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Fontalvo v. Sikorasky Aircraft Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 23, 2017

DOMINIC FONTALVO, a minor, by and through his Guardian Ad Litem, TASHINA AMADOR, individually and as successor in interest in Alexis Fontalvo, deceased, and TANIKA LONG, a minor, by and through her Guardian ad Litem, TASHINA AMADOR, Plaintiffs,
v.
SIKORSKY AIRCRAFT CORPORATION; SIKORSKY SUPPORT SERVICES, INC.; UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION; G.E. AVIATION SYSTEMS, LLC; DUPONT AEROSPACE CO.; E.I. DUPONT DE NEMOURS AND COMPANY; PKL SERVICES INC., and DOES 1 through 100, Inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT PKL SERVICES INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 135.]

          HON. GONZALO P. CURIEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant PKL Services, Inc.'s (“Defendant's” or “PKL's”) motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs Dominic Fontalvo, a minor, by and through his Guardian Ad Litem, Tashina Amador, individually and as successor in interest in Alexis Fontalvo, deceased, and Tanika Long, a minor, by and through her Guardian Ad Litem, Tashina Amador's (collectively, “Plaintiffs'”) Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”). (Dkt. No. 135.)[1] Plaintiffs do not oppose PKL's motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 138.) The Court deems PKL's motion suitable for disposition without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). Having reviewed the motion and the applicable law, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS PKL's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' SAC.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This action arises from the March 17, 2011 death of United States Marine Corps (“USMC”) Staff Sergeant Alexis Fontalvo (“Decedent”) in a helicopter accident. (Dkt. No. 71, SAC ¶ 17.) Plaintiff Dominic Fontalvo, a minor, and Tanika Long, a minor, bring this action by and through their mother and Guardian ad Litem, Tashina Amador. (Id. ¶¶ 3-5.)

         Plaintiffs allege the helicopter accident at issue occurred “when the wire path leading to the landing gear was subject to an unplanned and uncommanded energization, which caused the left main landing gear to retract while decedent . . . was beneath the subject CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter.” (Id. ¶ 16.) According to Plaintiffs, the helicopter crushed Decedent's arm, immobilizing him as the weight of the helicopter, which exceeded sixteen tons, “came down on his body.” (Id.) Decedent sustained “blunt force polytrauma and injuries including but not limited to skull fractures, spinal fractures and separation of [Decedent's] brain stem from his spinal cord, such massive injuries being fatal in nature.” (Id.)

With respect to PKL, Plaintiffs allege PKL
failed properly to inspect and maintain the landing gear systems and wiring, wiring harness, the landing gear assembly and the attendant hardware and appurtenances and component parts and other items and equipment attendant thereto, despite having assumed the duty and responsibility to inspect and maintain the fleet of aircraft that included the subject CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter.

(Id. ¶ 51.) These alleged omissions “permitted the wiring leading from the landing gear control panel to the landing gear assembly in the subject CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter to reach a woeful state of disrepair, ” which “rendered the wiring susceptible to unplanned energization.” (Id.)

         PKL has proffered evidence showing that PKL had a limited role with respect to maintaining the helicopter, contrary to Plaintiffs' allegations. PKL was obligated only to complete the Phase A, B, C, and/or D maintenance as prescribed by the RESET Report provided by the USMC. (Dkt. No. 135-1, Defendant PKL Services, Inc.'s Separate Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def.'s SSUF”) ¶ 11.)[2] The RESET Report is comprised of maintenance inspection cards which provide PKL with specific instructions on what tasks should be performed under each phase of maintenance. (Id.) PKL was not asked to perform any maintenance activities on the section of defective Kapton wire which allegedly caused Decedent's death. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Nor did PKL perform any maintenance activities on that section of Kapton wire. (Id.) The Kapton wire which allegedly reached a state of disrepair was located at the top of the fuselage of the helicopter. (Id. ¶ 14.) No aspect of the landing gear system including the subject Kapton wire was a part of the Phase A, B, C, and/or D maintenance. (Id. ¶¶ 15-18.)

         At the time of Decedent's death, there was a fleet-wide plan to replace Kapton wiring in aircraft similar to the subject helicopter. (Id. ¶ 19.) The program, separate and apart from PKL's maintenance under the RESET Report, is a three-phased program that has never been fully funded. (Id. ¶ 20.) The “harness of wires” involved in Decedent's death was a part of the third phase of the Kapton wiring replacement program which was uncompleted on the date of the incident. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.)

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On January 25, 2013, Plaintiffs filed this action in California Superior Court. (Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A.) On February 11, 2013, Defendants Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Sikorsky Support Services, Inc., and United Technologies Corporation removed this action to federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.) After this Court denied Plaintiffs' motion to remand, (Dkt. No. 31), and granted Defendant GE Aviation's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint, (Dkt. No. 38), Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on August 22, 2013. (Dkt. No. 39.) The Amended Complaint alleged six separate causes of action: (1) strict products liability under a design defect theory; (2) strict products liability under a manufacturing defect theory; (3) negligent products liability under a negligent design theory; (4) negligent products liability under a negligent manufacturing theory; (5) negligence; and (6) a survivor action pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.11 et seq. (See Dkt. No. 39.)

         On September 5, 2013, Defendant E.I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company (“E.I Du Pont”) filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' sixth cause of action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 41.) Defendants Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Sikorsky Support Services, Inc., United Technologies Corporation, and G.E. Aviation Systems, LLC filed two separate notices of joinder to Defendant E.I. Du Pont's motion to dismiss. (Dkt. Nos. 43, 44.)

         Also on September 5, 2013, Defendant PKL Services, Inc. filed a separate motion to dismiss the first through fourth and sixth causes of action against PKL as alleged in Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 42.) PKL joined and incorporated by reference Defendant E.I. Du Pont's ...


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