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Smith v. Hubbell

May 16, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stiehl, District Judge


Before the Court are defendant Howard Industries, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment (Doc. 40), and defendants Hubbell Power Systems, Inc., and Hubbell Incorporated's joint motion for summary judgment (Doc. 43). No pleadings have been filed in response to either motion.


Plaintiffs' complaint was filed in the Circuit Court for the Third Judicial Circuit, Madison County, Illinois. Defendants removed the action based upon this Court's diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs' complaint alleges that plaintiff Joe Smith, in the course of his employment as a lineman with Ameren Illinois Power, was injured on July 18, 2003, while disconnecting a stinger from a transformer; specifically, he was severely burned and knocked unconscious. (Compl., ¶¶ 9, 10, 13). The seven-count complaint alleges, against all defendants: negligence (Count I); breach of warranty (Count II); misrepresentation (Count III); breach of contract (Count IV); and strict liability (Count V). Count VII sets forth plaintiff Maria Smith's claim for loss of spousal society and consortium, and Count VIII seeks punitive damages.*fn1

Specifically, the complaint alleges that Joe Smith was injured by equipment developed, designed, assembled, tested, manufactured, distributed and sold by defendants, in that he suffered burns, severe and disabling physical injuries, permanent scarring, potential ongoing physical complications, and psychological injuries, and that he has spent sums of money for medical care, has incurred economic loss, and has been, and will continue to be, prevented from pursuing his normal activities and employment. (Compl., ¶¶ 6, 7, 23, 26, 31, 35, 40, 43).*fn2 The complaint also alleges that Maria Smith has been deprived of the support, companionship and services of her husband, and that she has been required, and will continue to be required, to perform many tasks and functions formerly performed by her husband. (Compl., ¶¶ 46-47). As stated, plaintiffs also seek punitive damages.

Defendants now move for summary judgment.


Summary judgment is appropriate "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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party initially bears the burden to demonstrate an absence of genuine issues of material fact, indicating judgment should be granted as a matter of law. See, Lindemann v. Mobil Oil Corp., 141 F.3d 290, 294 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Once a motion for summary judgment has been made and properly supported, however, the non-movant has the burden of setting forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial. See, id. In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court construes all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable and justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Hedberg v. Ind. Bell Tel. Co., 47 F.3d 928, 931 (7th Cir. 1995).

As noted above, plaintiffs have not responded to defendants' motions for summary judgment. While the Court is not obligated to raise arguments sua sponte in favor of the nonmoving party, the Court notes the following:

[W]hile a judge should never engage in advocacy from the bench, he or she has an obligation to raise legal issues that the parties have overlooked or neglected. After all, the judge is on the bench in the first place . . . because of superior legal background, expertise, or credentials, and for that reason [should] not sit as a passive observer who functions solely when called upon by the parties.

Jones v. Page, 76 F.3d 831, 850 (quoting Gonzalez v. Volvo of Am. Corp., 734 F.2d 1221, 1225 (7th Cir. 1984) (internal quotations omitted). Accordingly, this Court will not raise every argument available to plaintiffs; it will, however, raise every argument necessary for determining the motions presently before the Court.


1. Choice of Law

Defendant Howard correctly points out that a district court sitting in diversity must apply the conflict of law rule for the state in which it sits.Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496 (1941). Here, Illinois choice of law analysis requires the Court to apply Illinois law since this state has the "most significant relationship" to the case. Tanner v. Jupiter Realty Corp., 433 F.3d 913, 915 (7th Cir. 2006). Illinois clearly has the most significant relationship to the case because it is the place of injury ...

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