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SIKORA v. AFD INDUSTRIES

April 16, 2004.

WILLIAM SIKORA, Plaintiff,
v.
AFD INDUSTRIES, INC. and VERTO STAALKABEL BV, INC., d/b/a UNITED ROPES, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MORAN, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff William Sikora brought this action against defendants arising from injuries he received while cleaning elevator ropes. Defendants filed a series of summary judgment motions and two motions in limine. Plaintiff filed a motion to strike certain portions of defendants' expert report. For the following reasons, defendants' summary judgment motions 3 and 4 are granted and the remaining motions are denied.

BACKGROUND

  William Sikora was employed by Montgomery Elevator Company (Montgomery) as an assistant elevator repairmen. In late 1991, Montgomery installed the elevator system in the new Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Chicago, Illinois, using wire cables that were manufactured by defendant Verto Staalkabel B.V. (Verto) and distributed by AFD Industries, Inc. (AFD). On March 1, 1992, the hotel opened for business and public use of the elevators began.

  Shortly thereafter, a black tar-like substance (commonly referred to as "gunk") began accumulating on the elevator ropes. While gunk is not unusual, the substance on the ropes in the Sheraton had a different consistency, texture and volume than that usually encountered by Montgomery personnel. It is also apparently unusual for gunk to appear so quickly after installation. While there is substantial disagreement as to the usefulness of different cleaning methods, plaintiff claims that the character of gunk on the Sheraton ropes required Montgomery employees to clean the sheaves as well as the ropes. Additionally, he alleges that the only way to do so adequately was to hold a putty knife against the sheave grooves while the system was moving.

  On April 15, 1993, employees of AFD and Verto inspected the elevators and noticed that the diameter of the ropes had decreased by 4 to 5 per cent. Plaintiff claims that defendants should have realized at that time that an extraordinary cleaning method was necessary to address the problem. Employees of Montgomery recommended that the ropes be removed and replaced because they were defective, but defendants declined to do so and Montgomery employees continued to clean the ropes.

  On April 30, 1993, plaintiff was using a putty knife to remove gunk from the sheave when his hand got caught in the ropes. When he was unable to remove his hand from the ropes, his right hand and arm were amputated and his left hand was seriously damaged.

  DISCUSSION

 Summary Judgment Motions

  The court's function in ruling on a motion for summary judgment is merely to determine if there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Only if the evidence on file shows that no such issue exists, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, will the court grant the motion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Bennett v. Roberts, 295 F.3d 687, 694 (7th Cir. 2002).

  Plaintiffs complaint consists of four counts. In count I, he alleges strict liability against Verto as the manufacturer of the ropes. In count II, he claims that defendants' employees negligently performed the April 14, 1993, inspection. Counts III and IV contain allegations of breach of implied warranty for an ordinary purpose, and breach of implied warranty for a particular purpose.

 Verto's Summary Judgment Motion No. 1

  Defendant Verto first argues that it did not owe a duty to the plaintiff because he was injured while trying to repair the very condition that he was hired to repair. Verto cites to Shanks v. Insurance Co. of North America. 211 So.2d 729 (La. Ct. App. 2nd Cir. 1968) for the proposition that, particularly where the product manufactured by the defendant was the component of a larger system, a manufacturer owes no duty in this situation.

  In Illinois, the general rule is that a manufacturer of a product owes a duty in strict liability to any reasonably foreseeable plaintiff. Court v. Grzelinski, 379 N.E.2d 281, 283 (Ill. 1978). This may include parties who are outside the purchasing line of the product, such as a repairman. Id; see also Skarski v. Ace-Chicago Great Dane Corp., 485 N.E, 2d 1312, 1317 (Ill.App. 1st Dist 1985). A majority of out-of-state authorities, including many of the cases relied upon by ...


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