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Pitts v. Stanley Access Technologies, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 23, 2014

SHAWNNA PITTS, Plaintiff,
v.
STANLEY ACCESS TECHNOLOGIES, LLC, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [22]

LAURIE J. MICHELSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Shawnna Pitts was exiting a CVS store in Ferndale, Michigan, when one of the automatic doors closed on her, causing her injury. She reached a settlement with CVS and then planned to sue Defendant Stanley Access Technologies, LLC ("Stanley"), the manufacturer of the automatic doors. In the meantime, she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and did not disclose either the settlement with CVS or her potential claim against Stanley. She was granted a discharge from bankruptcy and filed this lawsuit shortly thereafter. Now before the Court is Stanley's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. 22.) The Court finds that because Pitts omitted her potential claim against Stanley from her bankruptcy schedules, and failed to amend the schedules after indicating in her settlement with CVS her intent to pursue a claim against Stanley, judicial estoppel bars her claim. Therefore, Stanley's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Only Stanley Access Technologies, LLC ("Stanley") provided a statement of facts. Accordingly, the Court assumes that the facts provided by Stanley are not disputed for the purpose of summary judgment but will view them in the light most favorable to Pitts, the nonmoving party.

Stanley is a manufacturer and installer of automatic doors that are commonly used at retail stores. (Dkt. 22-2, Aff. of Davit Sitter at ¶ 4.) Stanley installed the automatic doors at the CVS location at 900 Nine Mile Road in Ferndale, Michigan at some point before August 25, 1999. ( Id. at ¶ 5.) Stanley first serviced the CVS doors on August 25, 1999. ( Id. at ¶ 6; Dkt. 22-3, Maintenance Records at 1.) There are two sets of doors at this location; one set leads to an entry vestibule and the other leads into the store. (Dkt. 22-4, Pitts Dep. Ex. 4, Picture of Doors.) Two doors are marked "Entry" and two are marked "Exit." ( Id. ) Pitts alleges that she was injured when one of the Exit doors closed on her as she was leaving the CVS on July 27, 2010. (Pitts Dep. at 5, 14.)

Pitts first filed suit against CVS in state court. ( See Compl. (indicating that there was "a prior case involving Plaintiff and CVS Caremark in [Oakland County Circuit] Court....").) On April 22, 2013, Pitts and CVS entered into a settlement agreement. (Dkt. 22-5, Settlement Agreement.) The agreement provided that its intent was "not to release or discharge any claim against Stanley Doors [ sic ], the Manufacturer of the automatic doors involved in the aforesaid injuries to Shawnna Pitts, " and also indicated that "Shawnna Pitts intends to bring a claim against Stanley Doors [ sic ] for product liability and negligence and it is expressly understood that this Release does not prohibit or deter such litigation." ( Id. at 1.)

The week before Pitts and CVS entered the Settlement Agreement, on April 15, 2013, Pitts filed a Voluntary Petition for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. (Dkt. 22-6, Pet. at 2.) Schedule B to the Petition required Pitts to disclose any "[o]ther contingent and unliquidated claims of every nature...." ( Id. at 8.) However, Pitts made no mention of her lawsuit against CVS or her potential claims against Stanley and represented that the Petition was "true and correct to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief." ( Id. at 30.) Nor did Pitts mention the potential claim against Stanley or her settlement with CVS in her Amended Petition, filed June 12, 2013.[1] (Dkt. 22-7, Amended Schedules.) Pitts obtained an order discharging her from bankruptcy on July 23, 2013. (Dkt. 17, Discharge Order.)

Three days later, Pitts filed a complaint against Stanley in Oakland County Circuit Court. (Dkt. 1.) She asserted claims of Negligence (Count I), Implied Warranty (Count II), and Express Warranty (Count III). ( See id. ) Stanley removed the case to this Court on August 30, 2013. ( Id. ) On February 17, 2014, the Court entered a stipulated order of "dismissal with prejudice of any and all claims that relate in any way to the maintenance and/or service of the automatic doors at issue in this matter." (Dkt. 12.) Accordingly, the Court considers Pitts' three-count Complaint to be addressed to Stanley's alleged duties to "design, test, manufacture, sell, [and] install" the doors. (See Compl. ¶ 6.) Now before the Court is Stanley's Motion for Summary Judgment as to these remaining claims, filed on July 28, 2014. (Dkt. 22.) The motion is fully briefed (Dkts. 25, 28) and does not require oral argument, see E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper "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). A fact is material only if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence, and any reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citations omitted); Redding v. St. Eward, 241 F.3d 530, 531 (6th Cir. 2001).

The moving party may discharge its initial summary judgment burden by "pointing out to the district court... that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the moving party does so, the party opposing the motion "must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. The Court must determine whether the evidence presents a sufficient factual disagreement to require submission of the challenged claims to a jury, or whether the evidence is so one-sided that the moving party must prevail as a matter of law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252 ("The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.").

III. ANALYSIS

Stanley argues that Pitts' claims fail as a matter of law for three reasons. First, that the six year time limit under Michigan's Statute of Repose has expired and therefore Pitts' claims are barred; second, that Pitts cannot support her claim for express warranty because she has neither an expression of warranty nor privity of contract; and third, that Pitts should be judicially estopped from asserting her claims because she did not disclose them in her bankruptcy petition. The Court agrees that Pitts should be judicially estopped from asserting her claims and therefore does not reach the statute-of-repose or breach-of-warranty issues.

When Pitts filed her bankruptcy petition, she was under a duty to file a "schedule of assets and liabilities." 11 U.S.C. § 521(1). "It is well-settled that a cause of action is an asset that must be scheduled under § 521(1)." Lewis v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 141 F.Appx. 420, 423 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing Eubanks v. CBSK Fin. Grp., Inc., 385 F.3d 894, 897 (6th Cir. 2004); Cusano v. Klein, 264 F.3d 936, 945 (9th Cir. 2001)). "Moreover, the duty of disclosure is a continuing one, and a debtor is required to disclose all potential causes of action." Id. The undisputed ...


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