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Ervin E. Blumhorst v. Pierce Manufacturing

December 18, 2012

ERVIN E. BLUMHORST,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
PIERCE MANUFACTURING, INC., A WISCONSIN CORPORATION, AKRON BRASS COMPANY, A DELAWARE CORPORATION, AND JOHN DOES I THROUGH X, DEFENDANTS.
PIERCE MANUFACTURING, INC., A WISCONSIN CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
WATEROUS COMPANY, A MINNESOTA CORPORATION THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Ronald E. Bush U. S. Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

RE: DEFENDANT PIERCE MANUFACTURING, INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Docket No. 63)

Now pending before the Court is Defendant Pierce Manufacturing, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 63). Having carefully considered the record, participated in oral argument, and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order:

I. BACKGROUND

On September 30, 2008, Plaintiff Ervin E. Blumhorst ("Blumhorst"), a firefighter, was injured by a "wye" valve that apparently broke away from a fire truck. The fire truck was designed and manufactured by Defendant Pierce Manufacturing, Inc. ("Pierce"), while the wye valve itself was manufactured by Defendant Akron Brass ("Akron"). Blumhorst alleges that "the dangerous and defective condition and design of the [f]ire [t]ruck and/or the [w]ye [v]alve" caused him to "suffer[ ] severe and permanent personal injuries, including . . . sever[e] trauma and pain, an injury to his head, and a left knee multi-ligament injury." See Pl.'s Compl., ¶ 7 (Docket No. 1, Att. 3). Specifically, Blumhorst claims that (1) the fire truck and wye valve were defective, (2) Pierce and Akron failed to adequately warn of the dangerous properties and design of the fire truck and wye valve, and (3) Pierce and Akron failed to equip the fire truck with safety devices or take reasonable safety precautions to prevent foreseeable injuries. See id. at ¶¶ 9(a)-9(d). In turn, Plaintiff asserts negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability in tort causes of action against both Pierce and Akron. See id. at ¶¶ 8-14.

Through the at-issue Motion for Summary Judgment, Pierce argues that each of Blumhorst's claims must be dismissed because (1) the "government contractor defense" immunizes Pierce from liability given that the Bonneville County Rural Fire Protection District (the "Bonneville Fire Department") required Pierce to install the pump -- manufactured by Third-Party Defendant Waterous Company ("Waterous") -- (the "Waterous Pump") containing the allegedly defective wye valve; (2) Blumhorst cannot show that the allegedly defective warnings were causally linked to his accident; and (3) the "firefighter's rule" bars Blumhorst's claims. See Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of MSJ, pp. 10-19 (Docket No. 63, Att. 1).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion for Summary Judgment: Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or defense, "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). One of the principal purposes of summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-34 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut," but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwanted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). There must be a genuine dispute as to any material fact -- a fact "that may affect the outcome of the case." Id. at 248.

The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. See id. at 255. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. See Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. See McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

The Court must be "guided by the substantive evidentiary standards that apply to the case." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255. If a claim requires clear and convincing evidence, the issue on summary judgment is whether a reasonable jury could conclude that clear and convincing evidence supports the claim. See id.

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute as to material fact. See Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. See Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir. 2000). This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in his favor. See Deveraux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show "by . . . affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file" that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

The Court is "not required to comb through the record to find some reason to deny a motion for summary judgment." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Forsberg v. Pac. Northwest Bell Tel. Co., 840 F.2d 1409, 1418 (9th Cir. 1988)). Instead, the "party opposing summary judgment must direct [the Court's] attention to specific triable facts." So. Cal. Gas Co. v. City of Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 2003). Only admissible evidence may be considered in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. See Orr v. Bank of America, 285 F.3d 764, 773 (9th Cir. 2002); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

B. The Government Contractor Defense Does Not Preclude Blumhorst's Claims Against Pierce Under Idaho law, "a public or private ...


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