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Bouchillon v. Deutz-Fahr

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

February 7, 2017

JUDY BOUCHILLON, Individually, and on behalf of the Statutory Wrongful Death Beneficiaries of Jim Bouchillon, Deceased; and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Jim Bouchillon PLAINTIFF
v.
SAME DEUTZ-FAHR, GROUP; SAME DEUTZ-FAHR NORTH AMERICA, INC.; DEUTZ AG; and SAME DEUTZ-FAHR DEUTSCHLAND, GMBH, d/b/a as SAME Deutz-Fahr Germany DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This products liability action is before the Court for consideration of the report and recommendation submitted by Special Master Werner F. Ebke, Doc. #215; and Judy Bouchillon's “Motion for Leave to Provide Motion and Exhibit to Special Master, ” Doc. #224.

         I

         Procedural History

         A. Complaint and Filing of Dispositive Motions

         This case arises out of the fatal injury sustained by Jim Bouchillon while he was operating a Deutz model 3006 tractor (“Tractor”) on August 17, 2013. Doc. #1 at ¶ 8. His wife and estate representative, Judy Bouchillon, commenced this wrongful death product liability action against three German corporations: SAME Deutz-Fahr, Group (“SAME Group”); Deutz AG (“Deutz”); and SAME Deutz-Fahr North America, Inc. (“SAME America”). In her complaint, Judy[1] alleged that the Tractor was defective and “was designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, warranted, and sold by Defendants.” Id. at ¶¶ 10-13. The complaint asserted two claims: a design defect claim, pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-63; and a failure to warn claim pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-63. Id. at ¶¶ 14-21. SAME America and SAME Group answered the complaint on November 7, 2014. Doc. #4. Deutz, after seeking and receiving an extension of the deadline to respond to the complaint, answered on January 19, 2015. Doc. #14; Doc. #19.

         On March 24, 2016, after approximately a year of discovery, Judy filed a motion to amend her complaint to add an additional defendant, SAME Deutz-Fahr Deutschland GmbH d/b/a Same Deutz-Fahr Germany (“SAME Germany”). Doc. #66. SAME America and SAME Group responded in opposition to the motion to amend, Doc. #76, and Judy replied, Doc. #77. On July 15, 2015, United States Magistrate Judge David A. Sanders granted the motion to amend. Doc. #85. On July 17, 2015, Judy filed her amended complaint. Doc. # 86. All defendants answered the amended complaint. Doc. #80; Doc. #108; Doc. #109.

         On July 18, 2015, Deutz filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it transferred “all assets, liabilities and risks of its tractor business” in a sale to Agrartechnik GmbH (a predecessor to the SAME entities), which took place in 1991 and 1992. Doc. #81. On September 4, 2015, SAME Group and SAME America responded in opposition to Deutz's motion for summary judgment and filed their own motion for summary judgment. Doc. #99; Doc. #100. The same day, Judy filed a response to Deutz's motion for summary judgment arguing, of relevance here, that “by virtue of the 1991 and 1992 agreements ... [SAME] Group and SAME Germany are legally responsible for product liability claims related to [the] tractor.” Doc. #102 at 4. Similarly, on November 23, 2015, Judy, in response to the SAME defendants' motion for summary judgment, argued that “[t]he 1992 agreement effectively transferred Deutz's tractor related product liabilities to KHD Agrartechnik.” Doc. #126 at 4. Also on November 23, 2015, Deutz filed a “Consolidated Reply Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support of its Response in Opposition to [SAME] Group and [SAME] America[‘s] ... Motion for Summary Judgment.” Doc. #129. SAME Group and SAME America replied in support of their motion for summary judgment on December 18, 2015. Doc. #139; Doc. #140.

         B. Referral to Special Master

         On March 10, 2016, this Court, acting on motion of SAME America and SAME Group, issued an order submitting the pending motions for summary judgment to a special master. Doc. #162. On June 17, 2016, the Court, after receiving from the parties four nominations for special master, appointed Werker F. Ebke as the special master in this action. Doc. #188.

         On December 8, 2016, Ebke filed his report and recommendation with this Court.[2] Doc. #215. On December 29, 2016, Judy filed a motion to adopt Ebke's report. Doc. #218. The same day, SAME America and SAME Group filed a joint motion to adopt the report. Doc. #219. On January 3, 2017, Deutz filed a motion to adopt in part and modify in part the report. Doc. #220. SAME America and SAME Group responded in opposition to Deutz's motion to modify, Doc. #222, and Deutz timely replied, Doc. #223.

         On February 3, 2017, this Court informed the parties that it intends to resubmit the report and recommendation to Ebke along with three additional questions, which were provided to the parties. The Court asked the parties to provide comments on the proposed questions, which they did on February 6, 2017.

         Also on February 6, 2017, Judy filed a “Motion for Leave to Provide Motion and Exhibit to Special Master, ” in which she seeks “permission to provide a copy of [the] motion, and the attached exhibit, to the special master prior to his consideration of the additional questions to be presented to him by the Court.” Doc. #224. The SAME defendants informed this Court, by email, that they do not intend to respond in opposition to Judy's motion. Deutz responded, by email, that it feels Judy's requested relief is moot.

         II

         Standard of Review

         “In acting on a master's ... report, or recommendations, the court ... may receive evidence; and may adopt or affirm, modify, wholly or partly reject or reverse, or resubmit to the master with instructions.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 53(f)(1). Unless the parties have stipulated otherwise, a court reviews de novo objections to a special master's report and recommendation. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 53(f)(3)-(4). Where no party has objected to the report and recommendation, the report is reviewed for clear error. Onewest Bank N.A. v. Louis, No. 15-cv-597, 2016 WL 4059214, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. July 28, 2016).

         III

         Report and ...


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