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Thomas H. Ratner and Rosalynda Ratner v. Norcold

May 10, 2011

THOMAS H. RATNER AND ROSALYNDA RATNER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NORCOLD, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Haynes

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs, Thomas H. Ratner and Rosalynda Ratner, Tennessee citizens, originally filed this action in Rutherford County, Tennessee Circuit Court, against the Defendant, Norcold. Inc., a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Ohio. Plaintiffs assert state law claims arising from a refrigerator installed in their 2001 Fleetwood American Dream recreational vehicle ("RV") that caught fire and burned the Plaintiffs' RV. Plaintiffs allege that the fire destroyed their RV and caused loss of their personal property, personal injuries to Plaintiff Rosalynda Ratner, and emotional distress to both Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs assert claims for negligence in manufacturing the refrigerator and strict liability for the Defendant's defective or unreasonably dangerous product. The Defendant removed the action to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the federal diversity statute, without objection. The parties proceeded with discovery of their claims.

Before the Court is the Defendant's motion for partial summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 20), contending, in sum, that Tennessee's economic loss doctrine precludes any damage claims as to Plaintiffs' RV under tort theories of negligence or product liability. Although Plaintiffs have not filed a response to Defendant's motion for partial summary judgment, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e), without a response the Court cannot award summary judgment "by default," but can only ward summary judgment, if appropriate. See 2010 advisory committee notes to Rule 56(e).

For the reasons set forth, the Court concludes that Defendant's motion for partial summary judgment should be denied.

A. FINDINGS OF FACT*fn1

Plaintiffs' RV is a 2001 Fleetwood American Dream with vehicle identification number 4VZBR23981C037624. (Docket Entry No. 21, Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Facts, at ¶ 1). Defendant sold its Norcold 1200 LRIM refrigerator, serial number 846396, to Fleetwood RV, Inc. Id. at ¶ 3. The 1200 LRIM refrigerator's primary purpose is for incorporation, as a component, into an RV. Id. at ¶ 4. Fleetwood incorporated the Norcold 1200 LRIM refrigerator (serial number 846396) into Plaintiffs' RV, as an original component, at the time Fleetwood manufactured Plaintiffs' RV. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 5-6. When Fleetwood first placed Plaintiffs' RV in the stream of commerce by offering it for sale, the Norcold 1200 LRIM refrigerator (serial number 846396) was a component of the RV. Id. at ¶ 7. On February 10, 2010, Plaintiffs' RV caught fire, destroying Plaintiffs' RV and causing loss of their personal property, personal injuries to Rosalynda Ratner, and emotional distress to both Plaintiffs. (Docket Entry No. 1, Exhibit A, Complaint at ¶¶ 6-7, 14-15).

B. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

Summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Upon a motion for summary judgment, the factual contentions are viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment. Duchon v. Cajon Co., 791 F.2d 43, 46 (6th Cir. 1986). However, where, as here, the non-moving party does not formally oppose the motion for summary judgment, a court "may-- grant summary judgment if the ...


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