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St. Germain v. Dixie Motors, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

October 15, 2018

DANA J. ST. GERMAIN AND CATHERINE B. ST. GERMAIN
v.
DIXIE MOTORS, LLC D/B/A DIXIE MOTOR SUPERSTORES, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Forest River, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 34). The motion is unopposed. Also before the Court is Defendant Dixie Motors, LLC's Motion Joining in and Adoption of Forest River, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 35). For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Forest River Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment, and DENIES Summary Judgement as to Dixie Motors, LLC.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Dana J. St. Germain and Catherine B. St. Germain ("Mr. St. Germain and Mrs. St. Germain, respectively; collectively "Plaintiffs") filed a Petition for Damages on or about September 19, 2016 against Dixie Motors, LLC d/b/a Dixie RV Superstores, and Forest River, LLC ("Dixie" and "Forest River" respectively; collectively "Defendants") in the 19th Judicial District Court for East Baton Rouge Parish. (Doc. 1-1). In the Petition for Damages, Plaintiffs allege that on or about September 16, 2015, a motor vehicle accident occurred between Mr. St. Germain and a vehicle owned by Master Vac Industries driven by Joseph A. Babin, III ("Babin"). (Id. at p. 2).

         Mr. St. Germain alleged that he was towing a Forest River 2015 Coachmen Travel Trailer (the "trailer") at the time of the incident, when the trailer suddenly became unstable causing him to lose control of his vehicle, cross into the opposite travel lane and strike Babin's vehicle. (Id.). Both the trailer and the vehicle being used to tow the trailer were consumed by fire and destroyed. (Id.). Plaintiffs aver that the loss of stability was caused by tire depressurization associated with a defective trailer rim. (Id. at pp. 2-3). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants knew or should have known about the hazards associated with the trailer and failed to take precautionary measures to avert or eliminate the hazard. (Id. at p. 3). Plaintiffs also assert that Mr. St. Germain took all reasonable efforts to avoid the collision, however he was unable to do so due to the catastrophic failure of the tire cause by the defective rim, and therefore is not liable for the resulting injuries and damages. (Id.).

         Mr. St. Germain also claims that he suffered numerous injuries and property damage as a result of the accident. (Id. at pp. 3-4). Mr. St. Germain certifies that at the time of the accident, Dixie was covered by a policy of general liability insurance issued by ABC Insurer, and Forest River was covered by a policy of general liability insurance issued by DEF Insurer. (Id. at p. 4). Plaintiffs also allege that Mrs. St. Germaine suffers from loss of consortium with Mr. St. Germain and has suffered emotionally having witnessed Mr. St. Germain's pain and suffering. (Id.).

         This matter was removed to this Court in October 18, 2016. Forest River now moves for the entry of an Order granting summary judgment.

         II. ARGUMENTS

         A. Forest River's Motion for Summary Judgment

         Forest River first argues that it cannot be held liable for any damages the rim's failure may have caused, as it did not manufacture the rim which Plaintiffs claim caused the accident. (Doc. 34-1 at pp. 10-11). Forest River claims that it is undisputed that it installed the factory rims, manufactured by LionsHead Specialty Tire and Wheel, L.L.C. ("LionsHead"), on the trailer at its factory in Indiana before releasing it to Dixie, from whom Plaintiffs purchased it.

         Forest River alleges that on or about July 29, 2015, Plaintiffs brought the trailer to Dixie and complained that the front passenger-side rim was cracked, and that the tire would not hold air. (Id. at p. 3). On that same day, a repair invoice was issued by Dixie which stated: "Complaint: C/S Tire Lug Snapped of (sic) Axle and Rim is Cracked." (Id. at p. 3). Forest River alleges Dixie inspected the front-passenger side rim and found the crack. (Id. at p. 4). Forest River avers that no other invoices reflect any other complaints about cracks on any other of the rims. (Id.). Dixie removed the front passenger side rim and replaced it with a new one also manufactured by LionsHead. (Id. at p. 6). Forest River further claims that it is uncontroverted that Dixie purchased the tire and rim directly from LionsHead and that the aftermarket rim was on the vehicle at the time of the accident. (Id. at p. 11). Forest River claims that Dixie installed the new tire and rim onto the trailer, and that testing thereafter confirmed that the tire held air and functioned properly. (Id. at p. 6). Mr. St. Germain was involved in the accident the same day that the repairs were made. (Id.).

         Therefore, Forest River alleges that it cannot be held liable as a manufacturer for any of Plaintiffs' injuries, as it had no role in the purchase and installation of the rim and tire that were on the trailer when the accident occurred.

         Forest River also alleges that its expert, Robert Rucoba ("Rucoba") carefully examined the after market rim and concluded that there was no evidence of a crack or air pressure leak. (Id. at p. 12). Forest River alleges that Mr. St. Germain pointed out specific areas of the rim that he believes caused the catastrophic failure of the tire, and that Rucoba was unable to find any cracks or leaks in the rim. (Id.). Forest River cites Rucoba's report wherein Rucoba states:

The tire pressure was measured to be 41 psi. . . Mr. St. Germain applied a soap solution to the "cracked" area to demonstrate the air loss at the crack. . . over the duration of several minutes, I did not observe a crack or air loss in the wheel during Mr. St. Germain's demonstration. ..

(Id. at p. 13). Forest River alleges that Rucoba examined the photographs and other evidence from the scene of the accident and found that the accident was the result of driver error. (Id. at p. 14). Forest River claims that Rucoba's report established that the type of tire marks left at the scene of the accident are inconsistent with a sudden catastrophic deflation of a tire in the manner in which Mr. St. Germain described. (Id.).

         Forest River also cites the report of Dallas Cowan, PhD. ("Dr. Cowan"), board-certified toxicologist. (Id. at p. 16). Plaintiff asserts that, having examined Mr. St. Germain's' medical records after the accident from Our Lady of the Lake and the Veteran's Administration, Dr. Cowan determined that Mr. St. Germain was significantly impaired at the time of the accident. (Id. at p. 17). Specifically, Dr. Cowan reported, having analyzed the aforementioned medical records, that Mr. St. Germain's blood alcohol level was between .135% and .245%[1] at the time of the accident, and that Mr. St. Germain was taking prescription medication that should never be mixed with alcohol. ...


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