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Yates v. Hannan

April 19, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leon Jordan United States District Judge


This civil action is before the court for consideration of "Defendant Hyundai Motor America, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment" [doc. 43] and "Defendant Hyundai Motor America, Inc.'s Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment"[doc. 49]. Plaintiff has filed a response to the original motion for summary judgment [doc. 45]. Also before the court is the "Motion for Summary Judgment on Behalf of Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of Tennessee" [doc. 47]. Plaintiff has filed a response to this motion [doc. 51].

The court has determined that oral argument is unnecessary, and the motions are ripe for the court's consideration. For the reasons stated herein, the motions for summary judgment will be granted, and defendants Hyundai Motor America, Inc. ("Hyundai") and Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of Tennessee ("Enterprise")will be dismissed from this case.

I. Background

This case stems from an automobile accident that occurred on November 11, 2004, in Blount County, Tennessee between plaintiff and defendant Jeffrey Hanan ("Hanan").*fn1 Hanan was driving a car he had rented from defendant Enterprise. The rental car was a 2003 Hyundai Elantra. This lawsuit was filed November 9, 2005.

In his answer to the original complaint [doc. 15], Hanan stated the following as an affirmative defense:

For further affirmative defense, Defendant avers that should the evidence indicate that maintenance of the vehicle in question, or design of the same, was faulty, defective or otherwise instrumental in causing the incident, Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of Tennessee . . . was the owner of the vehicle, and its fault or other culpability, if any, should be considered in accordance with the comparative fault principles of the State of Tennessee.

As a result of this assertion, plaintiff amended her complaint in accordance with Tennessee law to bring a direct action against Enterprise for negligence in the maintenance of the rental car and against Hyundai for products liability in its design and manufacture of the rental car.

II. Summary Judgment

Standard Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Canderm Pharmacal, Ltd. v. Elder Pharms., Inc., 862 F.2d 597, 601 (6th Cir. 1988) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). The moving party may discharge its burden by demonstrating that the non-moving party has failed to establish an essential element of that party's case for which he or she bears the ultimate burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party need not support its motion with affidavits or other materials negating the opponent's claim. Id. at 323. Although the moving party has the initial burden, that burden may be discharged by a "showing" to the district court that there is an absence of evidence in support of the non-moving party's case. Id. at 325 (emphasis in original).

After the moving party has carried its initial burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to present specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). "The 'mere possibility' of a factual dispute is not enough." Mitchell v. Toledo Hosp., 964 F.2d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 1992) (citing Gregg v. Allen-Bradley Co., 801 F.2d 859, 863 (6th Cir. 1986)). In order to defeat the motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must present probative evidence that supports its complaint. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986). The non-moving party's evidence is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in that party's favor. Id. at 255. The court determines whether the evidence requires submission to a jury or whether one party must prevail as a matter of law because the issue is so one-sided. Id. at 251-52.

III. Analysis

A. Hyundai's Motions for Summary Judgment

Hyundai argues that plaintiff has not proffered any competent expert testimony in support of her allegations of a design or manufacturing defect. Hyundai also argues in its supplemental motion that the deadline for disclosure of experts has past and plaintiff has not identified any expert witness who will testify that the 2003 Elantra was ...

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