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Conlay v. Pella Corporation

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

February 18, 2016

TANYA and GARY CONLAY, on behalf of themselves and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
PELLA CORPORATION, Defendant.

ORDER

DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This matter is before the court on defendant Pella Corporation’s (“Pella”) motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court denies Pella’s motion for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Pella is an Iowa Corporation with its principal place of business in Pella, Iowa. Def.’s Mot. 2. Pella manufactures windows that are sold through distributors and retailers. Id. Plaintiffs Tanya and Gary Conlay (“the Conlays”) are Louisiana homeowners who purchased Pella windows in conjunction with the construction of their home in April 2000. Def.’s Mot. Ex. A, Answers to Interrog. 4. “Plaintiffs first noticed window damage in certain windows some time in 2007 at which time [p]laintiff contacted Pella about replacing those windows when damage to those particular windows could be observed.” Id. Some of the windows in the Conlays’ home were replaced in 2008. Id. Additional windows were replaced in November 2012. Mr. Conlay Depo. 40:7-10.

The Conlays filed the present action in the Eastern District of Louisiana on February 24, 2013 asserting diversity jurisdiction.[1] On May 22, 2013, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, alleging the following eleven causes of action: (1) strict liability, (2) negligence, (3) breach of express warranty, (4) breach of implied warranties, (5) negligent misrepresentation, (6) fraud, (7) breach of express warranty, (8) design defect, (9) construction or composite defect, (10) redhibition, and (11) declaratory relief. Prior to transfer to this court, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their national class claims for strict liability, negligence, express warranty, implied warranty, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(A). ECF No. 30. The Eastern District of Louisiana subsequently dismissed plaintiffs’ state law claim for breach of express warranty. ECF No. 37. The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred the plaintiffs’ case to this court on February 27, 2014.

On November 18, 2014, plaintiffs’ counsel sent Pella an email stating “[p]laintiffs will dismiss the class claims in the Andrews/Conlay Complaint and allow Mr. Conlay to proceed individually; and proceed with the Palacios matter for class claims in Louisiana.” Def.’s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A. On December 16, 2014, Pella filed a motion to dismiss the remaining class action claims, attaching a proposed consent motion to dismiss in accordance with the email above. On October 27, 2015, the court granted Pella’s motion to dismiss the Conlays’ class claims with prejudice. The court also granted the Conlays’ motion to file a second amended complaint; however, the court ruled that the Conlays could not include a breach of express warranty claim in light of Judge Berrigan’s ruling in the Easten District of Louisiana prior to transfer. Therefore, the Conlays only remaining claims are individual state law claims for design defect and construction defect under the Louisiana Products Liability Act, redhibition, and declaratory relief.

On September 16, 2015, Pella filed the present motion for summary judgment. The Conlays responded on October 5, 2015, and Pella replied on October 16, 2015. The motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for the court’s review.

II. STANDARD

Summary judgment shall be granted “if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Id. at 248. “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, ’ that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

“[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge’s function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 249. When the party moving for summary judgment does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, it may discharge its burden by demonstrating to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party’s case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The non-movant must then “make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Id. at 322. The court should view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all inferences in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

This case is predicated on diversity jurisdiction and was filed in federal court, so it is governed by state substantive law and federal procedural law. Shady Grove Orthopedic Assocs., P.A. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 559 U.S. 393, 416 (2010) (citing Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 465 (1965)). “In multidistrict litigation, the law of the transferee circuit governs questions of federal law.” In re KBR, Inc., 736 F.Supp.2d 954, 957 (D. Md. 2010) modified on reh’g sub nom. In re KBR, Inc., Burn Pit Litig., 925 F.Supp.2d 752 (D. Md. 2013) vacated and remanded on other grounds, 744 F.3d 326 (4th Cir. 2014); see also In re Gen. Am. Life Ins. Co. Sales Practices Litig., 391 F.3d 907, 911 (8th Cir. 2004); Menowitz v. Brown, 991 F.2d 36, 40 (2d Cir. 1993); In re Korean Air Lines Disaster of Sept. 1, 1983, 829 F.2d 1171, 1176 (D.C. Cir. 1987); cf. Bradley v. United States, 161 F.3d 777, 782 n.4 (4th Cir. 1998) (applying Fourth Circuit law to questions of federal law in a case transferred from the Fifth Circuit). Therefore, this court must apply Louisiana substantive law and Fourth Circuit procedural law.

III. DISCUSSION

Pella argues that the Conlays’ claims must be dismissed because they are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The parties dispute when the Conlays discovered the defect in the windows to start the prescriptive period.

The Conlays’ claims under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (“LPLA”)[2] are subject to a one-year prescriptive period. Am. Zurich Ins. Co. v. Caterpillar, Inc., 2012-270, p. 2 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/3/12); 99 So.3d 739, 741 (citing La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 3492). Louisiana Civil Code Article 3492 provides that “[d]elictual actions are subject to a liberative prescription of one year” which “commences to run from the day injury or damage is sustained.” La.Civ.Code art. 3492. “The prevailing wisdom is that prescription begins to run when the defect manifests itself, not on the date the underlying cause of the defect is found.” Am. Zurich, 2012-270, p. 3; 99 So.3d at 741. “Prescription commences and continues when a plaintiff obtains actual or constructive knowledge of facts indicating to a reasonable person that he or she is the victim of a tort.” Knippers v. Lambard, 620 So.2d 1368, 1371 (La. Ct. App. 1993) (citing Percy v. State, E.A. Conway Mem’l Hosp., 478 So.2d 570 ...


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