United States District Court, D. Idaho
LIBERTY NORTHWEST INSURANCE CO., individually and as subrogee of Independent Drilling, Inc. and of Mark Durfee, and MARK DURFEE, individually, Plaintiffs,
DIXON VALVE AND COUPLING CO., a Maryland corporation; LEWIS-GOETZ AND COMPANY, INC. dba EVCO House of Hose and/or dba Jolley's EVCO, a Pennsylvania corporation; and FUKU ACCURATE INDUSTRIES CO., LTD., a Taiwan, Republic of China corporation; and JOHN DOES 1-IV; and JOHN DOE CORPORATIONS I-IV, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS
(DOCKET NOS. 27, 34 AND 50)
Honorable Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge
pending before the Court are Defendant Dixon Valve and
Coupling Company's (“Dixon Valve”) Motion for
Summary Judgment (Dkt. 27), Defendant Lewis-Goetz and Company
Inc.'s (“Lewis-Goetz”) Motion for Summary
Judgment (Dkt. 50), and Dixon Valve's Motion to Compel
(Dkt. 34). Having heard oral argument and being otherwise
fully advised, the Court enters the following memorandum
decision and order.
a products liability case brought by Plaintiff Mark Durfee
(“Durfee”) and Plaintiff Liberty Northwest
Insurance Company (“Liberty
Northwest”) to recover for injuries Durfee sustained
while conducting a water-well drilling operation in North
Dakota on June 13, 2012. Durfee was injured when the foot
valve on his drilling operation became pressurized, blew off,
and launched a T-shaped piping assembly at Durfee, causing
multiple injuries. The “foot valve” was a 4"
inch cast-iron valve that Durfee purchased on May 30, 2012,
at the Lewis-Goetz retail store in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Durfee
alleges that the particular valve was manufactured by Dixon
Valve, carried a product identification number of Dixon Valve
“DFVS40 foot valve, ” and that it failed
prematurely and unexpectedly, proximately causing his
operates retail stores in Utah and Idaho, with its main
warehouse located in West Valley, Utah. The Idaho Falls
location, known as “EVCO House of Hose”, was
acquired by Lewis-Goetz in January of 2011. Sokol Aff., Ex.
H, Deposition of Lewis-Goetz 30(b)(6) designee Brian Walker
(“Walker Dep.”) (Dkt. 27-12), 26:13-20. Sometime
prior to January of 2009, Lewis-Goetz changed its primary
supplier of foot valves from Dixon Valve to United Pacific
Distributors. Sebastian Decl., Ex. D, Walker Dep. (Dkt.
28-1), 19:1-20:14. Between January of 2009 and May 30, 2012,
Lewis-Goetz purchased 70 of the 4" foot valves from
United Pacific Distributors, eight 4" foot valves from a
supplier identified as “PT and Coupling”, and two
4" foot valves from Dixon Valve. Sokol Aff., Ex. G,
Lewis-Goetz's Supplemental Answers and Responses to Dixon
Valve's First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for
Production (Dkt. 27-11), pp. 1-37. Of the 70 foot valves
purchased from United Pacific Distributors over that period,
67 were delivered to Lewis-Goetz's warehouse in West
Valley, Utah, and three were purchased by and delivered
directly to the Sandy, Utah store. Id. The PT and
Coupling foot valves were purchased by and delivered to the
Brighton, Utah store. Id. The two Dixon Valve foot
valves delivered in that time period were purchased by and
delivered to the Sandy, Utah store. Id. During this
period from January 2009 to May 30, 2012, the Idaho Falls
location did not directly purchase any foot
records of foot valve inventory transfers between
Lewis-Goetz's stores in the period of January 2009 to May
30, 2012 show that the Idaho Falls store received one 4"
foot valve from the West Valley store on or about June 9,
2009; one 4" foot valve from the warehouse on July 10,
2009; and two 4" foot valves from the warehouse on
September 16, 2010. Id. The transfer information
available does not indicate the manufacturer or the wholesale
distributor of those 4" foot valves. Id.
