United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
T. WINGATE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
THIS COURT is defendant Suzuki Motor Corp.'s
Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket no.
228]. Suzuki Motor Corp. (hereinafter referred to as
“SMC”) filed its motion for summary judgment and
its supporting memorandum brief on October 2, 2017. [Docket
nos. 228, 229]. Plaintiffs filed their response in opposition
(including their memorandum brief) on October 20, 2017.
[Docket no. 276]. SMC filed its rebuttal on October 27, 2017.
[Docket no. 295]. SMC's motion for summary judgment
relies in part on various Daubert motions which this
court has recently denied. [Docket no. 318]. After a careful
review of the submissions of the parties, arguments of
counsel, and the relevant jurisprudence, this court rules as
January 9, 2015, Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in this
federal forum alleging causes of action for: strict liability
under Miss. Code § 11-1-63; common law negligence;
common law negligent failure to warn; common law breach of
warranty; and punitive damages.
their complaint, plaintiffs alleged that this court possess
diversity of citizenship subject matter jurisdiction under
United States Code Title 28, Section 1332.
not challenged subject matter diversity jurisdiction;
nevertheless, this court has an independent obligation to
verify it possesses subject matter
herein are Bradley Stubblefield (hereinafter referred to as
“B. Stubblefield”) and his wife, Kristan
Stubblefield (hereinafter referred to as “K.
Stubblefield”). The plaintiffs are both residents of
the State of Mississippi.
Suzuki Motor Corporation (hereinafter referred to as
“SMC”) is a foreign corporation doing business in
the State of Mississippi. SMC's principle place of
business is 300 Takatsuka-cho, Minami-ku Hammamatsu-shi, SZK
Suzuki Motor of America Inc. (hereinafter referred to as
“SMAI”) is a California corporation doing
business in the State of Mississippi.
alleged that the amount in controversy, minus costs and
interest, exceed $75, 000, the statutory minimum in diversity
of citizenship subject matter jurisdiction lawsuits.
this court finds that it possesses diversity of citizenship
subject matter jurisdiction over this lawsuit.
Stubblefield, an experienced motorcycle rider with
approximately twenty (20) years of experience, purchased a
2006 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 motorcycle (hereinafter referred to as
“subject motorcycle”) from a private seller in
the State of Georgia in 2010. B. Stubblefield drove to
Georgia to conduct the transaction and drove the motorcycle
home. After he had purchased the subject motorcycle, B.
Stubblefield drove to work on it from the time he purchased
it until the date of his accident. B. Stubblefield would not
drive the motorcycle only on days where the weather did not
safely permit him to do so - for example when icy conditions
dominated the roadway or when severe storms were passing
through the region. According to B. Stubblefield, this meant
he drove the motorcycle four (4) out of every five (5) work
days on average. From the date of purchase to the date of the
accident, B. Stubblefield accumulated approximately 16, 000
miles on the subject motorcycle.
bought the subject motorcycle, the seller did not provide the
user manual that came with it. B. Stubblefield downloaded the
user manual from the internet and read it. B. Stubblefield
performed all of his own maintenance with the exception of
replacing the tires, for which he had taken the bike to a
tire store. B. Stubblefield testified that he followed
SMC's recommended maintenance schedule, including the
changing of the brake fluid.
he had purchased the subject motorcycle, B. Stubblefield
purchased several aftermarket parts and replaced the stock
parts on the subject motorcycle with these aftermarket parts.
B. Stubblefield installed the aftermarket parts for cosmetic
purposes. The aftermarket parts that B. Stubblefield
installed include: front brake pads; HID headlight low
beam; ECU flash; front brake and clutch
levers; riser plates; exhaust pipes; a frame
slider; and handlebars.
morning of January 12, 2012, B. Stubblefield left his house
located at 138 Prescott Ridge, Gluckstadt, Mississippi, to
commute to work. B. Stubblefield was an architect who worked
at JH&H Architects - who are currently located at 1047 N.
Flowood Drive, Flowood, Mississippi. When he approached the
onramp to Interstate 55 South at the Sowell Road interchange,
B. Stubblefield attempted to enter the onramp. The parties
agree that B. Stubblefield encountered gravel in the roadway
before the concrete gore. After encountering the gravel, B.
Stubblefield crossed the concrete gore, continued down an
embankment, and his out-of-control vehicle ultimately came to
an abrupt stop at the bottom of the ravine - some 13.6 feet
below the roadway (a distance of approximately 127 feet). The
subject motorcycle was laying on its left side pinning B.
Stubblefield beneath it.
are two (2) eyewitnesses to the accident: Karen Richmond
(hereinafter referred to as “Richmond”); and
Gregory “Trent” Gordy (hereinafter referred to as
testified that she was turning onto the onramp in front of B.
Stubblefield and yielded to a driver who was coming from the
opposite direction to enter the interstate - apparently
Gordy's vehicle. “The next thing I know, there is a
motorcycle right here on my right coming up to my -
driver's - on the left.” According to Richmond, B.
Stubblefield was close enough that she could almost reach out
and touch him. Richmond never saw B. Stubblefield's brake
light. B. Stubblefield then travelled over the cement gore
and down into the ravine. Richmond stopped her vehicle and
went down to help. When she got to the bottom, the subject
motorcycle was laying over on top of B. Stubblefield's
left leg. B. Stubblefield was unconscious when Richmond first
arrived and then he woke up and tried to move. Richmond told
him to lay still and told Gordy, who had now come down into
the ravine, to call 911. Richmond stayed with B. Stubblefield
until the ambulance arrived.
testified in his deposition that he never saw B. Stubblefield
turn or wobble, that he continued straight over the concrete
gore, went airborne, and down into the ravine.
