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McRee v. Dick's Sporting Goods Inc.

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

November 9, 2017

Archie D. McRee, Plaintiff,
Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc., and Paradigm Health & Wellness, Inc., f/k/a Paradigm Fitness Equipment, Inc., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs motion to reconsider the Court's order granting summary judgment for Defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the motion to reconsider.

         I. Background

         On January 22, 2014, Plaintiff Archie D. McRee purchased a new Fitness Gear-brand inversion table model FGIT-300, designed and supplied by Defendant Paradigm Health & Wellness, Inc., at the Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc. store in the Citadel Mall in Charleston, South Carolina. In October 2014, a recall was issued on the inversion table, allegedly "because the ankle locking system was found to fail, causing severe injuries to users and consumers." (Dkt. No. 69 ¶ 12.) Dick's Sporting Goods allegedly failed to notify Plaintiff about the recall. On February 2, 2015, Plaintiff inverted himself on the inversion table, and the ankle locking system separated, causing him to fall headfirst to the floor, resulting in severe and debilitating injuries.

         On October 7, 2015, Plaintiff filed this product liability case in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas for Beaufort County. On November 12, 2015, Defendants timely removed the case under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446. On August 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, alleging negligence (Count One), violation of the South Carolina Defective Product Act, SC Code § 15-73-10, et seq. (Count Two), breach of implied warranty of merchantability (Count Three), breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose (Count Four), and breach of express warranties (Count Five). On February 20, 2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment. On April 28, 2017, Senior United States District Judge Weston Houck granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment. On May 26, 2017, Plaintiff timely moved for reconsideration of that order. Following Judge Houck's passing, the case was assigned to the undersigned. The Court heard oral argument on the motion for reconsideration on November 8, 2017. This order now follows.[1]

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Reconsideration

         Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions to alter or amend a judgment; however, the rule does not provide a legal standard for such motions. The Fourth Circuit has articulated "three grounds for amending an earlier judgment: (1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998) (citing EEOC v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 116 F.3d 110, 112 (4th Cir. 1997); Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993)). "Rule 59(e) motions may not be used, however, to raise arguments which could have been raised prior to the issuance of the judgment, nor may they be used to argue a case under a novel legal theory that the party had the ability to address in the first instance." Id. at 403 (internal citations omitted). Rule 59(e) provides an "extraordinary remedy that should be used sparingly." Id. (internal citation omitted). The decision to alter or amend a judgment is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Id. at 402.

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate if a party "shows 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(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted "only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliamlnv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Natl Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a 'mere scintilla of evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Product Defect Claims

         In South Carolina, "there are three defects a plaintiff in a products liability lawsuit can allege: 1) a manufacturing defect, 2) a warning defect, and 3) a design defect." Watson v. Ford Motor Co.,699 S.E.2d 169, 174 (S.C. 2010). "When a manufacturing defect claim is made, a plaintiff alleges that a particular product was defectively manufactured." Id. "When a warning defect claim is made, a plaintiff alleges that he was not adequately warned of dangers inherent to a product." Id. A product liability action "may be brought under several theories, including negligence, strict liability, and warranty. Bragg v. Hi-Ranger, Inc.,462 S.E.2d 321, 325 (S.C. Ct. App. 1995). To prevail on a claim under any product liability theory, the plaintiff must satisfy three elements: "(1) he was injured by the product; (2) the injury occurred because the product was in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous to the user; and (3) that the product at the time of the accident was in essentially the same condition as when it left the hands of the defendant." Id. at 326 (citation omitted). Under a negligence theory, the plaintiff must also prove that ...

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