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Roux v. Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

October 23, 2019

MICHAEL M. ROUX
v.
TOYOTA MATERIAL HANDLING, U.S.A., INC.; TOYOTA INDUSTRIAL EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURING, INC.; AND SCOTT EQUIPMENT COMPANY, L.L.C.

          ON APPEAL FROM THE FORTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 65, 318, DIVISION "C" HONORABLE J. STERLING SNOWDY, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, MICHAEL M. ROUX Wallace K. Porter.

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE-2ND APPELLANT, COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY INSURANCE COMPANY Kirk L. Landry Virginia J. Mclin.

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, SCOTT EQUIPMENT COMPANY, L.L.C. Ward F. Lafleur Kay A. Theunissen Paul J. Politz Jason D. Bone.

          Panel composed of Judges Marc E. Johnson, Stephen J. Windhorst, and John J. Molaison, Jr.

          JOHN J. MOLAISON, JR. JUDGE

         Appellants seek review of the granting of a summary judgment and dismissal of a defendant in this personal injury matter. For the reasons that follow, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 26, 2013, [1] plaintiff/appellant, Michael M. Roux, filed a petition for damages in the 40th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. John the Baptist alleging that he sustained severe injuries while operating a forklift, in the scope of his employment, that was manufactured by Toyota Industries[2] and sold to his employer, Pinnacle Polymers, L.L.C. ("Pinnacle"), by Louisiana retailer Scott Equipment Company, L.L.C. ("Scott"). Mr. Roux asserted in his petition that Scott had sold the forklift in question to Pinnacle more than four years prior to the accident and provided periodic maintenance and service on the vehicle.[3] Mr. Roux also alleged that Scott was a manufacturer of the forklift under the Louisiana Products Liability Act because it labeled the forklift as its own product. Specifically, Mr. Roux claimed that Scott was liable because of the forklift's unreasonably dangerous design, an unreasonably dangerous construction or composition, failure to provide an adequate warning, and for breach of an express warranty.

         On November 26, 2013, Scott filed an answer to Mr. Roux's petition for damages that denied the allegations and affirmatively plead fault, negligence, and contributory negligence on the part of Mr. Roux and Pinnacle. On October 26, 2015, Commerce and Industry Insurance Company, the worker's compensation provider for Pinnacle, filed a petition for intervention, which was granted on that same date.

         Upon the completion of discovery, Scott filed a motion for summary judgment on December 5, 2016, setting forth two claims: that it was not an apparent manufacturer of the forklift at issue, and it did not have an independent duty as a seller to warn of alleged defects. A hearing on Scott's motion was held on June 28, 2017, [4] and on August 22, 2017, [5] the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Scott. On October 17, 2017, the trial court signed a final judgment that dismissed Scott with prejudice. On September 17, 2017, the trial court issued an order that granted Mr. Roux a devolutive appeal.[6] On October 27, 2017, the trial court issued an order that granted Commerce and Industry Insurance Company a devolutive appeal from the summary judgment in favor of Scott.[7]

         FACTS

         The following facts are not in dispute. On January 16, 2012, Mr. Roux was injured while operating a forklift in the course of his employment with Pinnacle, when a co-worker attempted to tow Mr. Roux's forklift after it became stuck in grass. Mr. Roux's injuries were caused when the towing strap of the co-worker's forklift uncoupled and struck Mr. Roux. The co-worker's forklift was manufactured by Toyota, and sold to Pinnacle by Scott on December 27, 2007.

         ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR[8]

         On appeal, Mr. Roux raises the following assignments of error:

1. Whether the trial court committed error in granting the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendant/Appellee Scott Equipment Company, dismissing the Petition of Plaintiff/Appellant with prejudice.
2. Whether the trial court committed error in failing to acknowledge, or in disregarding the expert testimony of Plaintiff's expert, Steve Robichaux.
3. Whether the trial court committed error in failing to recognize the defect or hazardous nature of the forklift to be its design and construction which allows the towpin to be removed and separated from the forklift, so as to allow this component part of the product to be damaged beyond use or misplaced, thereby both promoting and permitting misuse of the product by way of replacement of the authorized towpin with some other improvised object.
4. Whether the trial court committed error by failing to acknowledge the claims of the Plaintiff against Defendant/Appellee based upon the general law of negligence arising from its contractual duties as the repairers and maintainers of the forklifts, in addition to duties arising from the Louisiana Product Liability Act.
5. Whether the trial court committed error in granting Summary Judgment in consideration of the substantial and numerous issues genuine issues of material fact in question before the Court.
6. Whether the trial court committed error in finding that Pinnacle, the employer of the Plaintiff Appellant, is a ...

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