United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
LISA C. CONE, attorney in fact and next friend of TIMOTHY H.L. FRAZIER, and TIMOTHY H.L. FRAZIER, individually, Plaintiffs,
HANKOOK TIRE COMPANY, LTD., AND HANKOOK TIRE AMERICA CORPORATION, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT HANKOOK AMERICA'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
DANIEL BREEN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the June 6, 2016, motion for summary judgment
filed by one of the Defendants, Hankook Tire America
Corporation (“Hankook America”), pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (D.E. 197.) Plaintiffs,
Lisa C. Cone and Timothy H.L. Frazier, responded in
opposition, (D.E. 217), and Defendant filed a reply, (D.E.
229), making this matter ripe for disposition.
case is a product liability action arising out of an
automobile accident. (D.E. 1.) Plaintiffs allege that
Defendants manufactured and distributed a tire that suffered
a tread separation, causing Frazier to lose control of a
concrete mixer truck he was driving. (Id.) According
to the complaint, the truck overturned, and he suffered
serious injuries as a result. (Id.) Plaintiffs
contend that the tire was not properly designed, constructed,
manufactured, tested, or inspected, and they also advance
claims based on a failure to warn and for breach of warranty.
product at the center of this dispute is a Hankook model
AH10, medium truck tire that was designed and manufactured in
Hankook Korea's Daejeon, Korea plant in December 2005.
(D.E. 197-5 at PageID 2406.) According to Hankook America, it
distributed the tire but had no role in the product's
design or manufacture. (Id.) Plaintiffs dispute this
latter point, stating that “Hankook America brings in
tires in order to sell in America and markets the tires for
sale. [Defendant] also evaluates the satisfaction rate of the
American clients and monitors the buyer's expectation
issues and [is] supposed to keep a record of the customer
complaints and relay this information to Hankook Tire
Company, LTD.” (D.E. 218 at PageID 6169.) In the instant
motion, Hankook America contends that it is entitled to
summary judgment because it was the distributor and not the
manufacturer of the subject tire and, therefore, is protected
from liability pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section
STANDARD OF REVIEW
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in pertinent
part that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if
the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The court must view
all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party and draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving
party's favor. Ondo v. City of Cleveland, 795
F.3d 597, 603 (6th Cir. 2015). “There is a genuine
issue of material fact only if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Id. (citing Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)) (internal
quotation marks omitted). “The test is whether the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id.
(citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52) (internal
quotation marks omitted). The moving party must initially
show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Id. (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). It is then incumbent upon the
nonmoving party to “present significant probative
evidence to do more than show that there is some metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts to defeat the motion.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
cases based upon diversity, federal courts apply the law of
the state in which the action is brought. Erie R.R. Co.
v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938); see Richardson
v. GlaxoSmithKline, 412 F.Supp.2d 863, 868 (W.D. Tenn.
2006). Plaintiffs' claims against both Defendants fall
under the purview of the Tennessee Products Liability Act
(“TPLA” or “Act”), codified at
Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-28-101 to -108. The TPLA
defines a product liability claim as any action:
brought for or on account of personal injury, death or
property damage caused by or resulting from the manufacture,
construction, design, formula, preparation, assembly,
testing, service, warning, instruction, marketing, packaging
or labeling of any product. “Product liability
action” includes, but is not limited to, all actions
based upon the following theories: strict liability in tort;
negligence; breach of warranty, express or implied; breach of
or failure to discharge a duty to warn or instruct, whether
negligent, or innocent; misrepresentation, concealment, or
nondisclosure, whether negligent, or innocent; or under any
other substantive legal theory in tort or contract
Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-102(6). Under the Act, a
products liability action must be maintained against
the manufacturer, not against a non-manufacturer seller,
unless one of the following statutory exceptions is met:
(1) The seller exercised substantial control over that aspect
of the design, testing, manufacture, packaging or labeling of
the product that caused the alleged harm for which recovery
of damages is sought;
(2) [The seller] [a]ltered or modified the product, and the
alteration or modification was a substantial factor in
causing the harm for ...