United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
O. Hickey United States District Judge
the Court is Defendant Ridge Tool Company's Motion for
Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 36). Plaintiff Bubba McLelland
filed a response. (ECF No. 43). Defendant filed a reply. (ECF
No. 49). The Court finds the matter ripe for consideration.
February 15, 2014, Plaintiff, a master plumber with thirty
years' experience, arrived at Burge's Sandwich Shop
in Lewisville, Arkansas, to clear a clogged drain line
located behind the restaurant. To accomplish this, he brought
his Ridgid K-750 Drain Cleaning Machine
(“K-750”), a drum-style cleaning machine
manufactured by Defendant that is used by professionals for
cleaning drain pipes.
K-750 is powered by an induction motor that rotates a covered
drum and cable, allowing the cable to be fed down a drain
line to clean the drain. The operator's manual for the
K-750 instructs users to operate the K-750 by kneeling next
to the machine and grasping the exposed cable with gloved
hands to control and support the cable as it is fed into and
out of the drain. The manual warns that the cable could
twist, kink, or break if the cable is not controlled and if
certain procedures are not followed. The manual also
instructs users to wear protective eyewear when operating the
K-750. The K-750's on-product warning label features
similar instructions and warnings.
arriving on location, Plaintiff set up the K-750, knelt, and
began feeding the cable down the line using the machine's
“auto-feed” feature, which deploys the cable
using the machine's motor. Plaintiff placed a cutting
tool on the end of the cable because he suspected that tree
or grass roots might have caused the drain stoppage.
Plaintiff was not wearing eye protection and did not grasp
the cable as it went into the drain, but he had his open hand
close to the cable. Plaintiff could see the cable move as it
encountered obstructions in the drain. After roughly fifteen
to twenty minutes of continuously feeding the cable into the
drain, the cable suddenly broke without warning. The cable
struck Plaintiff in the face, causing injuries.
February 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed the case at bar, asserting
three strict product liability claims against Defendant:
failure to warn, manufacturing defect, and design defect. On
June 11, 2018, Defendant filed the instant motion, arguing
that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and that it
is entitled to summary judgment on all claims. Plaintiff
opposes the motion.
standard for summary judgment is well established. When a
party moves for summary judgment, “[t]he court shall
grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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); Krenik v. Cnty. of LeSueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957
(8th Cir. 1995). This is a “threshold inquiry of . . .
whether there is a need for trial-whether, in other words,
there are genuine factual issues that properly can be
resolved only by a finder of fact because they reasonably may
be resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A fact is
material only when its resolution affects the outcome of the
case. Id. at 248. A dispute is genuine if the
evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to
return a verdict for either party. Id. at 252.
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must
consider all the evidence and all reasonable inferences that
arise from the evidence in a light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Nitsche v. CEO of Osage Valley Elec.
Co-Op, 446 F.3d 841, 845 (8th Cir. 2006). The moving
party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine
issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. See Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank, 92
F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The nonmoving party must then
demonstrate the existence of specific facts in the record
that create a genuine issue for trial. Krenik, 47
F.3d at 957. However, a party opposing a properly supported
summary judgment motion “may not rest upon mere
allegations or denials . . . but must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 256.
initial matter, the Court must address the parties'
statements of fact. Defendant's statement of undisputed
facts contains seventy-one purported statements of fact.
Plaintiff's statement of disputed facts disputes four of
Defendant's statements of fact. Defendant argues that
Plaintiff has failed to controvert Defendants' statements
of undisputed fact, and accordingly, the Court should treat
Defendants' statements of fact as admitted.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) states that a court may deem
undisputed a party's asserted fact if it is not properly
controverted by the other party pursuant to Rule 56(c).
Similarly, Local Rule 56.1(c) states that all material facts
asserted in the moving party's statement of facts shall
be deemed admitted if they are not controverted by the
nonmoving party's own statement of facts. Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 56(c)(1) provides that a party asserting a
genuine dispute of material fact must support the assertion
by either citing to materials in the record or by showing
that the cited materials do not establish the absence or
presence of a genuine dispute.
Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to controvert
Defendant's statements of undisputed fact.
Plaintiff's statement of facts largely fails to satisfy
Rule 56(c)(1) because it contains no citations to the record
and does not show that Defendant's cited materials fail
to establish the absence of a genuine dispute. The sole
exception is Plaintiff's first disputed fact, which
disputes Defendant's statement that Plaintiff could hear
a change in the K-750's motor sounds as the cable
encountered obstructions. A review of Defendant's
citations to the record in support of this statement reveals
that Plaintiff testified in his deposition that he sometimes
can hear a change in motor ...