United States District Court, D. New Jersey
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE, DISTRICT JUDGE:
matter is before the Court on the motion of Defendant/Third
Party Defendant Brighton Best, Inc., individually and as
successor-in-interest to Porteous Fastener Company,
(hereinafter “Defendants Brighton and Porteous”)
seeking summary judgment. (See Brighton's Mot.
[Docket Item 192].) The motion is opposed by Plaintiffs
Nicholas and Julie Kuhar (hereinafter
“Plaintiffs”) and by Defendant/Third Party
Plaintiff Uintah Fastener & Supply (hereinafter
“Defendant Uintah”). (See Pls.'
Opp'n [Docket Item 211]; Uintah's Opp'n [Docket
Item 219].) For the reasons set forth below the Court will
deny Defendants Brighton and Porteous' motion for summary
Factual and Procedural
factual and procedural background of this case was previously
detailed in the Court's prior opinions, and shall only be
repeated herein insofar as necessary for the disposition of
the present motion.
Standard of Review.
summary judgment, the moving party bears the initial burden
of demonstrating 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); accord Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once a properly
supported motion for summary judgment is made, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
(1986). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court
is required to examine the evidence in light most favorable
to the non-moving party and resolve all reasonable inferences
in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 378 (2007); Halsey v. Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273,
287 (3d Cir. 2014).
factual dispute is material when it “might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and
genuine when “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The non-moving party
“need not match, item for item, each piece of evidence
proffered by the movant, ” but must present more than a
“mere scintilla” of evidence on which a jury
could reasonably find for the non-moving party. Boyle v.
Cnty. of Allegheny, Pa., 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir.
1998) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
present motion, Defendants Brighton and Porteous seek summary
judgment in their favor with regard to all claims currently
pending against them in this case. (See
B&P's Br. [Docket Item 192-12].) Defendants Brighton
and Porteous assert (a) that they were not involved in the
design or manufacture of the bolt at issue in this suit, (b)
that there is no evidence that they supplied the bolt at
issue in this suit, and (c) that Plaintiffs have not filed an
expert report that implicates Defendants Brighton and
Porteous in the accident at the center of this suit. (See
Involvement in Design and Manufacture.
Brighton and Porteous assert that they are entitled to
summary judgment because there has been no evidence presented
that they were involved in the design or manufacture of the
bolt at issue in this case. (B&P's Br. [Docket Item
192-12], 10-11.) Plaintiffs and Defendant Uintah respond that
it is not necessary to show that Defendants Brighton and
Porteous were involved in the design or manufacture of the
bolt, because New Jersey law attaches product liability not
only to manufacturers, but also to sellers, resellers,
distributors, and other entities within a product's
supply chain. (Pls.' Br. [Docket Item 211], 2-3 (citing
N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:58C-2; Straley v. United
States, 887 F.Supp. 728, 744 (D.N.J. 1995); Oscar
Mayer Corp. v. Mincing Trading Corp., 744 F.Supp. 79, 84
(D.N.J. 1990)); Uintah's Br. [Docket Item 218], 4 (citing
Soler v. Castmaster, Div. of H.P.M. Corp., 98 N.J.
137, 145, (1984); McDermott v. TENDUN Constructors,
211 N.J.Super. 196, 208 (App. Div. 1986).) Defendant Uintah
rightfully noted that Defendants Brighton and Porteous relied
on some of these same authorities. (See Uintah's
Br. [Docket Item 218], 4.) New Jersey law states that
“[a] manufacturer or seller of a product shall
be liable in a product liability action . . . .” N.J.
Stat. Ann. § 2A:58C-2 (emphasis added). As such,
evidence that Defendants Brighton and Porteous participated
in the design or manufacture of the bolt is not necessary in
order for Defendants Brighton and Porteous to be assigned
liability in this case as a “seller.” Therefore,
Defendants Brighton and Porteous' motion shall not be
granted on this basis.
Evidence of Position in Supply Chain.
Brighton and Porteous further assert that they are entitled
to summary judgment on the basis that there is no
“proof” that either Defendant Brighton or
Defendant Porteous supplied the bolt at issue in this case.
(B&P's Br. [Docket Item 192-12], 11-13.) Plaintiffs
respond that whether or not either Defendant Brighton or
Defendant Porteous supplied the bolt at issue in this case is
“an issue of material fact” and that “the
jury [should be] permitted to determine” whether they
supplied the bolt. (Pls.' Br. [Docket Item 211], 2.)
Defendant Uintah responds that Defendants Brighton and
Porteous admit that they have sold the type of bolt at issue
in this case continuously since 1996 and that they supplied
such bolts to Uintah during the relevant time period.
(See Uintah's Br. [Docket Item 218], 5 (citing
Defendants Brighton and Porteous' Responses to
Interrogatories [Docket Item 192-5], ¶ 1; Deposition of
Dustin Henderson [Docket Item 192-8], 30:22-32:2).) Defendant
Uintah further notes that Defendants Brighton and Porteous
have explicitly stated that they cannot deny that they
supplied the exact bolt involved in this case to Uintah.
(Id. (citing Deposition of Dustin Henderson [Docket
Item 192-8], 36:10-17).) Defendant Uintah further directs the
Court's attention to the fact that neither Defendants
Brighton and Porteous nor Defendant Uintah are in possession
of sales records from the relevant time period to show
definitively whether or not the bolt in question was supplied
to Defendant Uintah by Defendants Brighton and Porteous.
(Id. at 5-7.) However, Defendant Uintah has provided
evidence that it purchased the type of bolt in question in
this case from Defendants Brighton and Porteous for a long
period of time, beginning at least in 1996 and continuing to
the present. (Id. 5-9 (citing Defendants Brighton
and Porteous' Responses to Interrogatories [Docket Item
192-5], ¶ 1; Deposition of Dustin Henderson [Docket Item
192-8], 30:22-32:2); Sales Records [Docket Items 218-3,
218-6, 218-7, 218-8, 218-9, 218-10, 218-11, 218-12, 218-13,
218-14, 218-15, 218-16]).) Taking all reasonable inferences
in the light most favorable to the non-moving parties, in
this case Defendant Uintah and Plaintiffs, the Court finds
that a continuing course of business between Defendants
Brighton and Porteous and Defendant Uintah, both before and
after the bolt in issue in this case was procured, can lead
to the reasonable inference that the bolt was procured by way
of this course of business. Therefore, the Court finds that
there is sufficient circumstantial evidence on the record for
a reasonable finder of fact to find that Defendants Brighton
and Porteous supplied the bolt in question in this case to
Defendant Uintah. Therefore, Defendants Brighton and
Porteous' motion shall not be granted on this basis.