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Specht v. Kubota Tractor Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division

June 6, 2017

PAUL SPECHT, as adminstrator of the estate of Daniel Specht, Plaintiff,
v.
KUBOTA TRACTOR CORPORATION, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LINDA R. READE JUDGE.

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. INTRODUCTION ....................................... 2

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY ................................ 2

         III. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION ......................... 2

         IV. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD ......................... 3

         V. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND ....................... 4

         A. Daniel Specht's Farming Operation ....................... 4

         B. Characteristics of Kubota Tractor and Loader ................ 5

         C. Equipment Malfunction and Accident ..................... 7

         D. Condition of Tractor and Loader ........................ 8

         VI. ANALYSIS ........................................... 9

         A. Expert Opinions .................................. 10

         B. Design Defect .................................... 14

         1. Reasonable alternative design and reduction of foreseeable harm .....................................15

         2. Causation ..................................19

         C. Inadequate Instructions and Warnings ....................22

         VII. CONCLUSION ....................................... 26

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The matter before the court is Defendants Kubota Tractor Corporation, Kubota Corporation, Kubota Manufacturing of America Corporation and Kubota Industrial Equipment Corporation's (collectively, “Kubota”) Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”) (docket no. 19).

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 2, 2015, Plaintiff Paul Specht filed a Petition (docket no. 3) in the Iowa District Court for Allamakee County, alleging eight claims against Kubota and two claims against Defendant Gary's Tractor & Implement, Inc. Specht alleges: (1) strict liability design defect against Kubota; (2) negligent design against Kubota; (3) failure to warn against Kubota; (4) post-sale failure to warn against Kubota; (5) breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose against Kubota and Gary's Transport & Implement, Inc.; (6) breach of express warranty against Kubota and Gary's Transport & Implement, Inc.; (7) breach of implied warranty of merchantability against Kubota; and (8) conduct warranting punitive damages against Kubota. On October 19, 2015, Kubota filed an Answer (docket no. 4). On March 24, 2016, Specht dismissed his claims against Gary's Transport & Implement, Inc. with prejudice. See Dismissal (docket no. 5). On April 15, 2016, Kubota removed the case, bringing it before the court. See Notice of Removal (docket no. 2). On March 28, 2017, Kubota filed the Motion. On April 25, 2017, Specht filed a Resistance (docket no. 26). On May 8, 2017, Kubota filed a Reply (docket no. 3). Kubota requests oral argument, but the court finds oral argument to be unnecessary. The matter is fully submitted and ready for decision.

         III. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

         Prior to his death, Daniel Specht (“Daniel”) was a citizen and resident of Iowa. Notice of Removal ¶ 10. Accordingly, Specht is a citizen and resident of Iowa. Id. ¶ 11; see also 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(2) (“[T]he legal representative of the estate of a decedent shall be deemed to be a citizen only of the same State as the decedent . . . .”). Kubota Tractor Corporation is a California corporation with its principal place of business in California. Id. ¶ 12. Kubota Corporation is a Japanese corporation with its principal place of business in Osaka, Japan. Id. ¶ 13. Kubota Manufacturing of America Corporation and Kubota Industrial Equipment Corporation are Georgia corporations with their principal places of business in Georgia. Id. ¶¶ 14-15.

         The court has original jurisdiction over the claims in the Petition because complete diversity exists between Specht and the Kubota defendants and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), (2) (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different States [or] citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state . . . .”).

         IV. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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 dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case.” Amini v. City of Minneapolis, 643 F.3d 1068, 1074 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 252 (1986)).

         “The movant ‘bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, ' and must identify ‘those portions of the record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'” Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (alterations omitted) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). “If the movant does so, the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324).

         The court must view the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and afford it all reasonable inferences. See Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Sch., 655 F.3d 811, 819 (8th Cir. 2011). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial, ” and summary judgment is appropriate. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). “A complete failure by the non-moving party ‘to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case necessarily renders ...


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