United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MICHAEL J. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
TRICAM INDUSTRIES, INC., HOME DEPOT SUPPLY, INC., HOME DEPOT USA, INC., Defendants.
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND MOTION FOR SANCTIONS (DOCKET NOS. 33
TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE.
J. Martin (“Plaintiff”) brought this products
liability claim against Tricam Industries, Inc., Home Depot
Supply, Inc. and Home Depot USA, Inc.
(“Defendants”) after a ladder he was standing on
collapsed, causing severe injuries. Defendants moved for
summary judgment on all claims because they believe that
Plaintiff's deposition testimony has undermined his
theories of defect and causation. (Docket No. 33). Defendants
have also moved for sanctions. (Docket No. 36). For the
reasons stated below, Defendants' motions are
September 2014, Plaintiff was standing on a ladder to remove
a tree limb. The ladder is manufactured by Tricam and
exclusively sold by Home Depot.
Complaint, Plaintiff asserted that while he was standing on
the ladder, a “limb fell from the tree, bounced off the
ground, and made contact with the ladder.” (Docket No.
1-1 ¶ 15). According to Plaintiff, “[d]ue to
negligent design and manufacture of the ladder, the rivets
used to hold the movable joints in place failed to keep the
ladder locked in place and the ladder fell out from
underneath Mr. Martin, causing him to fall.”
Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff alleged in his Complaint
that the ladder was therefore negligently designed because it
could not withstand minor and foreseeable impacts.
Id. ¶¶ 11-12.
deposition, however, Plaintiff claimed that he did not
witness the branch fall because, immediately after he cut the
branch, the “ladder was just gone.” Martin Dep.
27:20-24. Further, Plaintiff said that he never claimed that
the branch struck the ladder. Id. 28:6-8.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the
court shall grant summary judgment if the moving party shows,
based on the materials in the record, “that 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 factual dispute precludes summary judgment if it is
both “genuine” and “material.”
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986). An issue is
“genuine” when the evidence is such that a
reasonable factfinder could resolve the point in favor of the
nonmoving party. Morris v. Gov't Dev. Bank of Puerto
Rico, 27 F.3d 746, 748 (1st Cir. 1994). A fact is
“material” when it might affect the outcome of
the suit under the applicable law. Id.
moving party is responsible for “identifying those
portions [of the record] which it believes demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106
S.Ct. 2548 (1986). It can meet its burden either by
“offering evidence to disprove an element of the
plaintiff's case or by demonstrating an ‘absence of
evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case.'” Rakes v. United States, 352
F.Supp.2d 47, 52 (D. Mass. 2005), aff'd, 442
F.3d 7 (1st Cir. 2006) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at
325, 106 S.Ct. 2548). Once the moving party shows the absence
of any disputed material fact, the burden shifts to the
non-moving party to place at least one material fact into
dispute. Mendes v. Medtronic, Inc., 18 F.3d 13, 15
(1st Cir. 1994) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325,
106 S.Ct. 2548). When ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, “the court must view the facts in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all
reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”
Scanlon v. Dep't of Army, 277 F.3d 598, 600 (1st
Cir. 2002) (citation omitted).
Rule 56.1 requires that motions for summary judgment
“include a concise statement of the material facts of
record as to which the moving party contends there is no
genuine issue to be tried, with page refences to affidavits,
depositions and other documentation. Failure to include such
a statement constitutes grounds for denial of the
motion.” L.R. 56.1; see also United States v.
McNicol, 829 F.3d 77, 81 (1st Cir. 2016) (noting that
failures to conform with local rules “have
consequences”); Zimmerman v. Puccio, 613 F.3d
60, 63 (1st Cir. 2010) (discussing importance of L.R. 56.1
and applying its sanctions).
essentially claim that Plaintiff cannot prove defect or
causation-two essential elements of his claim-because he has
recanted the only theory of liability offered in his
fundamental purpose of our pleadings rules is to protect a
defendant's inalienable right to know in advance the
nature of the cause of action being asserted against
him.” Ruiz Rivera v. Pfizer Pharm., LLC, 521
F.3d 76, 84 (1st Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks
omitted). In Torres-Rios v. LPS Labs., Inc., the
complaint asserted a product liability claim through facts
demonstrating that the product was defective because its
warnings were inadequate. 152 F.3d 11, 12-15 (1st Cir. 1998).
In opposing summary judgement, the plaintiffs then tried to
rely on a new theory, that the product was defectively
designed, and argued that the theory was implicitly pled in
their complaint. Id. at 15-16. The First Circuit
affirmed the district court's refusal to allow the
plaintiffs to rely on the new theory because allowing such a
change after discovery was completed “unquestionably
would prejudice defendant, whose focus until that time had
been on the adequacy of the warning labels and not on the
costs and benefits of the product itself.” Id.
in Martinez v. Petrenko, the plaintiff asserted the
defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act for failure
to pay overtime. In a FLSA claim, “the nexus to
commerce is an element of the claim, without which there is
no entitlement to recovery, and Martinez sought to change
entirely the theory of establishing a nexus.” 792 F.3d
173, 180 (1st Cir. 2015). The First Circuit held that this
“belated change of the facts Martinez would use to
establish that nexus implicates precisely the type of unfair
misdirection at issue in cases such as
Torres-Rios.” Id. This was especially
appropriate where ...