United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
DANA J. ST. GERMAIN AND CATHERINE B. ST. GERMAIN
DIXIE MOTORS, LLC D/B/A DIXIE MOTOR SUPERSTORES, ET AL.
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON JUDGE
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
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).
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.
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.).
matter was removed to this Court in October 18, 2016. Forest
River now moves for the entry of an Order granting summary
Forest River's Motion for Summary Judgment
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
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.).
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.
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.).
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% at the time of
the accident, and that Mr. St. Germain was taking
prescription medication that should never be mixed with