Additionally, an “inventory check” on November 8,
2010 revealed an additional 4" foot valve at the Idaho
Falls store. Id. However, the record before the
court does not identify the source of the foot valve or the
date on which it was obtained by the Idaho Falls store.
30, 2012, when Durfee purchased the 4" foot valve, there
was only one 4" foot valve in the store's inventory.
Id. The foot valve was on a shelf in the store
identified as “DFVS-40 CAST IRON FOOT VALVE-4.”
Sokol Aff., Ex. E, Lewis-Goetz's Answers and Objection to
Liberty Northwest's First Interrogatories (Dkt. 27-9), p.
10. The invoice provided to Durfee for the purchase
identified the valve as a “DFVS-40 CAST IRON FOOT
VALVE-4"” Sebastian Decl., Ex. D, Walker Dep., Ex.
42, p. 103 (Dkt. 28-1). However, Lewis-Goetz's
representative testified that Lewis-Goetz identified
all 4" foot valves with this identification
number, regardless of the distributor or the manufacturer.
Sokol Aff., Ex. H, Walker Dep., 87:1-17. Durfee testified
that there were no markings on the foot valve, other than a
sticker labeled “China, ” and the foot valve did
not come with any materials or documentation, nor was it
contained in any packaging. Sokol Aff., Ex. B, Deposition of
Mark Durfee (“Durfee Dep.”) (Dkt. 27-5) 66:5-67:8
94:23-95:8. When he purchased the foot valve, Durfee checked
to see if the valve was marked with a pressure rating and did
not see one. Id.
purchased the 4" foot valve to use in “mud rotary
drilling” that he was conducting in North Dakota for
his employer, Independent Drilling, and for a North Dakota
drilling company, Thompson Drilling. Aldridge Aff., Ex. A,
Durfee Dep., 16:11-27:22. Durfee first used the mud rotary
drilling method in Idaho and drilled about five wells in
2008-2009 using this method. Id. at 101:18-105:1.
Durfee learned mud rotary drilling methods from a man from
Arizona named Jim Deere, an acquaintance of Independent
Drilling's owner. Id. at 101:24-102:15. When
Durfee first went to North Dakota to work in March of 2012,
he went out with Ryan Thompson from Thompson Drilling to
observe the mud rotary drilling process and setup that
Thompson used in drilling wells. Id. at 19:14-22:20.
While in North Dakota in 2012, Durfee drilled about 15 wells
using the same mud rotary drilling technique set-up as he was
using on June 13, 2012, the date of the accident.
Id. at 40:2-8. On that date, Durfee was drilling a
well that was about 100 feet deeper than previous wells he
had drilled, which required that he use a larger pump and
larger components and hoses. Id. at 40:6-23,
44:21-45:22. One of these components was the foot valve
involved in the accident at issue in this case.
drilling this deeper well on June 13, 2012, Durfee was using
a 4" foot valve for the first time. Id. at
47:18-49:24, 55:20-67:14. The foot valve is placed in a
so-called “mud pit, ” from which a slurry-like
mixture is pumped into the drilling cavity to buttress the
walls of the drill hole. In the later stages of the drilling
process, air pressure is used to “develop” the
well. While Durfee was conducting that part of the drilling
process, the foot valve blew off of the drilling set-up and
the escaping pressure launched a T-shaped piping assembly
from the mud pit which struck Durfee in the head and caused
his injuries. Id. at 74:14-79:25.
Dixon Valve moves for summary judgment on the grounds that
Plaintiffs have no proof that Dixon Valve designed,
manufactured, distributed, or sold the 4" foot valve at
issue in this litigation (Dkt. 27). Defendant Lewis-Goetz
moves for summary judgment on the grounds that Durfee misused
the 4" foot valve and that his misuse was the sole cause
of the accident and Durfee's injuries (Dkt. 50).
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
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
unwarranted 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.
evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility
findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the
non-movant must be believed, however implausible. 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).
moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact. See
Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001)
(en banc). 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 ...