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Franklin Mutual Insurance Company As Subrogee of Lakisha Willis v. Broan-Nutone, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 27, 2014

FRANKLIN MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY AS SUBROGEE OF LAKISHA WILLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
BROAN-NUTONE, LLC, JOHN DOE 1-5 AND ABC CORP. 1-5, Defendants.

STEVEN A. KLUXEN, METHFESSEL & WERBEL, PC, EDISON, NJ, Attorney for the plaintiff.

CHRISTOPHER R. CARTON, K&L GATES LLP, NEWARK, NJ, Attorney for defendant Broan-Nutone, LLC.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

Before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. For reasons explained below, defendant's motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

This product liability action arises from a residential fire caused by a ceiling fan. The insured, Lakisha Willis, was paid by her insurance company, plaintiff Franklin Mutual Insurance Company, for her property loss. As a result of this payment, plaintiff has become subrogated to the rights and causes of action of its insured.

Willis had purchased a ceiling-mounted exhaust fan unit designed and manufactured by defendant Broan-Nutone, LLC. On March 26, 2009, Willis was using the fan at her home when a fire occurred. The fire marshal determined that the "fire originated in the ceiling exhaust fan from an unknown catastrophic failure which ignited the available combustibles."

Plaintiff alleges that defendant's fan caused the fire causing damage to Willis' real and personal property. Plaintiff brings product liability, negligence, and breach of warranty claims against defendant.

II. JURISDICTION

Plaintiff is a New Jersey corporation with its principal place of business in New Jersey. Defendant is a limited liability company whose members are Nortek, Inc., a Delaware Corporation with its principal place of business in Rhode Island, and Nutone, Inc. a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Ohio. Plaintiff states that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00, exclusive of interests and costs.[1]

III. DISCUSSION

A. Negligence and Breach of Warranty Claims

Defendant seeks dismissal of plaintiff's claims for negligence and breach of warranty because they are subsumed within the New Jersey Products Liability Act (PLA). New Jersey law is clear that the PLA provides one unified, statutorily defined theory of recovery for harm caused by a product. See Calender v. NVR, Inc., No. 10-4277, 2012 WL 4482009, at *3-4 (D.N.J. Sept. 26, 2012) (granting summary judgment to defendant on negligence and implied breach of warranty claims because they were subsumed by the PLA); Gupta v. Asha Enterprises, LLC, 422 N.J.Super. 136, 144-45, 27 A.3d 953 (App.Div. 2011) (affirming dismissal of claims for negligence, violations of the CFA and breach of implied warranty insofar as they were based upon product defect); Koruba v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 396 N.J.Super. 517, 935 A.2d 787, 795 (2007) (explaining that "the PLA no longer recognizes negligence or breach of warranty (with the exception of an express warranty) as a viable separate claim for "harm[, ]" [including personal injury, ] caused by a defective product' or an inadequate warning.") (citation omitted).

Plaintiff does not contest defendant's motion regarding these claims. Accordingly, plaintiff's negligence and breach of ...


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