United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
ORDER AND OPINION
RICHARD M. GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Amazon.com Services,
Inc.'s ("Amazon") Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings (Dkt. No. 25). For the reasons set forth below, the
Court grants in part and denies in part the motion.
April 28, 2018, Plaintiff Thomas Hughes was using a Hugo
Elite rolling walker, manufactured by Defendants Medical
Depot, Inc. ("MDI") and AMG Medical, Inc.
("AMG") while visiting a museum in Georgia. (Dkt.
No. 1 at ¶¶ 33 - 34.) While at the museum,
Plaintiff sat on the walker and the frame snapped and
Plaintiff fell, landing on his right hip and striking his
head on the floor. (Id. at ¶¶ 36 - 37.)
Plaintiff broke his right hip, and ultimately required
surgery and inpatient rehabilitation. (Id. at
¶¶ 38 - 44.) Plaintiff purchased the walker in 2016
through Amazon.com, and Amazon shipped the walker to
Plaintiff in South Carolina. (Id. at ¶¶ 24
- 25.) Plaintiff alleges that the product page for the walker
on Amazon.com represented that the walker "has a 2 inch
height adjustable built-in seat with backrest that provides a
perfect place to sit and rest" and was "[d]esigned
to support adults up to 300 lbs. and well suited for those
that have conditions that compromise balance."
(Id. at ¶¶ 29 - 30.)
filed the action in this Court on August 8, 2018, against
Defendants MDI, AMG, Amazon and Amazon.com,
Plaintiff brought four causes of action: strict products
liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and loss of
consortium. Defendant Amazon moved for judgment on the
pleadings, and Plaintiffs oppose the motion. (Dkt. Nos. 25,
the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay
trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Rule 12(c) motions "dispose of cases
in which there is no substantive dispute that warrants the
litigants and the court proceeding further." Lewis
v. Excel Mech., LLC, 2:13-CV-281-PMD, 2013 WL 4585873 at
* 1 (D.S.C. Aug. 28, 2013) quoting 5 Charles Alan
Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and
Procedure, § 1368 (3d ed. 2010). A judgment on the
pleadings is only warranted if "the moving party has
clearly established that no material issue of fact remains to
be resolved and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law." Id. at * 2 (citations omitted).
12(c) motions limit the court's review to the pleadings
and "any documents and exhibits attached to and
incorporated into the pleadings." Lewis, 2013
WL 4585873 at * 1 (citation omitted). See also Abell Co.
v. Bait. Typographical Union No. 12, 338 F.2d 190, 193
(4th Cir. 1964). Like motions to dismiss, Rule 12(c) motions
call for the pleadings to be construed in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Burbach Broad. Co. v.
Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 405-06 (4th Cir.
2002). Accordingly, "[t]he court must accept all well
pleaded factual allegations in the non-moving party's
pleadings as true and reject all contravening assertions in
the moving party's pleadings as false."
Lewis, 2013 WL 4585873, at * 2 (citation omitted).
Carolina follows the doctrine of lex loci deliciti
for tort actions and applies the law of the state in which
the injury occurred. Boone v. Boone, 345 S.C. 8, 13,
546 S.E.2d 191, 193 (2001). Therefore, as the injury occurred
in Georgia, the Court must apply the law of Georgia to the
strict liability and negligence claims.
however, argue that the Court should decline to apply Georgia
law under the "public policy exception." In
general, under this exception South Carolina "will not
apply foreign law if it violates the public policy of South
Carolina." Boone, 345 S.C. at 14. Plaintiff
argues that South Carolina adopted the comments to § 402
A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts in applying strict
liability to product sellers, See S.C. Code Ann.
§ 15-73-30, which state that "public policy demands
that the burden of accidental injuries caused by products
intended for consumption be placed upon those who market
them...." Restatement (Second) of Torts §
4O2A(I965). However, this statement falls short of meeting
the public policy exception. As the Supreme Court of South
Carolina explained, in order to decline to apply foreign law
as "against the policy of our laws" a court must
determine that the law "is against good morals or
natural justice, or that for some other such reason the
enforcement of it would be prejudicial to the general
interests of our own citizens.'" Rauton v.
Pullman Co., 183 S.C. 495, 191 S.E. 416, 422 (1937)
(citations omitted). In other words, it is not enough for the
foreign state's laws to be against the policy underlying
a law, it must also be against "good morals or natural
justice," or be otherwise prejudicial. See, e.g.
Dawkins v. State, 306 S.C. 391, 393, 412 S.E.2d 407, 408
(1991) ("The 'good morals or natural justice' of
our State are not violated when foreign law is applied to
preclude a tort action for money damages...even if recovery
may be had upon application of South Carolina law.").
See also Rogers v. Lee, 414 S.C. 225, 235, 777
S.E.2d 402, 407 (Ct. App. 2015) (same).
while Plaintiff identified the policy underlying South
Carolina's statute, there is no indication that Georgia
law, barring an action for strict liability against a seller,
violates the "good morals or natural justice" of
South Carolina. This is further supported by the fact that
the "[t]he South Carolina case law finding violations of
public policy pertain to 'prohibited marriages, wagers,
lotteries, racing, contracts for gaming or the sale of
liquors...' and interspousal immunity[.]" Grimes
v. Young Life, Inc., No. CV 8:16-1410-HMH, 2017 WL
5634239, at *5 (D.S.C. Feb. 17, 2017), reconsideration
denied, No. CV 8:16-1410-HMH, 2017 WL 5640611 (D.S.C.
Apr. 3, 2017), and aff'dsub nom. Grimes v. Inner
Quest Inc., 731 Fed.Appx. 249 (4th Cir. 2018) (citations
omitted). In contrast, courts in this District have refused
to apply the public policy exception where foreign law would
bar product liability claims. See Butler v. Ford Motor
Co., 724 F.Supp.2d 575, 583 (D.S.C. 2010) (applying
North Carolina's shorter statute of repose that barred
all claims in product liability action which included claims
for strict liability and negligence). Therefore, the public
policy exception does not apply here, and Georgia law applies
to the claims for strict liability and negligence under the
doctrine of lex loci deliciti.
strict liability, both parties agree that, under Georgia law,
product sellers are excluded from coverage of the strict
liability statute. See Ga. Code Ann.
§51-1-11.1; Williams v. Pac. Cycle, Inc., No.
1:13-CV-875-ODE, 2015 WL 11215854, at *4 (N.D.Ga. Oct. 19,
2015), aff'd, 661 Fed.Appx. 716 (11th Cir.
2016). (See also Dkt. No. 30 at 7.) Therefore, as
the Complaint solely identifies Amazon as a seller, and not a
manufacturer, Plaintiffs' claims for strict liability are
subject to dismissal.
negligence, under Georgia law, "[i]t is the general rule
that a vendor or dealer who is not the manufacturer is under
no obligation to test an article, purchased and sold by him,
for the purpose of discovering latent or concealed
defects...." Fed. Ins. Co. v. Farmer's
SupplyStore, Inc.,252 Ga.App. 17, 19, 555
S.E.2d 238, 240 (2001) citing King Hardware Co. v.
Ennis,39 Ga.App. 355, 147 S.E. 119, 121 (1929).
Further, a seller may assume that a manufacturer made a
properly constructed product. See Id.; Gaddy v. Terex
Corp., No. 1:14-CV-1928-WSD, 2017 WL 3476318, at *6
(N.D.Ga. May 5, 2017) ("[defendant] was entitled to rely
on the manufacturer's certification that the steel had
the strength and grade represented."). Therefore, under
Georgia law, Defendant Amazon was under no ...