United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
(DKT. 19) AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND
COMPLAINT (DKT. 24)
A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Mestek Machinery,
Inc.'s motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 19) and
Plaintiff Robert Adams's motion to amend complaint (Dkt.
24). The issues have been fully briefed and a hearing was
held on September 29, 2017. For the reasons stated below, the
Court denies both motions.
Robert Adams worked for AutoSteel, a company that specializes
in cutting down steel coils for automotive companies, from
1993 until he was injured on the job on October 9, 2014. Pl.
Dep., Ex. A to Def. Mot., at 14 (Dkt. 19-1). Adams's
primary responsibility while working at AutoSteel was to
assist in the operation of the Slear, the machine through
which steel coils would be fed and cut down to the requested
specifications. Id. at 48. Specifically, Adams was
responsible for cleaning the machine's rollers.
Id. In order to clean the rollers, Adams had to
physically enter the machine two to three times per day.
Id. at 83.
to May 2013, AutoSteel used a version of the Slear
(“Slear I”) that Adams described as
“skeleton in form, ” meaning that the operator of
the machine had an unobstructed view of the inside of the
machine. Pl. Resp. at 2. According to Adams, this ensured
that the operator would know not to begin operating the
machine until his coworker had finished cleaning the machine
rolls. However, in May 2013, AutoSteel purchased a new Slear
machine (“Slear II”) from Defendant Mestek
Machinery. The Slear II contained two panel doors: a yellow
door near the machine's control panel and a blue door
near the machine's lower section. Mestek contends that
the only proper way to clean the machine's rollers is to
enter through the yellow doors. Steve Kreska, Mestek's
engineering manager, testified that the yellow door has two
purposes: “gaining access to the interior machine for
maintenance purposes, and . . . to gain access to the
interior of the machine for setting up the . . . slitter
knives.” Kreska Dep, Ex. 1 to Def. Mot., at 39 (Dkt.
19-2). Significantly, Kreska testified that the yellow door
“is meant to be the only egress for an operator to go
in and out of the machine.” Id. at 40. The
yellow door is also equipped with an interlock device, which
shuts off power to the machine when the door is open.
contends that the blue doors “made it eminently easier
to access the roller than entry into the machine through the
yellow door.” Pl. Resp. at 5. Adams contends that the
yellow door leads to an area within the machine that,
pursuant to OSHA standards, would be defined as a
“confined space.” Adams describes the area as
“unlit and cramped.” Id. at 2. Further,
Adams's expert, Robert Burnham, stated that “[t]he
use of this [yellow] door would also require the maintenance
person to pass under the slitter blades when coming from this
direction.” Burnham Report, Ex. 7 to Pl. Resp., at 4
October 9, 2014, Adams and his supervisor, Frank Pearson,
were attending to the Slear II machine. After they returned
from lunch, Pearson turned off the machine so Adams could
enter the machine in order to clean the rollers. Adams Dep.
at 89. Adams entered the machine through the blue doors and
began to clean. Id. Unlike the hundreds of other
times that Adams and Pearson worked on the machine together,
Pearson failed to inform Adams that he was starting the
machine up again. Id. at 90. When the machine began
running, Adams's hand became caught in the rollers.
Id. This ultimately caused the loss of two of
Adam's fingers and the use of his dominant right hand.
brought the instant suit, alleging that Mestek defectively
designed and manufactured the Slear II. Mestek contends that
Adams's entry through the blue door, as opposed to the
yellow door, constituted misuse of its machine. Mestek notes
that, unlike the blue door, the yellow door is equipped with
an interlock device, which prevents the machine from being
operated while the door is open. The blue door contains no
such safeguard. Mestek also argues that the alleged misuse -
entry through the blue door - was not foreseeable. It notes
that the blue door was bolted onto the machine, so that users
could not access the machine through that door. Adams (or
another employee of AutoSteel) unscrewed the bolt sometime
after installation in order to gain access to the machine.
The blue door also contained a sticker which stated as
follows: “Warning, door must be closed while machine is
running.” Adams Dep. at 76. Mestek's safety manual
also required the use of a “lock out, tag out”
device when anyone was operating the Slear II. This device
locks off power to the machine, so that only the key used to
lock the machine can turn it back on. This is meant to
prevent operation of the machine while an individual is
now moves for summary judgment, arguing that Adams misused
the product in a way that was not reasonably foreseeable.
Adams moves to amend to assert additional claims for
negligent production, breach of express and implied
warranties, gross negligence, and failure to warn.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
must 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). “In making this determination, the
court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in
its favor.” U.S. S.E.C. v. Sierra Brokerage Servs.,
Inc., 712 F.3d 321, 327 (6th Cir. 2013). The court must
determine “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.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 251-252 (1986). “[W]hen a properly supported
motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party
‘must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 250
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Furthermore, plaintiff
“cannot rely on conjecture or conclusory
accusations.” Arendale v. City of Memphis, 519
F.3d 587, 605 (6th Cir. 2008).
argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because Adams
misused the Slear II when he entered the machine through the
blue panel door, instead of the yellow door. “In
Michigan, misuse of a product is an absolute defense for a
manufacturer or a seller in a product liability action if the
misuse was not reasonably foreseeable to the
defendant.” Johnson v. Serv. Tool Co., LLC,
No. 2:14-CV-12438, 2015 WL 7760480, at *6 (E.D. Mich. Nov.
30, 2015). This principle is codified in the Michigan Product
Liability Act, which states “[a] manufacturer or seller
is not liable in a product liability action for harm caused
by misuse of a product unless the misuse was reasonably
foreseeable.” Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 600.2947(2).
The statute states that whether there was misuse and, if so,
whether that misuse was reasonably foreseeable, is a legal
question to be decided by the Court. Id. The statute
defines misuse as follows:
“Misuse” means use of a product in a materially
different manner than the product's intended use. Misuse
includes uses inconsistent with the specifications and
standards applicable to the product, uses contrary to a
warning or instruction provided by the manufacturer, seller,
or another person possessing knowledge or training regarding
the use or maintenance of the product, and uses other than
those for which the ...