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Noffsinger v. Valspar Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 24, 2014

STEVEN NOFFSINGER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE VALSPAR CORPORATION, a Delaware Corporation, d/b/a C& M COATINGS and d/b/a VALSPAR INDUSTRIAL, and ENGINEERED POLYMER SOLUTIONS, INC., d/b/a VALSPAR COATINGS, a Delaware Corporation, Defendant

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For Steven Noffsinger, Plaintiff: David A. Axelrod, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jason M Kleinman, Stacey Lynn Leinheiser, David A. Axelrod & Associates P.C., Chicago, IL; Robert Alan Cohen, The Rob Cohen Law Office, LLC, Willmette, IL.

For The Valspar Corporation, a Delaware Corporation, doing business as C& M Coatings, doing business as Valspar Industrial, Engineered Polymer Solutions, Inc., a Delaware Corporation, doing business as Valspar Coatings, Defendants: Andrew J. Detherage, Terri L. Bruksch, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Barnes & Thornburg, Indianapolis, IN; Gregory M. Bassi, James E Michel, William M. McErlean, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, Chicago, IL.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Robert W. Gettleman, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Steven Noffsinger filed a three-count amended complaint alleging that defendant Valspar Corporation (" Valspar" ) is liable for injuries plaintiff allegedly suffered when he was exposed to a leaking container of Dynaprime, one of Valspar's products, during a cross-country shipment. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendant is liable under a theory of strict product liability due to a defectively manufactured drum (Count One); that defendant was negligent in evaluating and using a defective drum (Count Two); and that defendant was negligent under a theory of res ipsa loquitur (Count Three). Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment on all counts, arguing that the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (" HMTA" ) and the Hazardous Material Regulations (" HMR" ) preempt plaintiff's claims.[1] For the reasons described below, defendant's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND[2]

On February 13, 2007, Valspar shipped seventy-two 55-gallon steel drums containing Dynaprime, a solvent-based coating manufactured by Valspar. MCT Transportation was retained to deliver the shipment to a warehouse in Santa Fe Springs, California. Plaintiff, an over-the-road truck driver, was directed by MCT Transportation to pick up and transport the lot of drums. Plaintiff arrived to pick up the shipment at Valspar's manufacturing facility in Kankakee, Illinois, at 3:30 p.m. CST on the afternoon of February 13, 2007. Valspar personnel loaded the drums onto plaintiff's trailer in 18 rows consisting of four drums in each row. The drums used in the shipment were reconditioned by Mid-America Steel Drum Company, Inc. (" Mid-America" ). After the drums were loaded by Valspar personnel, plaintiff stepped inside the trailer and applied two load locks to the last row of drums nearest the trailer doors. Plaintiff visually checked the load and then left and went outside. Once the trailer doors were closed, plaintiff applied the trailer door seal provided to him by defendant.

On February 17, 2007, at around 8:55 a.m. CST, plaintiff's dog, Boomer, who traveled with plaintiff, woke him up. Upon waking, plaintiff detected a strong smell of paint fumes. Plaintiff exited his truck and found yellow paint dripping from the left front (driver's side) drain or ventilation hole of the trailer onto the left side tires and the asphalt pavement. Plaintiff also found paint leaking out of the drain holes at the two rear corners of the trailer and onto the stone and dirt ground. Plaintiff contacted the dispatcher at MCT Transportation from the Flying J Truck Stop in Barstow, California, to report a

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leak from the shipment. Approximately three hours after plaintiff contacted MCT Transportation, the Barstow Fire Protection District arrived at the Flying J Truck Stop. A representative for Emergency Response Training Solutions arrived at the scene approximately one hour later. The Dynaprime that leaked came from a crack in the bottom of one of the steel drums inside the trailer.

Plaintiff has sued defendant for injuries he allegedly sustained as a result of the leak. Count One alleges that the drum was defectively manufactured and was in an unreasonably dangerous condition, and that defendant is liable under a theory of strict product liability. Count Two alleges that defendant was negligent for: (1) failing to determine whether the drum was free of defects that might compromise the drum's integrity; (2) using the defective drum; (3) failing to act in a reasonably careful and prudent manner by delegating to its drum supplier defendant's duty to ensure that its drums were sufficient for safe transportation of its hazardous product; and (4) failing to take necessary precautions to ensure that the drum was sufficiently sound to contain Dynaprime. Count Three alleges that, under a theory of res ipsa loquitur, defendant must have been negligent because the leak occurred and the drum was in the exclusive control of defendant.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard


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