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Herrera v. Louisville Ladder Group

November 16, 2009

LEONCIO HERRERA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOUISVILLE LADDER GROUP, LLC, ET AL., DEFENDANT(S).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Andrew J. Guilford United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This case involves a products liability claim arising out of an incident where Plaintiff Leoncio Herrera ("Mr. Herrera") fell off of a sixteen foot extension ladder, causing him serious injuries. Defendant Louisville Ladder Group, Inc. ("Louisville Ladder") now brings a Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion"). After considering all arguments and papers submitted, the Motion is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On March 10, 2007, Mr. Herrera, a roofer's helper, attempted to step off of the roof of a house onto a 16-foot extension ladder manufactured by Louisville Ladder. (Louisville Ladder's Motion, Exh. A, Herrera Deposition ("Herrera Depo.") 44:18-49:16; 50:12-23.) While he attempted to step off of the roof, the ladder began to slide at the top support, which caused him to lose his balance and fall ten feet to the ground. (Id.) As a result of the fall, Mr. Herrera is now a quadriplegic and requires full time nursing care.

Mr. Herrera brought this action against Louisville Ladder for strict products liability and negligence. Louisville Ladder now moves for summary judgment.

PRELIMINARY MATTERS

Mr. Herrera filed five objections to Defendant's Statement of Uncontroverted Facts and Conclusions of Law. The Court did not rely on the evidence to which Mr. Herrera objected.

Louisville Ladder made 30 objections to evidence submitted opposing the Motion. The Court gave Mr. Herrera leave to file supplemental declarations to cure the evidentiary deficiencies. Louisville Ladder now brings 13 objections to the supplemental evidence. Many of these objections are to the Declaration of Plaintiff's Expert Brad Avrit ("Avrit Declaration") on the grounds of impermissible lay or expert opinion. Louisville Ladder argues that, to the extent Mr. Avrit offers an expert opinion, there is no evidence from which this Court can determine that it is based on scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge. The Court disagrees. Mr. Avrit provides a list of documents and data on which he provides, which includes, among other things, industry standards, scientific publications directly relating to ladder safety, and ladder catalogs of Louisville Ladder and other ladder companies. (Avrit Decl. ¶ 4.) The Court finds that Mr. Avrit is sufficiently qualified to offer his expert opinion, and that his conclusions are based on scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., 509 U.S. 579, 589-90 (1993). The objections to the Avrit Declaration are OVERRULED. The Court did not rely on any of the other evidence to which Louisville Ladder objected.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate only where the record, read in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, indicates that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and... the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Material facts are those necessary to the proof or defense of a claim, as determined by reference to substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual issue is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255.

The burden initially is on the moving party to demonstrate an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If, and only if, the moving party meets its burden, then the non-moving party must produce enough evidence to rebut the moving party's claim and create a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 322-23. If the non-moving party meets this burden, then the motion will be denied. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Co., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1103 (9th Cir. 2000).

ANALYSIS

Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is based on its assertion that Plaintiff's product liability claims fail as a matter of law because: (1) Plaintiff is a sophisticated user of extension ladders and therefore cannot assert claims based on a defective warning; (2) Plaintiff noticed but did not read the warnings and therefore cannot prove that defective warnings proximately caused his injuries; and (3) no reasonable juror could ...


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