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NAVARRO v. FUJI HEAVY INDUS.

April 22, 1996

MARIA NAVARRO, Plaintiff,
v.
FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES, LTD., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NORGLE

 CHARLES R. NORGLE, SR., District Judge:

 Before the court is the motion of Defendant Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. ("Fuji") for summary judgment on Count IV, the sole remaining count of Plaintiff Maria Navarro's ("Navarro") Complaint. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

 I. Background

 Navarro sustained injuries as a passenger in a 1982 Subaru automobile ("car") which was involved in a single-vehicle accident in July 1992. In Count IV, she seeks recovery from Fuji under a theory of negligent product design of the car. Fuji manufactured the car in August 1981. Navarro claims that Fuji negligently designed or manufactured the car's suspension components, in that they were insufficiently corrosion-resistant, thus causing the accident eleven years later.

 Robert Johnston ("Johnston") owned the car and was driving it at the time of the accident. Navarro sat in the front passenger seat of the car, with two children in the back seat. It was cloudy on the day of the accident and had rained the previous day. As to the condition of the roadway pavement, Johnston stated that the state trooper lied when the trooper said in the accident report that the pavement was wet.

 Johnston claims that the accident occurred when the car left the road and rolled-over when travelling 40-45 miles per hour near the bottom of a highway entrance ramp. As Johnston drove on the descending, curved ramp, he felt the rear end of the car slide to the edge of the ramp. Although he tried to correct the movement, the passenger-side wheels slid onto the shoulder and into the gravel. When Johnston tried to return the wheels to the road, "the thing flipped." As this occurred, there is no evidence of a speed change. The car flipped two times and landed on all four tires on the side of a hill, with the passenger-side tires lower than the driver-side tires. Navarro ended up under the car after the accident. Johnston, who remained in the car, attempted to turn the wheel while passers-by attempted to push the car off of Navarro. Johnston neither heard nor observed anything unusual prior to the accident.

 On the day of the accident, the car's odometer read 124,671 miles. Johnston had driven the car about 35,000 miles after obtaining it with approximately 89,000 miles. *fn1" The trunk of the car held cans of oil, car parts, a spare tire and jack, rags, funnels, and painting equipment.

 Johnston never brought the car to a Subaru dealership. He experienced no problems with the car before the accident.

 Fuji issued a recall notice on the car's suspension system because of suspension system corrosion problems in 1990. Johnston says he did not receive the notice.

 II. Discussion

 To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must marshal evidentiary facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Summary judgment shall be rendered where the pleadings, depositions, and admissions of record, together with any affidavits, demonstrate there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate where a party has failed to establish an essential element of its case for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986).

 Fuji asserts that it is entitled to summary judgment because Navarro cannot establish two essential elements of a prima facie negligent product design case. First, Fuji asserts that Navarro cannot demonstrate that her 1992 injuries resulted from a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition of the car which existed when it left Fuji's control in 1981. Second, Fuji states that Navarro cannot ...


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