Plaintiff’s Motion to Reargue Trailer Manufacturer’s Summary Judgment Motion Denied

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Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, June 29, 2022

In this asbestos action, plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to reargue a motion for summary judgement filed by defendant Strick Trailers, LLC (“Strick”), which was granted on October 13, 2021.

By way of background, the plaintiff, James Martinez, alleged he was exposed to asbestos from replacing brakes on delivery trailers manufactured by Strick. Plaintiff was unable to testify as to the maintenance history of Strick trailers, nor did he identify Strick as the manufacturer of asbestos-containing brake linings that were installed onto the Strick trailers. In response to Plaintiff’s allegations, Strick proffered an affidavit by its Board of Directors chair affirming that Strick brakes have never been designed to contain asbestos, and that Strick never specified, required, or recommended the use of asbestos-containing brakes on its trailers. He further affirmed that Strick does not control, contribute to, or have an interest in the composition of any third-party replacement parts that may be installed post-sale.

In addition, Strick highlighted the court recently granted a motion for summary judgement filed by co-defendant East Manufacturing (“East”) in the same matter, under an analogous set of facts. The court ultimately agreed and granted Strick’s motion for summary judgment.

New York law permits a party to move for leave to reargue a decision if the party can demonstrate that the court erred, or misapprehended the law in rendering its initial decision. Reargument, however, is not designed to reargue issues previously decided or to present new arguments. In the instant matter, plaintiff contends the court erred in its reliance of its previous grant of summary judgment to East to grant Strick’s motion because the lack of factual showing with regard to East stemmed from East’s failure to comply with discovery. Strick, however, contends that the exact same legal standards were applied in both East’s and Strick’s motions, pointing out that both defendants clearly established a lack of duty, breach, and causation with regard to a third-party’s product installed post-sale, through a corporate representative affidavit.

Moreover, plaintiff asserts that the court misapprehended the law in its grant of Strick’s motion because it is “undisputed” that a product seller has a duty to warn of the hazards associated with component parts installed post-sale. In response, Strick maintains the court did not misapprehend the law because there is no such duty to warn when a manufacturer has no control, interest, or contribution to any third-party component part installed post-sale.

With regard to the allegation of error, the court concluded it did not error in relying on its previous grant of East’s motion in order to grant Strick’s motion. The court highlighted that East’s motion was granted because it offered evidence that its vehicles were designed to function without asbestos-containing breaks, and for no other reason.

With regard to the allegation of misapprehension, the court similarly concluded it did not misapprehend the law because a manufacturer is not liable for the product of another manufacturer if the initial manufacturer created a product with no defects. The court further noted the “mere possibility” that a party could replace Strick brakes with third party, asbestos-containing brakes, does not expose Strick to liability. For these reasons, plaintiff’s motion for leave to reargue was denied.

Read the full decision here

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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