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Sabo v. Fiskars Brands, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 2, 2014

ZELJKO SABO, Plaintiff,
v.
FISKARS BRANDS, INC., dba GERBER LEGENDARY BLADES, and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

On July 31, 2014, Chief United States Magistrate Candy W. Dale issued a Report and Recommendation (the "Report") in this matter. The Report sets forth the underlying factual and procedural history of the case and recommends that the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and related Motions to Strike be denied. (Dkt. 100.) Any party may challenge a Magistrate Judge's proposed recommendation by filing written objections to the Report within fourteen days after being served with a copy of the same. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and District of Idaho Local Rule 72.1(b). The Defendant in this case has filed objections to the Report. (Dkt. 102.) The matter is now ripe for the Court's consideration. See Local Civil Rule 72.1(b)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations made by the magistrate judge." see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Where the parties object to a report and recommendation, this Court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report which objection is made." Id. Where, however, no objections are filed the district court need not conduct a de novo review. In United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003), the court interpreted the requirements of 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1)(C):

The statute [28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C)] makes it clear that the district judge must review the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations de novo if objection is made, but not otherwise. As the Peretz Court instructed, "to the extent de novo review is required to satisfy Article III concerns, it need not be exercised unless requested by the parties." Peretz, 501 U.S. at 939 (internal citation omitted). Neither the Constitution nor the statute requires a district judge to review, de novo, findings and recommendations that the parties themselves accept as correct. See Ciapponi, 77 F.3d at 1251 ("Absent an objection or request for review by the defendant, the district court was not required to engage in any more formal review of the plea proceeding."); see also Peretz, 501 U.S. at 937-39 (clarifying that de novo review not required for Article III purposes unless requested by the parties)....

See also Wang v. Masaitis, 416 F.3d 993, 1000 & n.13 (9th Cir. 2005). Furthermore, to the extent that no objections are made, arguments to the contrary are waived. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72; 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (objections are waived if they are not filed within fourteen days of service of the Report and Recommendation). "When no timely objection is filed, the Court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Advisory Committee Notes to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 (citing Campbell v. United States Dist. Court, 501 F.2d 196, 206 (9th Cir.1974)).

In this case, objections were filed so the Court has conducted a de novo review of the Report as to those portions to which Defendant has objected and has also reviewed the Report for clear error on the face of the record. Having done so, the Court finds as follows.

DISCUSSION

This is a products liability case involving a Gerber RZ700 flashlight.[1] The Plaintiff, Zeljko Sabo, alleges on September 12, 2009 he had the flashlight in his left front pants pocket when the flashlight "spontaneously combusted" sending tiny glass shards in the air and a white or silver colored and chemical-smelling fumes and smoke around his face. (Dkt. 49 at ¶ 13.) Mr. Sabo alleges he suffered a burn to his left thigh and an injury to his left eye.

Two days later, on September 14, 2009, Mr. Sabo went to the emergency room complaining of pain in his left eye and left thigh. Over time, beginning in September of 2009 through approximately May of 2012, Mr. Sabo was seen by several doctors for the irritation/discomfort in his left eye. Mr. Sabo eventually filed this action against Defendant, Fiskars Brands, Inc. ("Fiskars"), who designed, manufactured, and/or distributed the Gerber RX700 flashlight and Gerber CR123A lithium batteries. (Dkt. 1, 49.) The claims raised are for 1) strict products liability - manufacturing/design defect, 2) strict products liability - inadequate warning/failure to warn, 3) negligence - design/manufacture, and 4) negligence - inadequate warning/failure to warn. (Dkt. 49.)

Fiskars then filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment and related Motions to Strike which are addressed in the Report. (Dkt. 66, 68, 71, 79, 81, 100.) Fiskars' objections to the Report argue it 1) incorrectly concluded that questions of fact exist as to whether the product was defective and as to causation and 2) failed to adequately consider the Motions to Strike. (Dkt. 102.) The Court finds as follows.

1. Motion for Summary Judgment

A. Proof of Product Malfunction or Defect

In its objections, Fiskars argues the Report improperly concluded that questions of fact exist as to whether the flashlight malfunctioned or was defective. Fiskars challenges that Mr. Sabo's expert testimony, that of Dr. Samuel Levy, is speculative and lacks sufficient foundation as to the nature or cause of any defect in the flashlight. (Dkt. 102 at 3.) In addition, Fiskars argues the Report improperly relied upon Mr. Sabo's own lay testimony of the incident as proof of the malfunction. (Dkt. 102 at 4.)

Fiskars does not object to the law stated in the Report that requires the plaintiff in a product liability case to show that the product in question was defective. (Dkt. 102 at 2-4.) Instead, Fiskars' objection goes to the substance of the Report's conclusion itself. Fiskars disagrees with the Report's determinations regarding the sufficiency of the expert testimony and Mr. Sabo's lay testimony on the question of whether the product was defective - i.e. that the flashlight exploded and there is no other reasonable explanation for the explosion other than a manufacturing ...


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