United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
JIMMY J. GILLEY AND PATRICIA GILLEY
LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, L.L.C., ET. AL
ROBERT G. JAMES, District Judge.
This was a personal injury diversity case in which Plaintiff Jimmy Gilley ("Gilley") fell from a stool in the Defendant Lowe's Home Centers, L.L.C. ("Lowe's") Ruston, Louisiana store.
Lowe's filed a Third Party Complaint against 3i Corporation Limited ("3i"), contending that 3i manufactured the stool in question. The Court subsequently granted summary judgment in 3i's favor, dismissing, with prejudice, Lowe's third party demand against 3i, but denying 3i's contemporaneous motion for attorney's fees and costs. [Doc. No. 50]. After summary judgment was granted, Lowe's and the Gilleys reached a settlement, and the case was administratively closed.
Currently pending before the Court is Lowe's Motion for Alteration or Amendment of Judgment ("Motion for Alteration") [Doc. No. 59], in which Lowe's moves the Court to reinstate its third party demand against 3i based on new evidence. Also pending before the Court is 3i's "Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions" against Lowe's. [Doc. No. 66].
For the following reasons, the Motion for Alteration is DENIED. 3i's Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions is also DENIED.
I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On the evening of March 30, 2013, Gilley went with his wife and two friends to Lowe's. While there, Gilley decided to test out a bar stool in a patio display set. [Doc. No. 34, Exh. A, Gilley Deposition ("Gilley Depo."), pp. 45-46]. Gilley testified that he was particularly interested in the stool because it was wooden and would complement his patio well. Id. at p. 49-51. When he attempted to sit on the stool, it slid out from under him, and he fell to the floor. Id. at 31. Only Gilley and his friend, Benson Bennett ("Bennett"), were present. Id. at pp. 62-63. Gilley alleges the stool had metal inserts on the bottom of its legs and that the stool was displayed on Lowe's concrete floor. Id. at pp. 66, 57.
Approximately 20 minutes after the incident, Eddie Jones ("E. Jones") and Romairo Jones ("R. Jones"), both managers at Lowe's, arrived. R. Jones completed an accident report, describing the stool involved in the incident as item number 151737, a Safford chair-type stool manufactured by 3i. He based his report on the apparently erroneous assumption that the stool closest to Gilley was the one involved in the accident. [Doc. No. 34, Exh. C, Jones Depo., pp. 12, 34, 47]. R. Jones did not ask Gilley if he fell from the 3i stool. Id. at pp. 12, 34; see also [Doc. No. 34, Exh. A, Gilley Depo., pp. 148-49]. Gilley testified the stool recorded on the incident report was not the stool from which he fell. Id. at pp. 48-54, 103, 107, 148-150. The 3i stool is aluminum, with arms and a back, and has no seat cushion, while Gilley described the stool he fell from as wooden with no arms or back. See [Doc. No. 34, Exh. E, Representation of 3i Stool].
Gilley initiated this action on February 21, 2014, in the Third Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lincoln, State of Louisiana. [Doc. No. 1-1]. Lowe's removed to this Court and subsequently filed a Third Party Complaint against 3i, alleging that the stool Gilley fell from was defective, and, accordingly, that 3i owed Lowe's a defense and indemnity per the terms of the parties' Buying Agreement. [Doc. No. 15]. However, Lowe's later conceded that the 3i stool was not defective. [Doc. No. 46, Lowe's Opposition to 3i's Motion for Summary Judgment, p. 4]. Lowe's did not retain the 3i stool in question; in fact, it is undisputed that it remained on display and was sold after the accident.
The Court granted 3i's motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, reasoning that Lowe's had failed to generate "factual issues as to whether 3i manufactured the bar stool." [Doc. No. 49, p. 4-5]. Alongside its motion for summary judgment, 3i also moved the Court to award attorney's fees and costs, contending that Lowe's pursued a frivolous Third Party Complaint against it, even after Gilley unequivocally stated in his deposition that the stool he fell from could not have been manufactured by 3i. The Court did not consider the merits of 3i's motion for sanctions at that time because 3i failed to comply with Rule 11's procedural requirements.
Previously, Lowe's had filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of its potential liability to Gilley [Doc. No. 32], which the Court denied. [Doc. No. 51]. The Court found that there were factual questions as to whether Lowe's placement of a stool with metal tipped legs on a concrete floor created an unreasonably dangerous condition. Id. at p. 6.
On April 30, 2015-after the Court had dismissed all claims against 3i and denied Lowe's motion for summary judgment-Lowe's and the Gilleys settled their dispute. [Doc. No. 58, Settlement Letter]. Approximately two weeks later, Lowe's filed the instant Motion for Alteration, urging the Court to reinstate its third party demand against 3i on grounds that it had uncovered evidence that a metal stool manufactured by 3i was the one involved in Gilley's accident. [Doc. No. 59]. Specifically, counsel for Lowe's tracked down Bennett, the only other eyewitness to Gilley's fall, and obtained an affidavit from him stating that the stool Gilley fell from was metal and matched the picture of a 3i chair-type stool shown to him by Lowe's counsel. [Doc. No. 59-2, Exh. 6, Bennett Affidavit, at ¶ 7]. 3i filed an opposition memorandum [Doc. No. 62], to which Lowe's replied. [Doc. No. 65].
3i then filed the instant Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions, arguing that Lowe's initially filed a frivolous third party demand and maintained that frivolous demand after Gilley testified that a 3i product was not involved in his accident. [Doc. No. 66]. Further, 3i contends that sanctions are also appropriate because Lowe's filed its Motion for Alteration for the improper purpose of avoiding ...