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Miller v. Generac Power Systems, Inc.

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

July 11, 2017

GLENN RONNIE MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAC POWER SYSTEMS, INC. and DOOSAN INFRACORE CO. LTD., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT DOOSAN INFRACORE CO. LTD.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OF TIME-BARRED CLAIMS (DOC. 48)

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a products liability action arising out of a generator that backfired while plaintiff Glenn Miller was attempting to repair it, resulting in serious injury. Plaintiff alleges that a faulty service manual is to blame. Now before the court is defendant Doosan Infracore Co. Ltd.'s (“Doosan Korea”) motion to dismiss the claims as time-barred and for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because Doosan Korea seeks to rely on matters outside the pleadings to establish its statute of limitations defense, the court converted the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment and allowed plaintiff to file matters outside the pleadings for the court's review (Doc. 55). Despite this opportunity, plaintiff has failed to do so. For the reasons set forth below, the court shall grant Doosan Korea's motion for summary judgment of time-barred claims, and shall not reach the personal jurisdiction issue.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Glenn Ronnie Miller is a Michigan resident who owns and operates a company that sells, rents, and services generators. (Doc. 48 at 4). Defendant Doosan Korea is a Korean company with its principle place of business in Seoul, Republic of Korea. (Doc. 48 at 4). Doosan Korea negotiates and sells engines to Generac Power Systems Inc. in Korea and Wisconsin. (Doc. 48 at 5). Generac generators are produced using engines manufactured by Doosan Korea.

         On October 12, 2012, plaintiff was servicing a generator in Southfield, Michigan (Doc. 48 at 4). Defendant Doosan Korea designed and manufactured the engine and service manuals for the subject generator. (Doc. 53 at 3). Plaintiff alleges that improper maintenance because of a defective service manual caused the engine to kickback during service. Id. The engine allegedly backfired, causing the plaintiff to be knocked off the top of the generator to the ground below sustaining serious injury. (Doc. 48 at 4).

         Plaintiff originally sued Generac and Doosan Infracore America Corporation (“DIA”). Plaintiff alleged that DIA manufactured the generator in question and was responsible for the service manual. However, on October 20, 2016, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of DIA because it was discovered that DIA was not the manufacturer or the author of the service manual. Generac then filed a motion to file a Notice of Non-Party Fault against Doosan Korea and plaintiff filed a motion to amend to name Doosan Korea as a defendant. (Doc. 35 and 36). The court granted the unopposed motions but noted that Doosan Korea retained the right to object to the timing of the Notice which was filed well outside the 91-day limitations period since the filing of defendant's first responsive pleading as required pursuant to MCR 2.112(K)(3)(c).

         Because the Notice was filed outside the 91-day limitations period, the Notice was only timely if Doosan Korea's identify could not have been discovered sooner with reasonable diligence and allowing the late filed Notice would not prejudice the opposing party. In its pending motion, Doosan Korea has come forward with proofs demonstrating that Generac and plaintiff knew of its identity at least four months before the Notice of Non-Party Fault was filed. Plaintiff has not submitted any proofs to the contrary despite the opportunity to do so.

         II. Analysis

         A. Converting Motion to Dismiss Into Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Defendant originally filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) based on a statute of limitations defense. Generally, the statute of limitations defense is a matter for summary judgment, but where the “allegations in the complaint affirmatively show that the claim is time-barred, ” dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be appropriate. Cataldo v. U.S. Steel Corp., 676 F.3d 542, 547 (6th Cir. 2012). In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court is limited to the allegations of the complaint and may not resort to matters outside the pleadings. Rondigo, L.L.C. v. Twp. of Richmond, 641 F.3d 673, 680 (6th Cir. 2011). Here, Doosan Korea seeks to rely on matters outside the pleadings to establish that plaintiff's claims are time-barred. Accordingly, the court converted Doosan Korea's motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations defense into one for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d). Thus, the court issued an order on June 14, 2017 allowing the parties to submit matters outside the pleadings for the court to review. Defendant has submitted supplemental documents in support of its statute of limitations defense (Doc. 56). Plaintiff and defendant Generac have not submitted any additional documents despite the opportunity to do so.

         The court's consideration of the statute of limitations defense is considered under the standard of a motion for summary judgment. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) empowers the court to render summary judgment "forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Redding v. St. Eward, 241 F.3d 530, 532 (6th Cir. 2001). The Supreme Court has affirmed the court's use of summary judgment as an integral part of the fair and efficient administration of justice. The procedure is not a disfavored procedural shortcut. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); see also Cox v. Ky. DOT, 53 F.3d 146, 149 (6th Cir. 1995).

         B. Standard of Law

         The standard for determining whether summary judgment is appropriate 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.'" Amway Distribs. Benefits Ass'n v. Northfield Ins. Co., 323 F.3d 386, 390 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)). The evidence and all reasonable inferences must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Redding, 241 F.3d at 532 (6th Cir. 2001). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original); see also Nat'l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis, Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001).

         If the movant establishes by use of the material specified in Rule 56(c) that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the opposing party must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 270 (1968); see also McLean v. 988011 Ont., Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). Mere allegations or denials in the non-movant's pleadings will not meet this burden, nor will a mere scintilla of evidence supporting the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 252. Rather, there must ...


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