United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
GLORIA RODGERS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of JOHN RODGERS, Deceased, Plaintiff,
AWB INDUSTRIES, INC., d/b/a AIRCRAFT TOOL SUPPLY COMPANY, a corporation, Defendant.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge.
diversity of citizenship action was brought in 2014 by the
Plaintiff, Gloria Rodgers as Personal Representative of the
Estate of John Rodgers, Deceased, against AWB Industries,
Inc., d/b/a/ as Aircraft Tool Supply Company (hereinafter
“AWB” and/or “Defendant”) and
McFarlane Aviation Inc. (hereinafter
“McFarlane”). After summary judgment motions had been
filed by AWB (doc. 45) and McFarlane (doc. 47), and after
full briefing on those motions (docs. 46, 48-52), the
Plaintiff and McFarlane entered into a pro tanto settlement
agreement. On July 21, 2016, this court entered an Order of
Pro Tanto Dismissal dismissing all of Plaintiff's claims
against McFarlane. (Order, doc. 63). Accordingly, AWB is the
sole remaining defendant in this action. However, the parties
made reference to each other's summary judgment filings,
and the court will also do so in this opinion.
court held a hearing on AWB's motion on August 4, 2016.
Subsequent to that hearing, the parties filed supplemental
briefing. (Docs. 66-73).
action arose from the tragic accidental death of John
Rodgers, a self-employed certified/licensed aircraft
mechanic, who died after being struck by the propeller of an
airplane on which he was working. All of Plaintiff's
claims against Defendant (and against McFarlane, while that
entity was a party), are based on Alabama law. Those claims
are: Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine
(Count I); Breach of Warranty (Count II); and
Negligence/Wantoness (Count III). The prima facie
elements of each claim include harm proximately caused by the
alleged breach. “Proximate cause is an act or
omission that in a natural and continuous sequence, unbroken
by any new independent causes, produces the injury and
without which the injury would not have occurred. An injury
may proximately result from concurring causes; however, it is
still necessary that the plaintiff prove that the
defendant's negligence caused the injury.”
Martin v. Arnold, 643 So.2d 564, 567 (Ala. 1994)
(citations omitted). As explained below, because Plaintiff
has failed to point out evidence from which a reasonable jury
could find that AWB did any act, or failed to do any act,
which proximately caused the airplane propeller to strike
John Rodgers, summary judgment is due to be entered in
AWB's favor as to all of Plaintiff's claims against
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is
proper if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (“[S]ummary
judgment is proper 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 a
judgment as a matter of law.”) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). The party requesting summary
judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing
the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those
portions of the pleadings or filings that it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has
met its burden, Rule 56(c) requires the non-moving party to
go beyond the pleadings in answering the
movant. Id. at 324. By its own affidavits
- or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file - it must designate specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.
underlying substantive law identifies which facts are
material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable
doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are
resolved in favor of the non-movant. Chapman, 229
F.3d at 1023. Only disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248. A dispute is genuine “if the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Id. If the evidence
presented by the non-movant to rebut the moving party's
evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly
probative, summary judgment may still be granted.
Id. at 249.
movant may satisfy its initial evidentiary burden depends on
whether that party bears the burden of proof on the given
legal issues at trial. Fitzpatrick v. City of
Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). If the
movant bears the burden of proof on the given issue or issues
at trial, then it can only meet its burden on summary
judgment by presenting affirmative evidence showing
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact - that is,
facts that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not
controverted at trial. Id. (citation omitted). Once
the moving party makes such an affirmative showing, the
burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce
“significant, probative evidence demonstrating
the existence of a triable issue of fact.” Id.
(citation omitted) (emphasis added).
issues on which the movant does not bear the burden of proof
at trial, it can satisfy its initial burden on summary
judgment in either of two ways. Id. at 1115-16.
First, the movant may simply show that there is an absence of
evidence to support the non-movant's case on the
particular issue at hand. Id. at 1116. In such an
instance, the non-movant must rebut by either (1) showing
that the record in fact contains supporting evidence
sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion, or (2)
proffering evidence sufficient to withstand a directed
verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary
deficiency. Id. at 1116-17. When responding, the
non-movant may no longer rest on mere allegations; instead,
it must set forth evidence of specific facts. Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 358 (1996). The second method a
movant in this position may use to discharge its burden is to
provide affirmative evidence demonstrating that the
non-moving party will be unable to prove its case at trial.
Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1116. When this occurs, the
non-movant must rebut by offering evidence
sufficient to withstand a directed verdict at trial on the
material fact sought to be negated. Id.
case arises from an accident that occurred on July 19, 2012,
in an airplane hangar at the Anniston Regional Airport. John
Rodgers was a certified, licensed aircraft mechanic who
leased space from Anniston Aviation to conduct his business
called Cheaha Aircraft Works. His business was separate from
that of Anniston Aviation. That is, he was self-employed.
Aviation is a privately owned company separate from Anniston
Regional Airport. Anniston Regional Airport is owned by the
city. Anniston Aviation leases the buildings and land from
Anniston Regional Airport to conduct business as Anniston
Aviation, primarily selling fuel to airplanes and renting
hangars for airplane storage and maintenance. Scott Wallace
(“Wallace”) is the manager at Anniston Aviation.
Rodney Findley (“Findley”) was an employee of
Anniston Aviation beginning in 2006 and took care of fueling
up planes, book work and accounting. Both Wallace and Findley
were present at the time of the incident. However, neither
one of them (nor anyone else) saw the incident occur.
Rodgers owned a model 2E-M Differential Pressure Tester
(hereinafter the “Tester”) that was manufactured
by AWB. The Tester allows a mechanic, such as John Rodgers,
to test each cylinder on the engine of an airplane to make
sure the cylinder's compression is within the
manufacturer's limits or specifications. The Tester has a