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PENNSYLVANIA GENERAL INS. CO. v. LANDIS

May 2, 2000

PENNSYLVANIA GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, AS SUBROGEE OF BARRY AND SUSAN GROSS, PLAINTIFF,
V.
DAVID J. LANDIS T/A NETHERWOOD FINISHING STATION, DEFENDANT, AND NETHERWOOD FINISHING STATION, INC. DEFENDANT, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF, V. PARKS CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT. AND DAVID J. LANDIS, PLAINTIFF, V. PARKS CORPORATION, ROBERT FORST, AND JOHN DOES 1 THROUGH 10 (A FICTITIOUS DESIGNATION FOR VARIOUS SUPPLIERS AND DISTRIBUTORS OF PARKS PRODUCTS), DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hochberg, District Judge.

  OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed by Parks Corporation ("Parks") pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, seeking judgment in Parks' favor on the third party complaint filed by third party plaintiff Netherwood Finishing Station, Inc. ("Netherwood"). Parks also submits an in limine motion to bar the testimony of Netherwood's expert at trial. Additionally, this Court sua sponte consolidates the Complaint filed by David J. Landis against Parks and Robert Forst ("Forst") on March 23, 2000, with the instant action.

For the reasons stated herein, this Court dismisses Count I of the Complaint in civil action number 00-1379 (the "Second Complaint") with prejudice, and dismisses Count II of that Complaint without prejudice. Parks' motion for summary judgment in Civil action number 99-1158 is granted and its in limine motion is, therefore, denied as moot.

Subject matter jurisdiction is properly pled pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1330. The Court also has supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims in civil action number 99-1158 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) because the state law claims in that action are so related to the federal claims arising under 15 U.S.C. § 1261, et seq., the Federal Hazardous Substances Act ("FHSA"), that together they form the same case or controversy.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to Rule 56(c), a motion for summary judgment will be granted

if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

See also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In other words, "summary judgment may be granted if the movant shows that there exists no genuine issue of material fact that would permit a reasonable jury to find for the nonmoving party." Miller v. Indiana Hosp., 843 F.2d 139, 143 (3d Cir. 1988). All facts and inferences must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Peters v. Delaware River Port Auth. of Pa. and N.J., 16 F.3d 1346, 1349 (3d Cir. 1994).

Substantive law controls the inquiry into which facts are "material." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505. An issue is "genuine" if a reasonable jury could decide the issue in the nonmovant's favor. Id. Thus, "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Id.; accord Ridgewood Bd. of Educ. v. M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)).

However, at the summary judgment stage, this Court neither weighs the evidence nor makes credibility determinations; these tasks are within the sole domain of the fact-finder. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Therefore, to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact, the summary judgment opponent need not produce evidence so strong that it mandates a decision in its favor. Rather, the party opposing summary judgement must adduce "evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [nonmovant]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505. "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmovant's] position will be insufficient." Id.; see also In re Headquarters Dodge, 13 F.3d 674, 679 (3d Cir. 1993). "Speculation and conclusory allegations do not satisfy this duty." Ridgewood Bd. of Educ., 172 F.3d at 252 (citing Groman v. Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995)).

It is clear that if a moving party satisfies its initial burden of establishing a prima facie case for summary judgment, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Instead, "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no `genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (quoting First National Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968)).

II. BACKGROUND

David Landis ("Landis") is the owner of Netherwood, a company specializing in finishing and re-finishing furniture. Landis has twelve years of experience in the furniture finishing business; he was trained by his father who had thirty-five years of experience. On September 13, 1998, the day of the accident which resulted in the instant litigation, Landis was working in the home of Susan and Barry Gross as a sub-contractor for Lauderdale Millwork Company ("Lauderdale"). Lauderdale was hired by the Gross family to build a home at 67 Linden Lane in Chatham, New Jersey.

On September 13, 1998, Landis was working in the library of the Chatham House; he was using Parks Lacquer Thinner to strip stain from the wood shelves. At some point prior to commencing his work, Landis read the MSDS's, the instructions, and the warning label for use of the Parks' product. While using Parks' product, Landis asserts that he taped over the electrical outlets in the room with painter's tape. However, at least one outlet was not taped, because a fan and a radio were plugged in and operating during Landis' application of the Parks product to the wood shelving. During his work, Landis claims he heard a "pop" and looked to his left where he saw a large ball of fire. The fire spread quickly through the house and a large portion of the residence was destroyed.

The investigation revealed that the cause of the fire was unintentional and Pennsylvania General Insurance Company ("Pennsylvania"), as insurer of the Gross' home, re-imbursed the Gross family for damage to the property. Pennsylvania then commenced the instant suborgation action against Landis and Netherwood, who, in turn, impleaded ...


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