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Wells v. Robinson Helicopter Co., Inc.

United States District Court, Southern District of Mississippi, Northern Division

March 16, 2015

LARRY WELLS; DONNA WELLS; and CONNIE FARMER, individually and as personal representative of Charles Farmer PLAINTIFFS
v.
ROBINSON HELICOPTER CO., INC. DEFENDANT WEBB GROUP, L.P. PLAINTIFF
v.
ROBINSON HELICOPTER CO., INC. DEFENDANT

ORDER

CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Before the Court is Robinson Helicopter Company’s motion to dismiss or for summary judgment against Webb Group, L.P. Docket No. 137. After considering the arguments, evidence, and applicable law, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Factual and Procedural History

On September 1, 2009, Federal Aviation Administration inspectors Larry Wells and Charles Farmer were practicing helicopter landings and takeoffs in Jackson, Mississippi. They did so in their official capacities: the FAA had rented the helicopter for the day from Webb Group, L.P. The helicopter was a Robinson Helicopter Company R-44 “Raven I” bearing registration number N33PX.

While in the air, the helicopter began to vibrate. It crashed. Wells suffered severe injuries, while Farmer died.

In August 2012, Larry Wells, Donna Wells, and Connie Farmer – the “Wells plaintiffs, ” for simplicity – brought this suit claiming that Robinson was liable to them for manufacturing a defective product which caused serious injuries or death. They alleged that the crash was caused by a known defect called “mast rocking” or “chugging.” The Wells plaintiffs asserted negligence, strict liability, failure-to-warn, and warranty theories of recovery.

That same month, Webb Group filed a lawsuit against Robinson seeking to recover its economic losses, such as lost business opportunities. Webb Group asserted similar theories of liability as the Wells plaintiffs. The cases were consolidated for discovery and trial.

In the present motion, Robinson argues that Webb Group’s claims fail as a matter of law and fact. It specifically contends that Webb Group’s negligence, strict liability, and warning theories are barred as a matter of law by the economic loss doctrine. Robinson then argues that the facts show that Webb Group’s express and implied warranty theories lack merit. The motion is fully briefed and ready for review.

II. Legal Standards

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts the plaintiff’s factual allegations as true and makes reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The complaint must contain “more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation, ” but need not have “detailed factual allegations.” Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). The plaintiff’s claims must also be plausible on their face, which means there is “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted).

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when “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). A party seeking to avoid summary judgment must identify admissible evidence in the record showing a fact dispute. Id. at 56(c)(1); Tran Enterprises, LLC v. DHL Exp. (USA), Inc., 627 F.3d 1004, 1010 (5th Cir. 2010).

The Court views the evidence and draws reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Maddox v. Townsend and Sons, Inc., 639 F.3d 214, 216 (5th Cir. 2011). But the Court will not, “in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.” McCallum Highlands, Ltd. v. Wash. Capital Dus, ...


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