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Medina v. Daimler Trucks North America, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 17, 2015

MARIA E. MEDINA, Individually, MARIA E. MEDINA, Administrator of the Estate of Edvin Medina, Deceased, MARIA E. MEDINA, Guardian Ad Litem for G.M., E.P., and T.L., Minors, Plaintiffs,
v.
DAIMLER TRUCKS NORTH AMERICA, LLC, A Daimler Company, THOMAS J. O'NEIL, Individually, and T.P. SAMPSON COMPANY, INC. Defendants.

OPINION

JOSE L. LINARES, District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court by way of Defendant Daimler Trucks North America, LLC ("Defendant")'s motion for reconsideration [CM/ECF No. 80] of this Court's December 30, 2014 Opinion and Order denying Defendant's motion for summary judgment. The Court has considered the submissions made in support of and in opposition to the instant motion, and decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

The relevant facts of this case are fully detailed in this Court's December 30, 2014 Opinion ("Opinion"), and are repeated here only to the extent they are pertinent to the instant motion for reconsideration.

This case concerns a fatal car accident that occurred on an overpass on Interstate 91 in Brattleboro, Vermont in February 2008. (Docket #58-4:1; Exhibit A.) Plaintiff Maria E. Medina ("Plaintiff")'s husband, Edvin Medina ("Medina"), approached the overpass driving a tractor-trailer when a car ahead of him lost control, struck the side guardrails, and came to a halt on the overpass. ( Id. at 1, 5-7, 14.) Medina took evasive action in order to avoid crashing into the car. ( Id. at 5.) Consequently, the tractor-trailer crashed into the guardrails, caught on fire, and plummeted off the overpass. ( Id. at 11-12.) Though unseen, Medina was heard screaming from the burning tractor. (Docket #58-5: 33; Exhibit F at 95:5-7.) The medical examiner, Dr. Bundock, concluded that Medina died of blunt force trauma and thermal injuries. (Docket #58-4: 24; Exhibit C at 1.)

In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that a design defect in the truck that Medina was driving caused her late-husband's death. She contends, relying on George H. Meinschein ("Meinschein")'s expert report, that the placement of the truck's batteries in close proximity to the fuel tank "presented a contributory cause in the instant... fire[.]" (Docket #58-5: 44; Exhibit G at 4.)

Plaintiff's Complaint asserts three separate causes of action against Defendant: (1) design defect; (2) wrongful death; and, (3) claims of survivorship on behalf of Plaintiff and Medina's surviving children. ( See Docket #1.) On August 15, 2014, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment and a motion to exclude Plaintiff's experts. (Docket #58.) This Court issued an Opinion and Order on December 30, 2014 denying both motions. (Dockets #77, 78.) On January 13, 2015, Defendants filed a motion for reconsideration as to the denial of its motion for summary judgment. (Docket #80.)

This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332, as there is diversity between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds the $75, 000 minimum.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"Reconsideration is an extraordinary remedy" and should be granted "very sparingly." See L.Civ.R. 7.1(i) cmt. 6(d); see also Fellenz v. Lombard Investment Corp., 400 F.Supp.2d 681, 683 (D.N.J. 2005). A motion for reconsideration "may not be used to re-litigate old matters" or argue new matters that could have been raised before the original decision was reached. See, e.g., P. Schoenfeld Asset Mgmt., LLC v. Cendant Corp., 161 F.Supp.2d 349, 352 (D.N.J.2001). To prevail on a motion for reconsideration, the moving party must "set [] forth concisely the matter or controlling decisions which the party believes the Judge or Magistrate Judge has overlooked." L. Civ. R. 7.1.

The Court will reconsider a prior order only where a different outcome is justified by: (1) an intervening change in law; (2) the availability of new evidence not previously available; or (3) a need to correct a clear error of law or manifest injustice. See N. River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance, Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir.1995). A court commits clear error of law "only if the record cannot support the findings that led to the ruling." ABS Brokerage Servs. v. Penson Fin. Servs., Inc., No. 09-4590, 2010 WL 3257992, at *6 (D.N.J. Aug. 16, 2010) (citing United States v. Grape, 549 F.3d 591, 603-04 (3d Cir. 2008) "Thus, a party must... demonstrate that (1) the holdings on which its bases its request were without support in the record, or (2) would result in manifest injustice' if not addressed." Id. "Mere disagreement with the Court's decision' does not suffice." Id. (quoting P. Schoenfeld Asset Mgmt. LLC v. Cendant Corp., 161 F.Supp.2d 349, 353 (D.N.J. 2001)). Moreover, when the assertion is that the Court overlooked something, the Court must have overlooked "some dispositive factual or legal matter that was presented to it." McGovern v. City of Jersey City, No. 98-5186, 2008 WL 58820, at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 2, 2008).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant argues that this Court should reconsider its December 2014 Opinion and Order dismissing Defendant's motion for summary judgment in order to "correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." (Def. Br. 3) (quoting Carmichael v. Everson, No. 03-4787, 2004 WL 1587894, at *1 (D.N.J. May 21, 2004). It contends that this Court "committed a clear error of law and fact when it overlooked that Plaintiff has no evidence to establish that Mr. Medina suffered any enhanced injuries due to the alleged defect." ( Id. at 4.) This argument fails, however, because this Court in fact considered said issue and considered the evidence of record as to whether a reasonable factfinder could find that Medina suffered enhanced injuries due to the alleged defect. This Court's December 2014 holding is therefore supported by the record. Consequently, Defendant's motion for reconsideration is denied.

In crashworthiness cases, pursuant to New Jersey law, "[s]trict liability is imposed on a manufacturer for injuries sustained in an accident involving a design or manufacturing defect that enhanced the injuries, but did not cause the accident." Poliseno v. Gen. Motors Corp., 328 N.J.Super. 41, 52 (App.Div.2000) (citing Seese v. Volkswagenwerk, A.G., 648 F.2d 833, 839 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 867 (1981)). The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, in Poliseno, supra, stated that "[e]nhanced injury refers to the degree by which a defect aggravates collision injuries beyond those which would have been sustained as a result of the impact or collision absent the defect." Id. (citing Barns v. Bob's Drag Chutes & Safety Equip., Inc., 685 F.2d 94, 100 (3d Cir.1982)). Thus, the plaintiff's burden in a ...


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