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Ainsworth v. Cargotec USA, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

January 30, 2014

MARY P. AINSWORTH, Plaintiff,
v.
CARGOTEC USA, INC. et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

For the reasons stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [163] and denies as moot Defendant's Motions to Strike [167, 195].

I. BACKGROUND

James T. Ainsworth was an employee of Wayne Farms, a chicken producer in Jones County, Mississippi. On October 1, 2007, Mr. Ainsworth was working as a "catcher, " picking up chickens and placing them in cages for transport. One of his coworkers, Samuel Walters, operated a Moffett P5000 forklift, loading the chicken cages - each one ninety-six inches long, forty-five inches wide, and fifty-one and three-quarters inches high - on to trucks. While returning an empty cage to the chicken house, Mr. Samuels struck Mr. Ainsworth from behind and ran over him with the loaded forklift. Mr. Ainsworth was fatally injured.

Mary P. Ainsworth, Mr. Ainsworth's widow, filed this lawsuit against Moffett Engineering, Ltd., the forklift's manufacturer. She asserted design and warning defect claims under the Mississippi Product Liability Act ("MPLA"). MISS. CODE ANN. ยง 11-1-63. She also claims that Moffett negligently failed to train the employees of Wayne Farms to safely operate the forklift. Moffett filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [163] and related evidentiary motions [167, 195], which are now ripe for review.

II. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [163]

Rule 56 provides that "[t]he 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 judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); see also Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010). "Where the burden of production at trial ultimately rests on the nonmovant, the movant must merely demonstrate an absence of evidentiary support in the record for the nonmovant's case." Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir. 2010) (punctuation omitted). The nonmovant "must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. (punctuation omitted). "An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action." Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. "An issue is genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Cuadra, 626 F.3d at 812.

The Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009). When deciding whether a genuine fact issue exists, "the court must view the facts and the inference to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. However, "[c]onclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002).

A. Warning Defect

Plaintiff claims that the Moffett forklift did not adequately warn drivers of limited visibility when fully loaded. Defendant argues that this claim fails because it is undisputed that the forklift's driver, Samuel Walters, already knew that the forklift had blind spots and that a full load impaired visibility.

The MPLA provides, in pertinent part:

(a) The manufacturer... of the product shall not be liable if the claimant does not prove by the preponderance of the evidence that at the time the product left the control of the manufacturer or seller:
(i)... The product was defective because it failed to contain adequate warnings or ...

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