Stubblefield has no memory of the date of the accident;
instead, B. Stubblefield offers testimony of what he would
Typically, when I'd come to that turn, that curve, I
would have probably - I would have let off the gas for one,
which would have slowed me down to an extent, and then I
would have -- I would have used the brakes some before that
curve, but I wouldn't have had to use them a lot because
I was only going from -- you know, down maybe five, 10 miles
an hour from the speed I was doing before the curve.·
But I would have braked beforehand and then leaned into the
[Docket no. 228-1, P. 129, LL. 9-20].
Police Department Officer Da'Varius Jackson (hereinafter
referred to as “Officer Jackson”) responded to
the scene to conduct an investigation. According to Officer
Jackson, the accident occurred around 7:40 a.m. and that the
road was wet and the weather was cloudy. According to Officer
Jackson, he was not sure what had caused B. Stubblefield to
lose control of his vehicle; however, Richmond and Gordy both
allegedly told Officer Jackson that they had observed B.
Stubblefield lose control of his motorcycle in the gravel on
Stubblefield's rate of speed is a contested point in this
lawsuit: SMC says he was driving in excess of the speed
limit; B. Stubblefield says that he was driving the speed
limit. In either event, the speed limit is also a contested
point between the parties.
Stubblefield's father, Dan Stubblefield (hereinafter
referred to as “D. Stubblefield”), received a
call at work telling him about B. Stubblefield's accident
and he went to the emergency room. After he left the
hospital, D. Stubblefield went to the scene of the accident
to retrieve the motorcycle. D. Stubblefield first testified
that he did not remember whether he had used the front brake
on the day of the accident to maneuver the motorcycle onto
his truck, but later qualified that answer to say that he
thought the front brake was “mushy”. When he had
loaded the subject motorcycle onto his truck, D. Stubblefield
took it to his home garage and stored it for B. Stubblefield.
again to the scene on January 18, 2012 to take pictures of
the accident scene. While at the scene, D. Stubblefield did
not see a tire skid in the roadway that led to the concrete
months after the subject accident, D. Stubblefield rode the
subject motorcycle around his neighborhood to test it so that
B. Stubblefield could sell it. During that test ride, D.
Stubblefield said the front brake stopped the subject
motorcycle, but not as quickly as he would have liked.
September 4, 2014, the parties conducted a mutual inspection
of the subject motorcycle. During that inspection, the
parties took measurements and pictures of the subject
motorcycle. The parties also tested the front brake lever to
determine how much pressure the parties needed to apply to
engage the brakes.
after that testing, plaintiffs' attorney, Mike Malouf,
Jr. (hereinafter referred to as “Attorney
Malouf”), consulted with an expert motorcycle rider,
Preston Lind (hereinafter referred to as “P.
Lind”), who rode the subject motorcycle. Attorney
Malouf did not contact counsel for the defendants to inform
them about the testing. Attorney Malouf and P. Lind were the
only persons present during the secret testing. Afterwards,
P. Lind allegedly told his mother, Jennifer Lind (hereinafter
referred to as “J. Lind”) that the subject
motorcycle functioned as expected and that whoever wrecked
the subject motorcycle did not know what he was doing. Later,
in May, 2015, P. Lind died before the defendants became aware
of the secret test ride.
parties set August 5, 2016, as the date for a second round of
joint testing on the subject motorcycle. After the parties
had set the date, defendants learned about the secret test
ride. After searching for P. Lind the parties found out that
P. Lind was deceased. This court subsequently ordered the
deposition of Attorney Malouf.
August 5, 2016 joint test, the parties inspected the subject
motorcycle again and disassembled the FBMC from the subject
motorcycle. After they had done so, the parties' expert
witnesses noticed corrosion and a gel-like substance in the
brake fluid. The parties agree that no one had changed the
brake fluid since the date of the accident.
parties disagree about what the testing showed.
designated Todd Hoover (hereinafter referred to as
“Hoover”) as an expert in accident reconstruction
and rider interaction. The parties expect Hoover to testify
that the following occurred:
1. B. Stubblefield was travelling approximately 48 to 55 mph
when he approached the interstate on-ramp, and that speed was
in excess of the speed limit of 30 mph.
2. B. Stubblefield braked and steered his vehicle
inappropriately under the prevailing road conditions, and
that B. Stubblefield could have stopped with only the rear
brake had B. Stubblefield been travelling the speed limit.
3. B. Stubblefield's front brake was fully functional at
the time of the crash.
4. B. Stubblefield's lack of attention to the road and
due caution contributed to his accident.
5. B. Stubblefield could have slowed his vehicle and
maneuvered into position behind Richmond's vehicle had he
been driving safely.
6. Multiple decisions and driver error contributed to B.
Stubblefield's accident: excessive speed; high risk
behavior by attempting to pass Richmond on her driver's
side; and inappropriate brake application.
7. Brake testing was conducted where plaintiffs' rider
added a ½ block to the front brake lever. This
procedure had no relevance and merely impeded the front brake
lever travel distance.
8. Brake testing showed that both front and rear brakes were