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Satchi v. Rheon U.S.A. Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 12, 2017

RHEON U.S.A., INC., Defendant.



         I. Introduction

         This case concerns the tragic death of Yogambigai Pasupathipillai (“Pasupathipillai”). On August 6, 2013, Pasupathipillai suffered a fatal accident while working at the Piantedosi bakery in Malden, Massachusetts. Compl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 1-1. Thiru Satchi (“Satchi”), as administrator of Pasupathipillai's estate, brings this motion against Rheon, U.S.A. (“Rheon”), the alleged manufacturer of the equipment that killed Pasupathipillai. Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 1-1.

         Rheon is the American distributor for Rheon Automatic Machinery, a Japanese manufacturer of commercial food production equipment. Rheon U.S.A.'s Statement Undisputed Material Facts Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.'s Statement Facts”) ¶ 8, ECF No. 45. Satchi alleges Rheon negligently designed bakery equipment used at the Piantedosi facility, and alleges it is this negligently-designed equipment that caused Pasupathipillai's death. Id. Consequently, Satchi seeks damages in negligence, breach of warranty, and breach of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 93A, id. ¶¶ 17, 24, 28, 32, 34. Rheon denies these allegations and seeks summary judgement on all counts. Def., Rheon U.S.A., Inc.'s Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 43. Rheon asserts it was Piantedosi, and not Rheon, that designed the equipment that killed Pasupathipillai. Def., Rheon U.S.A. Inc's, Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 2, ECF No. 44.

         Because Rheon did not manufacture the piece of equipment upon which Pasupathipillai was killed, and did not contractually assume liability for that equipment, there is no legal basis upon which Rheon may be held liable for Pasupathipillai's death. Accordingly, this Court GRANTS Rheon's motion for summary judgement on all counts, for the reasons delineated infra.

         II. Undisputed Facts

         The following facts are recited from the record available to this Court and are read in the light most favorable to Satchi as the non-moving party. See Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 56.

         A. Accident and Allegations

         Pasupathipillai was an employee of the Piantedosi commercial bakery, located in Malden, Massachusetts. Compl. ¶¶ 5-6; Def.'s Statement Facts ¶¶ 1-2. On August 6, 2013, Pasupathipillai's clothing became entangled in a conveyor belt while she was working at Piantedosi's facility. Compl. ¶ 9; Def.'s Statement Facts, Ex. 3, Dep. Souen Touch (“Touch Dep.”) 59:23-60:9, ECF No 45-4; Def.'s Statement Facts, Ex. 4, Dep. Oscar Rene Paredes (“Paredes Dep.”) 43:1-11, ECF No. 45-5. Pasupathipillai's fellow employees tried to shut off the conveyor belt and cut her clothing free of the machine. Touch Dep. 60:24-61:8, 61:9-22; Paredes Dep 43:7-17. Despite that aid, Pasupathipillai sustained substantial injuries, Touch Dep. 62:2-10; Parades Dep. 43:18-44:2, and tragically died several days later. Def.'s Statement Fact, Ex. 6, Report of Autopsy (“Autopsy”) 3, ECF No 45-7.

         Satchi alleges Piantedosi purchased from Rheon the conveyor system responsible for Pasupathipillai's death. Compl. ¶ 14. Alternatively, Satchi alleges Rheon contractually assumed liability for the machine in question. Id. at ¶ 19. Satchi further alleges the conveyor system responsible for Pasupathipillai's death lacked essential safety systems and other guarding mechanisms. Id. at ¶ 11. Given those deficiencies, Satchi alleges Rheon was negligent (or contractually assumed liability for negligence) in the design of the conveyor system. Id. at ¶ 17. Additionally, Satchi alleges Rheon breached implied and express warranties of safety and fitness for use, id. at ¶¶ 22, 27, 30 and violated Mass. Gen. Laws c. 93A, id. at ¶ 34.

         B. Piantedosi Purchased Some of the “Rheon Line”

         In June, 2007, Piantedosi solicited a quote from Rheon concerning the installation of a “Stress Free Artisan Bread Line.” Def.'s Statement Facts, Ex. 8, June 2007 Proposal For: “Stress Free Artisan Bread Line” (“June 2007 Proposal”), ECF No. 45-8. In August, 2007 Piantedosi opted to purchase some of the equipment Rheon proposed in the June 2007 quote. Def.'s Statement Facts, Ex. 9, August 2007 Proposal For: “Stress Free Artisan Bread Line” 3 (“August 2007 Contract”), ECF No. 45-9. This sequence of equipment was often referred to as the “Rheon Line” or “Rheon's line.” E.g. Def.'s Statement Facts, Ex. 2, Dep. Nada Somasundram (“Somasundram Dep.”) 74:9; Pl.'s Mem. Law Supp. Pl.'s Opp. Def. Rheon's Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 3, August 31, 2007 Fax From T. Horichi (“August 31 Fax”) 3, ECF No. 55-5.

         In particular, one element Piantedosi chose not to buy from Rheon was the “tray feeder with corner slider” (i.e., the conveyor belt). Somasundram Dep. 132:2-20; Aff. Sinchi Toda (“Toda Aff.”) ¶ 14, ECF No. 46; Pl.'s Resp. Concise Statement Material Facts in Dispute Supp. Opp. Def. Rheon's Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Statement Facts”) ¶ 20, ECF No. 70. This alteration meant that two pieces of Rheon equipment, the flour duster and cornmeal duster, were listed as “options” that would independently need to be mounted to whatever tray feeder device Piantedosi supplied. Toda Aff. ¶ 14; Pl.'s Statement Facts ¶ 20.

         The parties signed a contract consummating their agreement. August 2007 Contract passim. The contract constituted an “entire agreement” and extended only to the machines specified in the August 2007 tender. Id. at 8. The August 2007 contract did not list a conveyor belt, corner slider, or tray feeder amongst its terms. Id.

         The contract included a limited warranty for the goods sold by Rheon. Id. The contract did not indicate Rheon would assume liability for any piece of equipment assembled and installed by Piantedosi. Id. (“Both parties acknowledge that installation of the machine(s) requires special enterprise and consequently agree that unless seller's Personnel install equipment and/or machines purchased from seller, this warranty shall be null and void, and Seller will in no manner, be liable for defects and/or damage to goods purchased.”).

         C. Design of the Piantedosi Conveyor Belt

         Rather than purchase the Rheon tray feeder, Piantedosi's chief engineer, Nada Somasundram (“Somasundram”), designed and built a ...

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