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Taylor v. Avid Holdings

August 19, 2010

JASON TAYLOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AVID HOLDINGS, LLC AND TARGET CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Jason Taylor ("Taylor") filed this product liability action against Defendants Avid Holdings, LLC ("Avid") and Target Corporation (hereinafter "Target"), alleging strict product liability (Count I), negligence (Count II), and Res Ipsa Loquitur (Count III). Avid moves to dismiss Count I pursuant to the Illinois Distributor Statute, 735 ILCS 5/2-621. Target has filed a Response opposing the dismissal, asserting that Indiana, not Illinois, substantive law should govern this case. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Indiana law applies here; Avid's Motion to Dismiss is therefore denied.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Taylor's Complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of this Motion to Dismiss. See Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 717 (7th Cir. 1995). Target is a company that, through its agents and employees, owns, operates, and manages Target stores, including stores in the city of Chicago, Illinois. (Compl. ¶¶ 2-3.) Avid was, at the time of the incident at issue in this action, a manufacturer and importer of goods that were sold in Target stores, including those in Chicago. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Taylor alleges that both Avid and Target designed, manufactured, distributed, and sold Great Land Screened Gazebo Tents, including the tent at issue in this action (hereinafter "the Tent"). (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 6.)

On or before July 27, 2007, Taylor bought the Tent from a Target store in Chicago for use at the Indianapolis Speedway. (Compl. ¶ 7.) On July 27, 2007, at the Indianapolis Speedway, Taylor opened the Tent and began to assemble it according to its instructions and for its intended use. (Compl. ¶ 8.) During the course of assembly, Taylor suffered permanent and severe personal injuries. (Compl. ¶ 12.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Murphy, 51 F.3d at 717. To state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "Detailed factual allegations" are not required, but the plaintiff must allege facts that, when "accepted as true . . . 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In analyzing whether a complaint has met this standard, the "reviewing court [must] draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court assumes their veracity and then determines if they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id.

DISCUSSION

After Avid filed its Motion to Dismiss, relying upon Illinois law, Target filed a separate Response in which it argued that Indiana law should apply to this case. Avid then conceded in its Reply that Indiana law should govern. (See R. 62, Reply in Supp. of Def. Avid's Mot. to Dismiss Count I, at 5.) Although ordinarily "[l]itigants can, by stipulation, formal or informal, agree on the substantive law to be applied to their case," City of Clinton, Ill. v. Moffitt, 812 F.2d 341, 342 (7th Cir. 1987), here Taylor has not agreed that Indiana law should govern his claims. The Court must therefore decide which state's substantive law should be applied.

A choice of law analysis is required when the laws of two different states conflict such that the difference between the relevant laws will affect the outcome of the case. Int'l Adm'rs, Inc. v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 753 F.2d 1373, 1376 n.4 (7th Cir. 1985). Here, Illinois and Indiana apply different standards to the evaluation of product liability actions, and only Illinois recognizes joint and several liability for product liability actions. Because this case is brought under the Court's diversity jurisdiction, the Court applies Illinois choice of law principles in making the determination of which state's law applies. See id.

Illinois uses the "most significant relationship" approach to resolve choice of law issues. See Esser v. McIntyre, 661 N.E.2d 1138, 1141 (Ill. 1996). Generally, the law of the place where the injury in a tort action occurred controls, unless some other jurisdiction has a more significant relationship with the occurrence and with the parties. See id.; see also Townsend v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 879 N.E.2d 893, 903 (Ill. 2007). In applying this test, Illinois courts look to two particular sections of the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Laws ("the Restatement"), § 6 and § 145. See, e.g., Townsend, 879 N.E.2d at 904.

A. Section 145 Analysis

Under § 145 of the Restatement, four particular contacts are key to the choice-of-law analysis: "(1) where the injury occurred; (2) where the injury-causing conduct occurred; (3) the domicile of the parties; and (4) where the relationship of the parties is centered." Esser, 661 N.E.2d at 1141. The Court must evaluate and balance each in light of the particular facts and circumstances of this case in order to determine whether Illinois or Indiana has the more significant relationship to the litigation. See, e.g., Pittway Corp. v. Lockheed Aircraft Corp., 641 F.2d 524, 526-27 (7th. Cir. 1981). In a tort liability action, the two most important § 145 contacts are generally the location of the injury's occurrence and the location of the injury-causing conduct. See, e.g., Miller v. Long-Airdox Co., 914 F.2d 976, 978 (7th Cir. 1990).

There is no dispute that the injury at issue here occurred in Indiana. The question of where the injury-causing conduct occurred, however, is more complicated. Target claims that the injury-causing conduct was Taylor's assembly of the tent, which occurred in Indiana. (R. 59, Target's Resp. to Avid's Mot. to Dismiss ¶ 19.) However, Taylor's Complaint focuses on conduct that occurred prior to his assembly of the Tent-its design, manufacture, distribution, and sale -and does not make specific allegations as to where any of this conduct took place except for the sale, which occurred in Illinois. (See Compl. ¶ 7.) For the purposes of a choice-of-law determination in product liability litigation, the injury-causing conduct is often deemed to have occurred in the place where the product was designed or manufactured. See, e.g., Ruiz v. Weiler & Co., 860 F. Supp. 602, 604 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (conduct leading to injury defined as "the allegedly defective design or manufacture" of the product at issue); see also Green v. Goodyear Dunlop Tires N. Am., 2010 WL 747501, *6 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 2, 2010) (same); ...


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