The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID HERNDON, District Judge
I. Introduction and Background
Pending before the Court is Defendant General Motors
Corporation's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 33). General
Motors argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on
Plaintiffs' claims against it as General Motors is not liable to
Plaintiffs on any of the theories of recovery asserted in the
complaint. Plaintiffs oppose the motion (Doc. 43). Based on the
pleadings, the applicable case law and the following, the Court
grants the motion for summary judgment.
On October 10, 2004, Plaintiffs Robert and Mary Polson filed a
sevencount complaint in the Madison County, Illinois Circuit
Court against Cottrell, Inc. ("Cottrell"), Jack Cooper Transport Company ("Jack Cooper") and
General Motors Corporation ("General Motors") (Doc. 2). The
Polsons' claims arise from a February 19, 2003 incident wherein
Robert Polson ("Polson") was injured while operating the chain
and ratchet tie down system of a rig designed and distributed by
Cottrell as part of his duties as car hauler for Jack Cooper.
Count I is against Cottrell for strict liability; Count II is
against Cottrell for negligence; Count III is against Cottrell
for breach of implied warranty; Count IV is against General
Motors for negligence; Count V is against all Defendants based on
a conscious disregard theory; Count VI is brought by Mary against
all Defendants for loss of consortium and Count VII is against
Jack Cooper for an intentional tort.
On December 1, 2004, Cottrell removed the case to this Court
based on the federal diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (Doc.
1). That same day, both Jack Cooper and General Motors filed
consents to the removal (Docs. 3 & 4). On May 17, 2005, the Court
dismissed Jack Cooper with prejudice finding that it was
fraudulently joined (Doc. 62).
On February 19, 2003, Robert Polson was hauling vehicles for
his employer, Jack Cooper. Polson contends that he injured his
neck, spine and related areas in the process of tying down a
vehicle to the auto hauler. Polson claims that he was hauling
General Motors vehicles at the time of the incident.*fn1
Polson also claims that his trailer did have quick release ratchets.*fn2
The manufacturer of the automobile trailers at issue was
Cottrell. The Polsons contend that General Motors is liable,
however, because it placed certain requirements and restrictions
on the manufacturers as to the type of securement system that
could be used in hauling its vehicles and that it allegedly
participated in the design, testing and approval of the auto
Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings and affidavits,
if any, "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Wyatt v. UNUM Life
Insurance Company of America, 223 F.3d 543, 545 (7th Cir.
2000); Oates v. Discovery Zone, 116 F.3d 1161, 1165 (7th Cir.
1997); See also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986)). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence
of fact issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.
Wollin v. Gondert, 192 F.3d 616, 621-22 (7th Cir. 1999). The
Court must consider the entire record, drawing reasonable
inferences and resolving factual disputes in favor of the
non-movant. Schneiker v. Fortis Insurance Co., 200 F.3d 1055,
1057 (7th Cir. 2000); Baron v. City of Highland Park,
195 F.3d 333, 337-38 (7th Cir. 1999). In reviewing a summary judgment motion, the Court does not
determine the truth of asserted matters, but rather decides
whether there is a genuine factual issue for trial. EEOC v.
Sears, Robuck & Co., 233 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2000). No
issue remains for trial "unless there is sufficient evidence
favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for
that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not
sufficiently probative, summary judgment may be granted."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986).
Accord Starzenski v. City of Elkhart, 87 F.3d 872, 880 (7th
Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 117 S. Ct. 683 (1997); Tolle v.
Carroll Touch, Inc., 23 F.3d 174, 178 (7th Cir. 1994).
In Count IV, Polson asserts a negligence claim against General
Motors. Polson claims that General Motors, by requiring a certain
type of securement system as a condition of transporting its
vehicles, owed a duty to Polson and others like Polson to
ascertain whether said design use would be reasonably safe for
the rig users and that General Motors was negligent in violating
It is axiomatic that a necessary element of a negligence claim
in Illinois is a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff.
See, e.g. York v. Stiefel, 99 Ill. 2d 312, 320 (Ill. 1983).
"Unless a duty is owed, there is no negligence." LaFever v.
Kemlite Co., 185 Ill. 2d 380, 388 (Ill. 1998). Whether a duty
exists is a question of law to be determined by the Court. Id. Illinois cases repeatedly rejected negligence theories of
liability in situations like this one. For example, in Dowling
v. American District Telegraph Co., 1988 WL 93939 (N.D. Ill.
1988), the district court rejected the claim of an injured
employee of McKesson that ADT by contracting with McKesson to
provide a security signaling service, had assumed a duty to
protect employees from work injuries, pointing out "the very
limited contractual obligation" involved there. Id. at *8.
"ADT never agreed to take charge of the McKesson plant and
provide (or insure) a safe workplace. . . . McKesson did not
delegate to ADT, nor did ADT assume, a duty of care to protect
McKesson employees from injury." Id. Likewise, in Yassin v.
Certified Grocers of Illinois, Inc., 150 Ill. App. 3d 1052
(Ill.App. 1986), the court concluded that a grocery cooperative
which provided inspection services was not liable to the injured
child of a grocery store customer, finding "no indication that
[defendant's inspection] was intended as a substitute for
protection that the grocery store would otherwise provide its
customers or its employees." Id. at 1070.
Similarly here, there is no evidence that General Motors
undertook, by training or otherwise, to instruct drivers employed
by the independent hauling companies how to secure and unsecure
vehicles in a manner that would avoid injury to the driver. In
this case, it is clear that Polson's employer provided such
Furthermore, General Motors is the customer of Jack Cooper, who
in turn is the customer of the alleged defective product's
designer and manufacturer, Cottrell. General Motors collaborated
with trailer manufacturers and carriers through the General Motors Haulaway Committee to exchange ideas
and discuss proper methods for hailing General Motors vehicles.
General Motors did this as a customer. At most, in the course of
communications with its "suppliers" (the auto haulers), General
Motors obtained information concerning injuries to drivers.
General Motors approved of the allegedly defective ratchet system
for use in transporting its vehicles and disapproved of other
designs which would have been safer for automobile haulers. It
did not specify the design to be used, but merely accepted or
rejected the tie down ...