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James Dale Willis, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores

September 26, 2011

JAMES DALE WILLIS, ET AL.
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Campbell

MEMORANDUM

Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 49) filed by Defendants Ameristep Corporation and B & B Outdoors, Inc. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED, and this action is DISMISSED.

FACTS

Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint (Docket No. 30) alleges that Plaintiff James Willis was injured when a tree/deer stand, purchased from Defendant Wal-Mart*fn1 and given to Plaintiff as a gift, broke, causing him to fall. Plaintiff's accident occurred on November 26, 2008. Plaintiffs have asserted causes of action for tortious misrepresentation, defective condition, negligence, breach of warranties, failure to instruct, strict liability, failure to inspect, and failure to warn.

On November 24, 2009, Plaintiffs filed their original Complaint, which asserts causes of action against Defendants Wal-Mart and John Doe*fn2 , Inc., alleging that Defendant Doe was the manufacturer and/or supplier of the subject tree/deer stand. Docket No. 1. On March 15, 2010,

Plaintiffs amended their Complaint to add Defendant Hunter's View, Ltd., alleging that Defendant Hunter's View was the manufacturer and/or supplier of the subject tree/deer stand. Docket No. 11.

On October 27, 2010, Plaintiffs were allowed to file a second Amended Complaint (Docket No. 30), which adds Defendants Ameristep Corporation and B & B Outdoors, Inc. Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants John Doe, Inc., Hunter's View, LTD, Ameristep Corporation, and B & B Outdoors, Inc. were each the manufacturer and/or supplier of the tree/deer stand at issue. Docket No. 30, ¶¶ 4-7.

Plaintiffs have now admitted that Hunter's View did not manufacture the subject tree/deer stand. Docket No. 57-2, ¶ 20. Defendant Wal-Mart's Motion for Summary Judgment was unopposed and was granted on August 26, 2011 (Docket No. 59).

Plaintiffs assert that, on July 21, 2004, Plaintiffs' counsel sent a letter to Defendant Wal-Mart, requesting "information regarding the deer stands your company sold during the years of 2003 and 2004" at certain facilities (Docket No. 57-3) *fn3 and that Wal-Mart failed to provide the name of the manufacturer of the subject product. Plaintiffs also maintain that they sought the identity of the manufacturer again in written discovery to Wal-Mart after this action was filed, and Wal-Mart refused to identify the manufacturer. *fn4 After Plaintiffs discovered the name of Ameristep through the internet, Defendant Wal-Mart provided to Plaintiffs in discovery a list of five companies which were distributors of hunting tree stands to Wal-Mart in the U.S. during 2002-2004. Docket No. 57-5. That list included the name of Ameristep.

Defendants Ameristep and B & B contend that Plaintiffs' action against them is barred by Tennessee's one-year statute of limitations applicable to this action. Defendants argue that Plaintiffs could have, through reasonable diligence, discovered the correct identity of the manufacturer of the product in issue within the statute of limitations period. Docket No. 49.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Pennington v. State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co., 553 F.3d 447, 450 (6th Cir. 2009). The party bringing the summary judgment motion has the initial burden of informing the Court of the basis for its motion and identifying portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute over material facts. Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587, 595 (6th Cir. 2003). The moving party may satisfy this burden by presenting affirmative evidence that negates an element of the non-moving party's claim or by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Id.

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review all the evidence, facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Pennington, 553 F.3d at 450; Van Gorder v. Grand Trunk Western Railroad, Inc., 509 F.3d 265, 268 (6th Cir. 2007). The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position will be insufficient to survive summary judgment; rather, there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably ...


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