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Strong v. Passport Auto Logistics, LLC

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

January 10, 2018




         I. Introduction

         This is a negligence case. Plaintiff Andrew Strong (Strong) is suing defendant Passport Auto Logistics, LLC d/b/a Passport Transport (Passport) claiming that it damaged the convertible top of his 2006 Ferrari Spider F430 (Ferrari) while it was in its custody. Strong's claim is grounded in state bailment law.

         Before the Court is Passport's motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Strong has no admissible evidence showing Passport caused the damage. Also before the Court is Passport's motion for sanctions for spoliation of evidence on the grounds that Strong repaired the convertible top before Passport was given the opportunity to inspect it, thus preventing the ability to determine the cause of the damage. For the reasons that follow, Passport's motion for summary judgment will be granted and its motion for sanctions will be denied.

         II. Background

         The material facts as gleaned from the parties' papers follow:[2]

Strong purchased the Ferrari in March of 2012 or 2013.
In August 2015, Strong participated in the Ferrari Club of America International Annual Meet, which was held that year in Monterey, California.
On July 28, 2015, Strong delivered the Ferrari to Cauley Ferrari (Cauley), a dealership located in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan.
Cauley arranged for the Ferrari to be shipped to California by Passport.
Passport loaded the Ferrari on August 3, 2015 at Cauley.
Passport delivered the Ferrari to its warehouse in Salinas, California on August 8, 2015.

         On August 15, 2015 at approximately 5:00p.m., Strong arrived at the warehouse in California and took possession of the Ferrari. He did not observe any defects with the convertible top at the time he picked it up.

         Strong drove the Ferrari to a Hilton Hotel in Monterey, California the evening of August 15, 2015. He parked the Ferrari in an outside parking lot at the Hilton Hotel overnight.

         The next morning at 10:00a.m., Strong attempted to engage the convertible top; it would not open.

         Strong did not witness the loading of the Ferrari onto a Passport trailer for shipping to California. Strong did not see the unloading of the Ferrari from the Passport trailer after it was delivered to the warehouse in California.

         Passport transported the Ferrari back to Cauley in Michigan at some point in late August. On September 10, 2015, an employee from Cauley emailed Strong about the Ferrari's top, stating it was “not sure how this happened” and it “does not occur naturally” and that he was “not sure how the transport driver could have caused this unless something interfered with the tonnea cover during the opening/closing process causing the linkage to bend.” Strong later stored the Ferrari for the winter at Studio 47 in Columbus, Ohio, a warehouse facility which also does repairs. On October 6, 2015, Strong directed Studio 47 to perform several repairs on the Ferrari, including repairs to the convertible top. A document from the owner of Studio 47, undated, regarding the condition of the top and repairs states:

Upon taking delivery of Mr. Strongs 430 it was immediately apparent that the convertible top boot cover was severely misaligned. After further inspection it appeared that it had been pushed toward to rear of the car while it was partially open. This caused the cover to bow up in the center and slightly bend the lift arms. There are areas that shown that it made symmetrical contact on both sides of the leading edge of the cover. We were able to make adjustments so the top is functional but were unable to make the panel gaps correct. It is my estimation that the lift arm mechanisms will need to be replaced and the cover will need to be repaired or replaced. As is takes factory diagnostic equipment to calibrate these tops the work must be done at a recognized Ferrari repair facility.

         Strong later took the Ferrari to Cauley for an inspection. On May 31, 2016, the same Cauley employee which first described the convertible top emailed him about the inspection results, stating in part:

we have inspected your convertible top damage and believe that there must have been an incident where the tonneau boot was trying to open but was blocked by something in it's path of operation and we have found a few areas on the tonneau lid that indicate that it has in fact impacted something causing the mechanisms on the left and right side to the tonneau lid have been bent out of proper position and not allowing the tonneau lid to move open enough to allow the convertible top to come out of the boot.
It also appears that the canvas on the convertible top may have also been damage [sic] as a result of the softop trying to come out when the tonneau lie was “not” in the proper position and had ...

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