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Kennedy v. Techtronic Industries North America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson Division

September 29, 2014




This matter is before the Court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 22.) The defendants contend that application of S.C. Code § 15-5-150 bars suit in this Court.


The plaintiff commenced this product liability action on April 1, 2013, alleging claims of strict products liability, negligence, breach of implied warranty of fitness, breach of warranty of merchantability, and reckless, willful or malicious conduct. (See generally Compl.) The plaintiff alleges that this suit "arises out of the serious and permanent personal injuries suffered by Plaintiff on or about June 20, 2009, " while using a Ryobi table saw. (Compl. ¶ 7.) The plaintiff is a resident of Ohio (Compl. ¶ 1); the subject accident occurred in Ohio (see Pl. Resp. at 2; Pl. Resp. to Defs.' Request for Admission Nos. 1-3); and the plaintiff purchased the subject saw outside of South Carolina (see id. at Request No. 6). Each of the defendants are incorporated in and organized under the laws of the State of Delaware. (Compl. ¶¶ 2-4.)


The court shall grant summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate; if the movant carries its burden, then the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If a movant asserts that a fact cannot be disputed, it must support that assertion either by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials;" or "showing... that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

Accordingly, to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate that: (1) there is no genuine issue as to any material fact; and (2) that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. As to the first of these determinations, a fact is deemed "material" if proof of its existence or non-existence would affect disposition of the case under applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence offered is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. at 257. In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

Under this standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion. Ross v. Communications Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 365 (4th Cir. 1985). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.


The defendants argue that the South Carolina Door Closing Statute ("Statute") bars suit in this Court. See S.C. Code § 15-5-150. Specifically, defendants contend that suit here is impermissible under the Statute because the plaintiff is a non-resident suing a resident corporation over events that did not occur in the State of South Carolina. The South Carolina Door Closing Statute states:

An action against a corporation created by or under the laws of any other state, government or country may be brought in circuit court:
(1) By any resident of this state for any cause of action; or
(2) By a plaintiff not a resident of this State when the cause of action shall have arisen or subject of the action shall be situated within the State.

Id. It is well established that a South Carolina federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction "must apply § 15-5-150 unless there are affirmative countervailing federal considerations.'" Proctor & Schwartz, Inc. v. Rollins, 634 F.2d 738, 739 (4th Cir. 1980) (quoting Szantay v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 349 F.2d 60 (4th Cir. 1965)). There is no factual dispute between the parties that the defendants are domestic corporations; the plaintiff is not a resident of this State; and the underlying factual circumstances occurred elsewhere than in South Carolina. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 7; Pl. Resp. at 8.) In other words, the elements of the Statute are agreed to be satisfied. The plaintiff, ...

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