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From Products Liability Law Daily, August 7, 2014

Locksmith company can’t pin liability for safe door injury on retailer

By John W. Scanlan, J.D.

The seller of hinge pins used in the repair of a safe door was not liable to a grocery store employee who was injured a month later when the door fell on her feet, a Louisiana Court of Appeal held in reversing a trial court and granting summary judgment to the seller. There was insufficient evidence to hold the seller responsible, and it also was immune under state law as a non-manufacturing seller of the pins in good faith (Dupree v. Lock Doc of Louisiana, Inc., August 6, 2014, Stewart, J.).

Background. Christy Dupree was an employee of a Super 1 Foods grocery store in Shreveport, Louisiana. She was injured when the door of a Diebold safe fell off its hinges onto her feet. The door weighed over 400 pounds. She needed multiple surgeries and is still receiving medical treatment for pain. The safe door had been repaired a month earlier by Benjamin Moore, an employee of Lock Doc of Louisiana, who replaced the hinge pins on the safe door because the door was reportedly dragging on the floor, making it difficult for employees to open it.

Dupree brought suit against Lock Doc, later adding J & J Industrial Supply & Fasteners, L.L.C., as a defendant. Moore had testified in his deposition that he had purchased replacement pins for the hinges from J & J, although he did not keep the receipt because they likely cost only a couple of dollars. J & J moved for summary judgment, arguing that it could not be held liable under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) as a non-manufacturing seller who had no reason to believe the pins were defective; that because Lock Doc lost the pins at issue after the accident, there was no evidence that they were defective; and that there was no evidence that Moore had actually purchased the pins from it. Lock Doc opposed the motion, arguing that the cause of the accident had not yet been determined and that only J & J could supply information on the pins at issue; the lack of documentation of Moore’s purchase of the pins combined with his testimony that he bought them at J & J created an issue of material fact about where he bought the pins; and that there was a material issue on whether J & J sold Moore the wrong pins for the safe door. The trial court ruled against J & J, finding that there were genuine issues of material fact that it did not specify. J & J appealed.

Sufficiency of the evidence. There was insufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact that would allow the claims against J & J to go to trial. No evidence supported or refuted the locksmith’s claim he purchased the replacement pins from J & J. Testimony by a J & J employee indicated that the company had made some cash sales of pins around the time of the repair, but nothing tied any specific sale to Lock Doc or the locksmith. The locksmith’s testimony alone did not create a material issue of fact on this issue.

Further, even if it were assumed that he purchased the pins there, there was no genuine issue as to whether J & J sold him the wrong type of pins for the safe door. J & J did not hold itself out as a supplier of parts for safes. The J & J employee testified that they stocked four types of pins, but that he did not know anything about safes and whether any of those four pins could be used to repair them. The grocery store did not hire J & J to repair the safe or supply parts. The locksmith, who was in charge of repairing the safe, had the duty of ensuring that the right pins were used for the repair, but he did not look up the model for the safe or the hinges and did not ask anyone at J & J to do so. J & J simply sold the locksmith the pins that he said matched the pins from the safe. Furthermore, the testimony of Lock Doc’s own employee that the pins exactly matched the existing pins refuted Lock Doc’s claim that J & J sold its locksmith the wrong pins. Therefore, the court found that Lock Doc failed to show that it would be able to meet its burden at trial.

Non-manufacturing seller. J & J was not liable for the injury because it was considered a non-manufacturing seller in good faith under the LPLA. J & J sells pins and does not manufacture them. There was no evidence that any pins it sold to the locksmith were defective, and J & J had no duty to inspect the pins for defects before selling them. Even if the pins were defective, they were not available for inspection because Lock Doc apparently lost them. The locksmith testified that he did not believe that the pins were defective because they would have sheared instantly rather than failing a month later. Instead, he testified that the grocery store employees were using too much force to open and close the door after it was repaired.

The case number is 49,068-CW.

Attorneys: Michael J. Remondet, Jr. (Jeansonne & Remondet, LLC) for J&J Industrial Supply & Fasteners. Steven D. Carby (Law Offices of Steven D. Carby) for Christy Dupree. Marshall R. Pearce (Casten & Pearce APLC) for Lock Doc of Louisiana., Inc.

Companies: J&J Industrial Supply & Fasteners; Lock Doc of Louisiana., Inc.

MainStory: TopStory DesignManufacturingNews IndustrialCommercialEquipNews LouisianaNews

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