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Hakim v. Safariland, LLC

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

October 18, 2019

David Hakim, Plaintiff,
v.
Safariland, LLC & Defense Technology Corporation of America, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Honorable Thomas M. Durkin United States District Judge.

         Former DuPage County SWAT team member David Hakim brings this action against defendants Safariland, LLC and Defense Technology Corporation (together “Safariland”) for injuries he sustained from an allegedly defective shotgun shell made for door breaching.[1] Safariland moved for summary judgment on Hakim's strict product liability and negligence claims. For the following reasons, Safariland's motion [R. 93] is granted in part and denied in part.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The Court considers the entire evidentiary record and must view all of the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences from that evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Horton v. Pobjecky, 883 F.3d 941, 948 (7th Cir. 2018). To defeat summary judgment, a nonmovant must produce more than a “mere scintilla of evidence” and come forward with “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Johnson v. Advocate Health and Hosps. Corp., 892 F.3d 887, 894, 896 (7th Cir. 2018). Ultimately, summary judgment is warranted only if a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         Background

         Safariland Def-Tech TKO Breaching Rounds are translucent shotgun shells loaded with compressed zinc powder. 103-12 ¶ 11.[2] The breaching rounds are most widely used as a method to breach door locks, hinges, dead bolts, or safety chains for entry by law enforcement during tactical operations. Id. Upon impact with the target, the breaching rounds are designed to disintegrate into a fine powder. Id.

         Plaintiff David Hakim is a former member of the DuPage County SWAT team. R. 93-1 ¶ 3. On December 11, 2014, Officer Patrick O'Neil led the SWAT team in door-breaching training at an abandoned residence in Hinsdale, Illinois. Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 7. Following O'Neil's demonstration, SWAT team officers were divided into groups to practice the shotgun-breaching technique in both the basement and on the first floor of the house. Id. ¶ 6. O'Neil did not know until after he finished his demonstration that the officers would be performing live breaching. Id. ¶ 19; R. 102 19. When O'Neil learned of this fact, he told the commanding officer that the trainees should learn on a flat range before breaching in the home. R. 93-1 ¶ 22. The commanding officer still allowed the officers to proceed with the training. R. 103-1 at 76:22-77:1.

         During the breaching practice, Hakim was positioned on the first floor of the house. R. 93-1 8. Meanwhile, Officer Andy Alaniz was practicing shotgun-breaching in the basement with O'Neil using the TKO breaching rounds. Id. ¶¶ 9, 10. Alaniz had no experience with shotgun breaching prior to the training. Id. ¶ 24. O'Neil instructed Alaniz to keep the shotgun reasonably parallel to the floor and shoot straight between the hinge pin and the door. Id. ¶ 25. Alaniz then fired multiple shots directed at the hinge. Id. ¶ 10. One of the fired rounds traveled through the basement ceiling and first-floor floorboard, struck the back-bottom edge of Hakim's body armor, dented the armor, deflected at a downward angle and lodged into Hakim's spine. Id. ¶ 11.

         At least one SWAT team member said that there were rounds “all over the place” that did not disintegrate on the day in question. R. 103 ¶ 21. Hakim and Safariland dispute whether the surface must be metal for disintegration to occur, and if it does, whether this fact was communicated to law enforcement officials and Hakim. See Id. ¶ 34; R. 93-1 ¶ 38. They also dispute whether the round fired by Alaniz that hit Hakim ever hit the metal hinge of the door before traveling through the floorboard. R. 102 ¶ 10.

         Safariland moved for summary judgment on Hakim's strict liability and negligence claims for manufacturing defect, design defect, and failure to warn.

         Analysis

         I. Strict Liability (Counts I-III)

         A strict liability claim may proceed under three theories: manufacturing defect, design defect, and failure to warn. Mikolajczyk v. Ford Motor Co., 901 N.E.2d 329, 348 (Ill. 2008), opinion modified on denial of reh'g ...


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