United States District Court, D. Minnesota
D. Stofferahn, Gregory N. Bittle, and Keith J. Kerfeld,
Tewksbury & Kerfeld, P.A., for Plaintiff.
A. Eidsness and Russell S. Ponessa, Hinshaw & Culbertson
LLP, for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RICHARD NELSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is about a wheel manufactured by Defendant Douglas
Technologies Group (“DWT”), and whether an
alleged defect in that wheel caused Plaintiff Anthony
Markel's all-terrain vehicle (“ATV”) to crash
during an ATV race on June 16, 2013. DWT now moves for
summary judgment as to all of the claims Markel has asserted
against it. In so doing, DWT primarily argues that
Markel's liability expert, Mr. Christopher Brand, failed
to provide the requisite expert opinions needed to advance a
products liability claim past summary judgment. In response,
Markel contends that Mr. Brand's expert testimony
sufficiently raises disputes of material fact, and that, to
the extent Mr. Brand's analysis is lacking, this case
does not require expert opinion. The parties also dispute
whether Markel's related “failure to warn”
claims should survive summary judgment.
the Court agrees with DWT in all relevant respects, it will
grant its summary judgment motion in full.
Anthony Markel (hereinafter “Markel”) lives in
Harris, Minnesota (see Compl. [Doc. No. 1] ¶
1), and was, at the time of this accident, an amateur ATV
racer who had raced in “100 to 200 races.”
(See Markel Dep. [Doc. No. 42] at 174.)
Douglas Technologies Group, Inc., d/b/a Douglas Wheel
Technologies (hereinafter “DWT”), is a California
Corporation with its principal place of business in Vista,
California. (See Compl. ¶ 2; An. [Doc. No. 8]
¶ 2.) DWT has been manufacturing ATV wheels since the
early 1990s. (See Leibelt Dep. [Doc. No. 45-2] at
21.) One of DWT's products is an aluminum “Sport
Blue Label” wheel, which is apparently meant for
“recreational” ATV use. (See id. at
point in 2010, Markel purchased an eight-year-old Sport Blue
Label wheel for his “2004 Honda TRX ATV.”
(See Brand Supp. Ex. Rep. [Doc. No. 42] at 2 (when
Markel purchased the wheel); ESI Ex. Rep. [Doc. No. 42] at
7-8 (age of wheel); id. at 5 (brand of ATV).)
Although new Blue Label wheels come with a separate
“recommended usage chart” stating that the wheels
are not meant for racing (see Brand Ex. Rep. [Doc.
No. 42] at 6-7; ESI Ex. Rep. at 6; see also 2009 DWT
Catalogue [Doc. No. 45-5] (stating that “Blue
Label” wheels are meant for “recreation, ”
in comparison to the “Red Label”
“racing” wheels)), Markel claims not to have seen
that warning, or “recommended usage chart, ” when
he purchased his Blue Label wheel. (See ESI Ex. Rep.
event, three years (and an unclear number of races) later, on
June 16, 2013, the “rim” of the at-issue wheel
came undone while Markel was in the final lap of an ATV race
in Ogilvie, Minnesota. (See Brand Ex. Rep. at 2; ESI
Ex. Rep. at 2-3.) Markel's ATV then rolled over and
crashed, and Markel was flung from his vehicle into a nearby
wall. (Id.) This collision severely injured Markel.
(Id.; see also Pl.'s Statement of the
Case [Doc. No. 12] at 2 (listing Markel's various medical
Litigation and Procedural History
30, 2017, Markel filed the present complaint, asserting
claims of (1) products liability, (2) failure to warn, (3)
breach of warranty, (4) negligence, and (5) post-sale duty to
warn, all related to DWT's manufacture and sale of the
broken Sport Blue Label wheel rim. DWT answered a little less
than a month later, and asserted numerous affirmative
defenses. (See Answer [Doc. No. 8].) In June 2018,
after Markel's counsel inadvertently missed the deadline
to file expert witness disclosures, Markel moved for, and
received, a four-month extension of the discovery period.
(See Mag. Judge's Aug. 10, 2018 Order [Doc. No.
34].) At the end of the discovery period, on December 14,
2018, DWT filed its motion for summary judgment. The parties
filed briefs in support of and in opposition to the motion,
and the Court heard oral argument on January 25, 2019.
(See Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Summ. J. [Doc. No.
39] (“DWT Br.”); Pl.'s Br. in Opp. to Summ.
J. [Doc. No. 41] (“Markel Br.”); Def.'s Reply
Br. [Doc. No. 47] (“DWT Reply Br.”).)
judgment is proper if there are no disputed issues of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In
considering a summary judgment motion, the Court must
“view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party.” Grinell Mut. Reinsurance Co. v.
Schwieger, 685 F.3d 697 (8th Cir. 2012). However, a
party opposing summary judgment “‘must set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial,' and ‘must present affirmative evidence in
order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary
judgment.'” Ingrassia v. Schafer, 825 F.3d
891, 896 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256-57).
The Products Liability Claim
Markel's “products liability, ” “breach
of warranty, ” and “negligence” claims are
best classified as a single “products liability claim,
” the Court will address the three claims as such.
See Westbrock v. Marshalltown Mfg. Co., 473 N.W.2d
352, 356 (Minn.Ct.App. 1991) (noting that, under Minnesota
law, “strict liability, negligence, and implied
warranty remedies” have all “merged”
“into a single products liability theory”);
accord In re Shigellosis Litig., 647 N.W.2d 1, 11
(Minn.Ct.App. 2002); Hammes v. Yamaha Motor Corp.,
No. 03-cv-6456 (MJD/JSM), 2006 WL 1195907, at *13 (D. Minn.
May 4, 2006).