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Arant v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

March 26, 2015

TOBY ARANT
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., ET AL

MEMORANDUM RULING

ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is a motion for summary judgment on the Plaintiff's claims, filed by the Defendants, Tashin Industrial Corp., USA ("Tashin") and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ("Wal-Mart").[1] In this motion, the Defendants seek to dismiss all claims filed by the Plaintiff, Toby Arant ("Arant"). For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' motion for summary judgment shall be GRANTED, and the Plaintiff's claims against the Defendants are DISMISSED.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Arant purchased two 1" ratchet straps (the "ratchet straps"), which are manufactured by Tashin, at Wal-Mart in June or July of 2011.[2] He used the ratchet straps to secure a lock-on tree stand to a tree for hunting. On September 9, 2012, when Arant climbed onto his tree stand, the ratchet straps failed. Arant fell over twenty feet to the ground and sustained serious injuries.[3]

Arant filed a Petition for Damages in the Second Judicial District Court in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana.[4] The Defendants removed the suit and thereafter filed the pending motion for summary judgment.[5] Arant filed an opposition, and the Defendants replied.[6] Arant filed a supplemental opposition to the motion for summary judgment, and the Defendants replied to that supplemental opposition.[7]

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is proper pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Rule 56(c) "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, 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." Id., 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. at 2552. If the party moving for summary judgment fails to satisfy its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the motion must be denied, regardless of the nonmovant's response. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). If the motion is properly made, however, Rule 56(c) requires the nonmovant to go "beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts in the record showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Wallace v. Texas Tech. Univ., 80 F.3d 1042, 1047 (5th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). While the nonmovant's burden may not be satisfied by conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, metaphysical doubt as to the facts, or a scintilla of evidence, Little, 37 F.3d at 1075, Wallace, 80 F.3d at 1047, all factual controversies must be resolved in favor of the nonmovant. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. v. Farese, 423 F.3d 446, 456 (5th Cir. 2005).

III. Law and Analysis

As this case is before the Court under diversity jurisdiction, the Court must apply the substantive law of the forum state. Bradley v. Allstate Ins. Co., 620 F.3d 509, 517 n.2 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938)). The Fifth Circuit in In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation stated the appropriate methodology for a federal court sitting in diversity in Louisiana to apply:

To determine Louisiana law, we look to the final decisions of the Louisiana Supreme Court. In the absence of a final decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court, we must make an Erie guess and determine, in our best judgment, how that court would resolve the issue if presented with the same case. In making an Erie guess, we must employ Louisiana's civilian methodology, whereby we first examine primary sources of law: the constitution, codes, and statutes. Jurisprudence, even when it rises to the level of jurisprudence constante, is a secondary law source in Louisiana. Thus, although we will not disregard the decisions of Louisiana's intermediate courts unless we are convinced that the Louisiana Supreme Court would decide otherwise, we are not strictly bound by them.

495 F.3d 191, 206 (5th Cir. 2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

Arant argues that the ratchet straps were unreasonably dangerous pursuant to the Louisiana Products Liability Act (the "LPLA"). La. Rev. Stat. § 9:2800.51, et seq. Arant also alleges a cause of action against the Defendants for breach of warranty against redhibitory defects, pursuant to Louisiana Civil Code article 2520. Arant has presented no expert reports in response to the Court's pretrial deadlines, nor has be offered any such proof in rebuttal to the pending motion.

A. The LPLA

The LPLA establishes the exclusive theories of liability under Louisiana law for manufacturers for damage caused by their products. La. Rev. Stat. § 9:2800.51, et seq. To recover under the LPLA, a Plaintiff first must show that his damages were proximately caused by the unreasonably dangerous characteristic of the product and that his damages arose from a reasonably anticipated use of the product. La. Rev. Stat. § 9:2800.54(A). Viable claims under the LPLA require the Plaintiff to present evidence that the product is unreasonably dangerous in ...


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