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Bice v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

November 22, 2016

KAREN YVONNE BICE, as Conservator of GREGORY CRABTREE, Plaintiff,
v.
COOPER TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          ALETA A. TRAUGER United States District Judge

         Pending before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by defendant Cooper Tire & Rubber Company (“Cooper”) (Docket No. 41), to which the plaintiff has filed a Response in opposition (Docket No. 57), and Cooper has filed a Reply (Docket No. 67.) For the foregoing reasons, the motion will be granted and all claims will be dismissed with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 15, 2015, plaintiff Karen Yvonne Bice filed this personal injury action as conservator for her incapacitated son, Gregory Crabtree, in the Circuit Court for Davidson County, Tennessee, naming Cooper and Tennessee Tire & Auto Clinic (“Tennessee Tire”) as defendants. (Docket No. 1-1.) On August 7, 2015, the action was removed to federal court on grounds of diversity jurisdiction. (Docket No. 1.) The Complaint alleges that, in 2014, Mr. Crabtree purchased from Tennessee Tire a Sigma Supreme TR tire, DOT number U95UTWL1207, manufactured by Cooper (the “Tire”) and that Tennessee Tire placed the Tire on the front driver's side of Mr. Crabtree's truck. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-9.) According to the Complaint, on July 5, 2014, Mr. Crabtree was driving his truck on Interstate 65 when the tread of the Tire separated from the remainder of the Tire. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Mr. Crabtree was able to maintain control of his truck and pull onto the shoulder of the highway but he subsequently walked onto the highway to remove the tread - which he believed posed a danger to other drivers - and was struck by a motorcycle. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-15.) As a result of the incident, the driver of the motorcycle died and Mr. Crabtree sustained significant injuries, including multiple fractures of his face, jaw, and skull; a traumatic brain injury that has permanently impacted his ability to function independently; and permanent physical injuries that limit his mobility, causing Mr. Crabtree to be unable to work and to endure pain, suffering, embarrassment, and loss of life's pleasures. (Id. at ¶¶ 15, 22-23.) The Complaint brings claims for negligence and strict liability against Cooper and Tennessee Tire, and a claim for breach of implied warranty against Cooper, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-60.)

         On September 23, 2015, the court issued an order granting summary judgment on behalf of Tennessee Tire as to all claims against it, based on the undisputed fact that Tennessee Tire did not sell the Tire to Mr. Crabtree. (Docket No. 17.)

         On February 23, 2016, Ms. Bice filed an Amended Complaint that omitted the claims and specific allegations involving Tennessee Tire but was otherwise not substantively different from the initial Complaint. (Docket No. 28.)

         On October 7, 2016, Cooper filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to all claims against it, along with a Memorandum in support and a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts. (Docket Nos. 41-43.) On the same day, Cooper also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to Ms. Bice's request for punitive damages, along with a Memorandum in support and additional supporting documents. (Docket Nos. 45-48.)

         On November 4, 2016, Ms. Bice filed a Response in opposition to Cooper's Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to all legal claims, along with redacted and un-redacted versions of a Memorandum in support, and a Response to Cooper's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts. (Docket Nos. 55-60.)

         According to Ms. Bice's Response to Cooper's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, the following pertinent facts are undisputed:

• At the time of the incident giving rise to this action, Mr. Crabtree's pickup truck was equipped with the Tire on its driver's side front axle. The Tire was manufactured by Cooper in March of 2007. (Docket No. 59 at ¶¶ 2-3.)
• On July 5, 2014, as Mr. Crabtree was driving his pickup truck northbound on Interstate 65 in Davidson County, Tennessee, a portion of the tread and top belt of the Tire detached from the remainder of the Tire. (Id. at 9.)
• Mr. Crabtree maintained control of his pickup truck, drove it onto the right shoulder of Interstate 65, and parked it there next to the guardrail and completely outside of the traffic lanes, then activated his emergency lights and exited the pickup truck. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.)
• Mr. Crabtree then walked southward along the shoulder of the Interstate for approximately 229 feet, along a stretch of Interstate that has five northbound traffic lanes with a speed limit of 70 miles per hour and where the two rightmost traffic lanes (adjacent to the shoulder) were designated as the appropriate lanes for vehicles exiting the Interstate at the next exit onto Vietnam Veterans Parkway. Mr. Crabtree then intentionally walked across the two rightmost lanes of the Interstate, where he was struck by a motorcycle driven by Eric Knight, as Mr. Knight moved from the far left lanes into the right-hand lanes of the Interstate in preparation for exiting. (Id. at ¶¶ 12, 15, 17, 19-20, 26-31.)
• As a result of the injuries Mr. Crabtree sustained in the collision, he has no memory of the incident and is unable to explain why he entered the active lanes of the ...

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