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Provanzano v. MTD Products Co.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 17, 2016

Anthony Provanzano, Plaintiff,
v.
MTD Products Co. et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Anthony Provanzano (“plaintiff”) brought this action against defendants MTD Products Co. and Lowe's Home Centers, LLC (collectively, “defendants”) arising out of a riding lawn mower accident during which four of plaintiff's fingers were amputated. Plaintiff claims MTD's lawn mower was defective and unreasonably dangerous and as a result, caused plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff also seeks relief from Lowe's for selling such a product.

         Defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment against plaintiff. For the following reasons, those motions will be allowed, in part, and denied, in part.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Late in the afternoon of October 12, 2014, Provanzano began to mow his lawn. After making two or three passes around his front yard, he noticed grass was clumping and not being ejected from the chute. He got off the rider mower to see if the grass was wet enough to clump and whether he had to remove the clog.

         Before dismounting, however, he locked the parking break and put the lawn mower in neutral. He also testified that he thinks he accidently pulled the deck height lever instead of the blade engagement lever (“PTO lever”). Provanzano recounted that while dismounting he had one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the back of the seat to steady himself until he reached the ground. He then went to the back of the mower, surmised there was a clog and attempted to clear it. He walked around to the right side of the mower where he compared the grass from the chute and the uncut grass under foot. At that point, Provanzano reached under the cutting deck in an attempt to clear the clog resulting in the amputation of four of his fingers.

         Plaintiff purchased his riding lawn mower, manufactured by defendant MTD Products, from a Lowe's Home Centers in Danvers, Massachusetts.

         The riding lawn mower has a PTO lever which is used to engage and disengage the cutting blade from the mower's engine. The PTO lever is located next to a deck height lever on the right fender of the mower. The riding mower also has an operator presence control (“OPC”) switch in the seat frame which is designed to stop the engine and blade as soon as the riders' weight is removed from the back of the seat.

         In April, 2015, defendants removed the case from Massachusetts state court to federal court. Pending before this Court are defendants' motions for summary judgment on all counts of the complaint.

         II. Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment

         Defendants move for summary judgment on the merits of each of plaintiff's four claims. The complaint alleges separately against each defendant 1) breach of implied and express warranty of merchantability (Counts I and II), 2) negligence (Counts III and IV), 3) unfair or deceptive acts or practices under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, M.G.L. c. 93A (“Chapter 93A”) (Counts V and VI) and 4) double or treble damages under that same statute (Counts VII and VIII).

         A. Legal Standard

         The role of summary judgment is “to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Mesnick v. Gen. Elec. Co., 950 F.2d 816, 822 (1st Cir. 1991). The burden is on the moving party to show, through the pleadings, discovery and affidavits, “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists where the evidence with respect to the material fact in dispute “is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         Once the moving party has satisfied its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine, triable issue. Celotex Corp.v.Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The Court must view the entire record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and indulge all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. O'Connorv.Steeves, 994 F.2d 905, 907 (1st Cir. 1993). Summary judgment is appropriate if, after viewing the record in the non-moving party's favor, ...


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