United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Campbell Senior United States District Judge
Thomas Neely asserts products liability and negligence claims
against National Cart Co. Inc. (“National”),
Win-Holt Equipment Corp. (“Win-Holt”), and
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (“Wal-Mart”). Doc. 1.
National and Win-Holt move for summary judgment. Doc. 100.
The motion is fully briefed (Docs. 105, 112), and oral
argument will not aid in the Court's decision.
See Fed R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the following reasons,
the Court will deny the motion.
alleges that he was injured in January 2016 at a Wal-Mart
store in Prescott Valley, Arizona, while making deliveries
for a beverage distribution company. Doc. 1 at 2-3. According
to the complaint, Plaintiff's duties involved placing
bottled drinks onto a large cart, called the ST-Rocket Cart,
to restock shelves around the store. Id. at 3.
Plaintiff was pulling the ST-Rocket Cart behind him one day,
loaded with hundreds of pounds of bottled drinks, when the
cart collided into the back of his right heel and its
unguarded, sharp steel caused severe damage to his leg and
Achilles tendon. Id. at 4-5.
National, and Win-Holt agree on the following facts. National
and Win-Holt are producers and vendors of the ST-Rocket Cart
for Wal-Mart, but Wal-Mart had final decision-making power
related to the cart's design. Subtle differences exist
between the ST-Rocket Carts supplied by National and
Win-Holt, but they perform substantially the same.
Wal-Mart's Prescott Valley store has around 51 ST-Rocket
Carts produced by National and Win-Holt. Plaintiff cannot
remember whether he was using a National- or Win-Holt-made
ST-Rocket Cart during the incident, and he remembers nothing
distinctive about the cart he used. There is no longer
surveillance footage of the incident, nor any evidence of
whether Plaintiff was using a National- or Win-Holt-made
cart. Docs. 106-1-3; 101 at 1-3.
and Win-Holt assert that the ST-Rocket Cart was designed by
Wal-Mart alone and that Wal-Mart owns the patents for the
ST-Rocket Cart. Doc. 101 at 1. According to National and
Win-Holt, Wal-Mart contacted its manufacturers and directed
them to produce the ST-Rocket Cart according to its design
specifications. Id. at 2.
disputes that Wal-Mart was the sole designer, and asserts
that Wal-Mart collaborated with National and Win-Holt in the
cart's design except for certain parameters that Wal-Mart
set. Doc. 106 at 2. He also disputes that the patents
Wal-Mart owns describe the ultimate ST-Rocket Cart design.
Id. Plaintiff asserts claims for strict liability
product design and negligent product design against all three
Defendants, and negligence against Wal-Mart alone. Doc. 1 at
seeking summary judgment “bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and 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 (1986). Summary judgment is
appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, shows “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). Summary judgment is also appropriate against a party
who “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party's
case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof
at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Only
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
will preclude summary judgment, and the disputed evidence
must be “such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
liability for defective product design exists where a
plaintiff can prove (1) the defendant is a manufacturer of
the product, (2) the product was defective in design and
unreasonably dangerous, (3) the defect existed when the
product left the defendant's control, (4) the defect
proximately caused the injury, and (5) damages. Cox v.
Ford Motor Co., No. 1 CA-CV 09-0288, 2010 WL 3656041, at
*2 (Ariz.Ct.App. Sept. 21, 2010); see also Sw. Pet
Prods., Inc. v. Koch Industr., Inc., 273 F.Supp.2d 1041,
1051 (D. Ariz. 2003); Anderson v. Nissei A SB Mach. Co.,
Ltd., 3 P.3d 1088, 1092 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1999). Under a
strict products liability theory, “the manufacturer can
be held liable ‘despite its best efforts to make or
design a safe product.'” Golonka v. Gen. Motors
Corp., 65 P.3d 956, 962 (Ariz.Ct.App. 2003). But
“liability will not be imposed on an entity that
‘bears[s] no causal connection to the production or
distribution of the product.'” Atone v. Greater
Ariz. Auto Auction, 155 P.3d 1074, 1076 (Ariz.Ct.App.
establish a negligence claim, including negligent design, a
plaintiff must prove “(1) a duty requiring the
defendant to conform to a certain standard of care; (2) a
breach by the defendant of that standard; (3) a causal
connection between the defendant's conduct and the
resulting injury; and (4) actual damages.” Gipson
v. Kasey, 150 P.3d 228, 230 (Ariz. 2007).
“‘In order to succeed on a negligent design
claim, a plaintiff must prove that the manufacturer acted
unreasonably at the time of design . . . in light of the
foreseeable risk of injury from use of the
product.'” Hess v. Bumbo Int'l Tr., CV
13-944 TUC DCB, 2014 WL 12527216, at *7 (D. Ariz. Sept. 11,
2014) (citing Golonka, 65 P.3d at 962).
“Negligence may consist of action or inaction” -
it is “the failure to use reasonable care” or
“act as a reasonably careful person would act under the
circumstances.” Id. (quoting Golonka,
65 P.3d at 963).