United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
the Court is defendants and third-party defendants "VH
Group, L.L.C. and Covington Specialty Insurance Company's
Motion for Summary Judgment." Rec. Doc. 34. Defendants
and third-party plaintiffs, TJX Companies, Inc. and Zurich
American Insurance Company, timely filed an opposition
memorandum. Rec. Doc. 37. Defendants and third-party
defendants then requested (Rec. Doc. 39), and were granted
(Rec. Doc. 40), leave to file a reply memorandum (Rec. Doc.
41). For the reasons discussed below, IT IS ORDERED that the
motion for summary judgment (Rec. Doc. 34) is DENIED WITHOUT
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
case arises out of a fall suffered by Dorothy Lowery
("Plaintiff") on September 7, 2015. Rec. Doc. 33 at
¶ 4. Plaintiff was visiting a TJ Maxx store owned by
Defendant TJX Companies, Inc. ("TJX") to try on
shoes. Id. She leaned against a table for support
and "the screw/nail that was holding the table leg onto
the table bent, causing the table leg to fold under the table
and the table (along with [Plaintiff]) to fall."
alleges that the table's legs were not adequately
fastened by the table's manufacturers, Defendants VH
Group, LLC (“VH Group”) and Vietnam Housewares
Co., Ltd. (“Vietnam Housewares”). Rec. Doc. 33 at
¶ 5. She is asserting claims under the Louisiana
Products Liability Act (“LPLA”) for failure to
warn, design defect, and construction or composition defect.
Id. at ¶ 7.
second amended complaint named TJX; TJX's insurer, Zurich
American Insurance Company (“Zurich”); VH Group;
VH Group's insurer, Covington Specialty Insurance Company
(“Covington”); and unidentified parties as
Defendants. Rec. Doc. 33 at ¶ 2.
filed a third-party complaint against VH Group and Covington,
alleging that TJX purchased the table at issue from VH Group
pursuant to a Purchase Order dated February 15, 2015. Rec.
Doc. 14 at ¶ VI. TJX maintains that VH Group agreed to
indemnify and hold TJX harmless for any claims brought by
third parties arising from injuries allegedly caused by a
defect in the table. Id. at ¶ VII. Accordingly,
TJX argues that VH Group is obligated to pay the defense
costs arising from this litigation. Id. at ¶
THE PARTIES' CONTENTIONS
instant motion, VH Group maintains that the table identified
in the third-party complaint and TJX's discovery
responses is not the table that Plaintiff alleges caused her
injuries. Rec. Doc. 34-2.
Zurich respond that a TJX employee identified the table at
issue as the table responsible for Plaintiff's injuries.
Rec. Doc. 37 at 2.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is
appropriate only 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 judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). See also TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick
James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002). A
genuine issue exists if the evidence would allow a reasonable
jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). The movant must point to “portions of
‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If and when the movant
carries this burden, the non-movant must then go beyond the
pleadings and present other evidence to establish a genuine
issue. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
“where the non-movant bears the burden of proof at
trial, the movant may merely point to an absence of evidence,
thus shifting to the non-movant the burden of demonstrating
by competent summary judgment proof that there is an issue of
material fact warranting trial.” Lindsey v. Sears
Roebuck & Co., 16 F.3d 616, 618 (5th Cir. 1994).
Conclusory rebuttals of the pleadings are insufficient to
avoid summary judgment. Travelers Ins. Co. v. Liljeberg
Enter., Inc., 7 F.3d 1203, 1207 (5th Cir. 1993).
the LPLA, a product's manufacturer may be held liable for
damages caused by a characteristic of a product that rendered
it unreasonably dangerous when the damages arose from a
reasonably anticipated use of that product. La. Rev. Stat.
Ann. § 9:2800.54(A). Thus, “proving the element of
causation requires proof of exposure to the specific product
alleged to have caused or contributed to the plaintiff's
injuries and identification of the product's
manufacturer.” Scaffidi v. Thompson-Hayward Chem.,
Inc., No. 94-3860, 1997 WL 469966, at *2 (E.D. La. Aug.
12, 1997) (citations omitted). See also, e.g., Maldanado
v. State Through Dep't of Transp., 618 So.2d 537,
538-39 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1993) (granting summary judgment in
favor of the defendant where, after depositions of both the
plaintiff and arresting officer were taken, interrogatories