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Williams v. Rep Corporation

August 21, 2002

DANIEL M. WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
REP CORPORATION AND REP FRANCE, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 97 C 750--John D. Tinder, Judge.

Before Bauer, Coffey and Ripple, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ripple, Circuit Judge

ARGUED MAY 21, 2002

Daniel Williams severely injured his hand in a machine that he was operating for his employer. He brought this products liability action against the machine's manufacturer, REP International, and the manufacturer's United States distributor, REP Corporation. The district court entered summary judgment for REP Corporation because it did not sell, lease or otherwise put into the stream of commerce the machine that injured Mr. Williams, as required for liability under Indiana law. The district court also dismissed Mr. Williams' claim against REP International for want of personal jurisdiction. For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Mr. Williams injured his hand in July 1995 while operating a V47 rubber injection molding machine for his employer, ENBI of Shelbyville, Indiana ("ENBI/Indiana"). The machine was manufactured by REP International of France *fn1 for ENBI of Holland ("ENBI/Holland"). *fn2 Before the machine was shipped to ENBI/Holland, REP International altered the machine, which had been set to comply with European safety requirements, to comply with the requirements for machines used in the United States. See R.54 at 17-20 & Ex.19. The machine was shipped to ENBI/Holland on June 23, 1995. ENBI/Holland then shipped the machine to ENBI/Indiana. On July 12, 1995, REP International sent REP Corporation of Illinois ("REP Corp."), REP's exclusive United States distributor, a message asking REP Corp. to install the machine for ENBI. REP Corp. completed the installation on July 14, 1995. Mr. Williams' hand was injured while using the machine on July 31, 1995.

B. District Court Proceedings

Mr. Williams brought a products liability action in an Indiana state court against REP Corp. REP Corp. removed the case to federal court and sought summary judgment. The district court granted the motion, reasoning that REP Corp. could not be liable under the Indiana products liability statute because it had not sold the machine that injured Mr. Williams.

The district court previously had allowed Mr. Williams to amend his complaint to include a claim against "REP France" because the evidence produced in discovery had shown such an entity to be the manufacturer of the machine that had injured Mr. Williams. After the court granted summary judgment in favor of REP Corporation, the court issued a summons for "REP France" to appear and to file an answer to Mr. Williams' amended complaint. The counsel who had represented REP Corp. thereafter appeared on behalf of the defendant named as "REP France." The same counsel then informed the district court that no entity named "REP France" existed and that REP International (of France) manufactured the machine at issue. Counsel then filed a motion to modify the caption in the case to identify REP International as the defendant. In the same motion, REP International moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. Mr. Williams did not oppose REP International's motion to modify the caption. The district court therefore directed the clerk of the court to modify the caption to show REP International as the defendant. The court also granted REP International's motion to dismiss for want of personal jurisdiction. It held that Indiana's long-arm statute, Trial Rule 4.4, did not permit the exercise of jurisdiction over REP International and that, even if it did, the exercise of jurisdiction would violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

II. DISCUSSION

A. REP Corp.

At the time of Mr. Williams' injury and on the date that he filed this action in state court, the Indiana products liability statute imposed liability for injury caused by a defective product on "a person who sells, leases, or otherwise puts into the stream of commerce" the defective product. Ind. Code Ann. § 33-1-1.5-3(a) (West 1996). *fn3 The district court entered summary judgment for REP Corp. because Mr. Williams produced no evidence that REP Corp. sold, leased or otherwise put into the stream of commerce the allegedly defective machine. We review de novo the district court's grant of summary judgment. See Remer v. Burlington Area School Dist., 286 F.3d 1007, 1010 (7th Cir. 2002). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with 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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

Section 3 of the Indiana products liability act (the Act) sets out the circumstances under which a person may be subject to strict liability for harm caused by a defective ...


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