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Skalski v. Elliot Equipment Co.

March 9, 2010

RAYMOND SKALSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ELLIOT EQUIPMENT CO., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

This contract matter is before the Court on summary judgment motions filed by Defendant Elliot Equipment Co. ("Elliot") [Docket Item 22], and Defendant Paccar, Inc. ("Paccar") [Docket Item 24]. Defendant Caterpillar Inc. ("Caterpillar") joins both motions. [Docket Item 23.]

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Raymond Skalski, is a self-employed trucker.

He alleges that a Peterbilt tractor-trailer he purchased from Elliot, a Peterbilt dealer, suffers from a host of deficiencies.*fn1

Immediately after taking delivery of the truck in March 2007, Plaintiff claims to have noticed problems with the vehicle, which multiplied over time. The complaint alleges the following issues with the truck, some apparent immediately and others becoming apparent later: an air leak; a defective bumper; a water leak; paint defects; a sleeper ride height defect; a leaking sleeper shock; a vibration concern; problems with the air conditioning; tail light problems; head light problems; transmission problems; brake problems; a problem with the door striker bolt; temperature control problems; problems with the step boards; problems with the electrical systems; rear drive axle problems; unspecified engine problems; and defective wheels.

From March 2007 through November 2007, Plaintiff made at least ten trips to different authorized repair facilities to correct the conditions, with mixed success. On November 8, 2007, he wrote to Defendant Paccar to demand that they repurchase the vehicle. (Power Decl., Ex-U.) From November 2007 through June 2009, he has had the truck repaired another ten times. The ongoing conditions include a vibration and alignment issue, a water leak, metal particles in the oil, abnormal engine noises, and peeling paint.

Both Caterpillar and Paccar, owner of the Peterbilt trademark, provided warranties related to the vehicle. Caterpillar guaranteed the engine, and Paccar the chassis. Plaintiff claims that Defendants breached these express warranties, as well as the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, based on the failure to repair the problems in a timely manner. Plaintiff seeks damages for the breaches of the warranties including compensation for the collateral damages of his lost opportunities and attorney's fees. Plaintiff also seeks to revoke his acceptance of the truck under N.J. Stat. Ann. 12A:2-608.*fn2 Finally, Plaintiff claims that Elliot breached the contract of sale by providing the allegedly defective truck, though it is not clear how this claim is distinct from his allegation that Elliot breached the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness.*fn3

On April 14, 2008, Plaintiff filed the present suit in state court. The action was removed to this Court on May 30, 2008, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. The argument made by Defendant Elliot on the present motion is that Plaintiff's case requires expert testimony. Defendant Paccar also argues that expert testimony is required, and adds that the implied warranties and liability for collateral damage were both successfully disclaimed.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate when the materials of record "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). The court must view the evidence in favor of the non-moving party by extending any reasonable favorable inference to that party; in other words, "the nonmoving party's evidence 'is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [that party's] favor.'" Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).

In the event that there is an absence of the kind of evidence needed to prove an essential element of the case "there can be 'no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all ...


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