 Shukrullo Dzhunaydov injured his hand while operating a 10"
Ridgid-brand table saw. Dzhunaydov filed this action against Emerson Electric Co.
(“Emerson”), Home Depot USA, Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd., One World
Technologies, Inc., and Techtronic Industries North America, Inc., (collectively, the
“Defendants”). The Defendants now move for summary judgment as to Dzhunaydov’s
failure-to-warn claims, and all claims as to Emerson. For the reasons that follow, the
motion is denied in part and granted in part.
“The 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). An issue of fact is genuine if the “evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a judgment for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
The Court’s jurisdiction over this matter is based on the parties’ diversity;
accordingly, New York law applies to Dzhunaydov’s claims. Erie R.R. Co. v.
Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1938)
Under New York law, “[a]trademark licensor cannot be held liable for injuries
caused by a defective product bearing its label where the licensor did not design,
manufacture, sell, distribute or market the allegedly defective item.” D’Onofrio v.
Boehlert, 635 N.Y.S.2d 384, 385 (4th Dep’t 1995); see also Bova v. Caterpillar, Inc.,
305 A.D.2d 624, 761 N.Y.S.2d 85, 87 (2d Dep’t 2003) (“Liability cannot be imposed
on a party that was outside the chain of manufacturing, selling, or distributing a
product.”); Auto. Ins. Co. of Hartford Connecticut v. Murray, Inc., 571 F. Supp. 2d 408,
422-23 (W.D.N.Y. 2008) (“Although the actual exercise of control is not required by
[case law], the requisite ‘capacity’ of exercising control must exceed the mere existence
of a licensing arrangement. . . .”)
The saw that injured Dzhunaydov’s hand bore the “Ridgid” trademark. The mark
is owned by Ridgid, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Emerson. Emerson licensed the
Ridgid mark to Home Depot pursuant to a licensing agreement. Home Depot used the
mark to market a line of power tools, which were designed and manufactured by other
companies on Home Depot’s behalf. One World designed, manufactured, assembled,
tested and certified the Ridgid saw at issue in this case.
This Court previously denied Emerson summary judgment, declaring that
judgment was premature because “the licensing agreement may offer additional
evidence to refute the claim” that Emerson was a mere trademark licensor. Order, ECF
No. 34, 1. However, Dzhunaydov has not produced any evidence to demonstrate that
Emerson contributed to the saw’s chain of distribution.
Under the licensing agreement, Emerson retained limited authority over the
Ridgid mark, akin to a right to approve for quality control. See Defs.’ Mot. Sum. J., Ex.
J, 5 (“Home Depot . . . agrees that [Emerson] reserves all rights of approval, such
approvals not to be unreasonably withheld, which are necessary” to “protect and
enhance the reputation and integrity” of the mark.) There is no evidence, however, that
Emerson exercised control over the design of the saw. In fact, the evidence is to the
For example, as Thomas Hill, Senior Director of Product Safety at One World,
Emerson was not involved in the subject table saw’s design,
manufacture, testing, assembly and/or certification...Emerson may from
time-to-time review the product and operator’s manuals for “Fit and
Finish”; that is, it may conduct a review of the product’s non-functional
design features such as its graphic art, its color printing font, the
labeling, and the layout of the operator’s manual –all to determine, and
become satisfied, that the product at issue has the look and feel of a
Defs.’ Mot. Sum. J., Ex. Q, Aff. of Thomas Wayne Hill, 3. Hill’s deposition testimony
was consistent with the above-quoted affidavit:
A: Emerson does not have input into the design of the product, so no, we
do not provide a sample to Emerson for review of the design.
Q: For any purpose, have you ever provided samples of manufactured
products bearing the Rigid [sic] trademark to Emerson?
A: Yes, products and operator’s manuals for their review, because
Emerson has the right to review the name style, the labelling [sic], the
style used in the operator’s manual, the preference of layout for the
operator’s manual. . . .Graphic design, yes. It’s not part of the product
Defs.’ Mot. Sum. J., Ex. M, Dep. of Hill, 332.
Additionally, Charles Ngwara, a Home Depot representative, attested to
Emerson’s limited role as a trademark licensor.“[W]ith respect to the subject [table
saw], Emerson was merely the licensor of the “Ridgid” trademark to Home Depot. .
. . Emerson did not design, manufacture, assemble, test and/or certify the subject table
saw, nor did Emerson exercise any significant role in the table saw’s final quality or the
warnings that accompanied it.” Defs.’ Mot. Sum. J., Ex. R, Aff. of Charles Nwagbara,
Nonetheless, Dzuhnaydov argues that the licensing agreement demonstrates
sufficient control by Emerson to warrant liability under Automobile Insurance
Company of Hartford v. Murray, Inc., 571 F. Supp. 2d 408 (W.D.N.Y. 2008).
However, in Murray, unlike here, the trademark licensor exercised its authority to
control and inspect the products bearing its mark, performed quality control visits, and
approved the specifications for the product at issue. Even if the present licensing
agreement authorized Emerson to exercise such authority, there is no evidence that
Emerson actually exercised such authority. See id. (“[T]he requisite ‘capacity’ of
exercising control must exceed the mere existence of a licensing agreement.”).
Accordingly, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted as to all
claims against Emerson.
With respect to the failure-to-warn claims as to the remaining defendants,
material issues of fact preclude an entry of summary judgment. Under New York law,
failure-to-warn liability is “intensely fact-specific,” however, the claims can be decided
as a matter of law “(1) where the injured party was fully aware of the hazard through
general knowledge, observation or common sense, or participated in the removal of the
safety device whose purpose is obvious; or (2) where the hazards are patently
dangerous or pose open and obvious risks.” Humphrey v. Diamant Boart, Inc., 556 F.
Supp. 2d 167, 179-80 (E.D.N.Y. 2008) (internal citations and quotations omitted); see
also Urena v. Biro Mfg. Co., 114 F.3d 359, 366 (2d Cir. 1997) (“The adequacy of the
instruction or warning is generally a question of fact to be determined at trial and is not
ordinarily susceptible to the drastic remedy of summary judgment.”).
Here, factual questions remain as to (1) Dzhuynadhov’s knowledge of the saw’s
hazards; (2) whether the warnings on the device were adequate; and (3) whether the
hazard was open and obvious. The parties dispute Dzhuynadhov’s level of experience
and training, as well as the adequacy of the warnings. Moreover, Dzhuynadhov
provides expert testimony to dispute the obviousness of the hazards of a saw kickback.
Accordingly, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the failure-towarn claims is denied.
For the reasons stated above, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to
Dzhunaydov’s failure-to-warn claims is denied and Emerson’s motion for summary
judgment as to all claims is granted.
/S/ Frederic Block_____________
Senior United States District Judge
Brooklyn, New York
March 17, 2016
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