United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Jon Couture alleges that he was injured when the armrest of
his office chair broke as he was using the armrest to stand
up. Couture brought claims against Haworth, Inc. and Haworth
International, LTD. for negligent products liability (Count
I), strict products liability (Count II), and breach of
warranty (Count III). Defendants seek judgment in their favor
arguing that: (1) Couture's strict liability and breach
of warranty claims are untimely, (2) all claims against
Haworth International, LTD are untimely; and (3)
Couture's claims fail because he cannot show the chair
was defective or that any alleged breach of duty by Haworth
caused Couture's injuries. For the reasons stated below,
Defendants' motion for summary judgment  is granted.
judgment is proper where “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 (1986). A genuine dispute as
to any material fact exists if “the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The substantive law
controls which facts are material. Id.
party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.
See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (1986). After a
“properly supported motion for summary judgment is
made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 (quotation omitted).
Construing the evidence and facts supported by the record in
favor of the non-moving party, the Court gives the non-moving
party “the benefit of reasonable inferences from the
evidence, but not speculative inferences in [its]
favor.” White v. City of Chi., 829 F.3d 837,
841 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal citations omitted). “The
controlling question is whether a reasonable trier of fact
could find in favor of the non-moving party on the evidence
submitted in support of and opposition to the motion for
summary judgment.” Id. (citation omitted).
claims that he was injured on February 12, 2013 when the left
armrest of an office chair (the “Chair”) that he
was using at his workplace broke off as he got out of the
Chair. (DSOF (Dkt. 59), ¶25). At the time, he weighed
approximately 395 pounds and the Chair was more than twelve
years old. (Id. ¶¶26-27). The type of
chair at issue is a Haworth Improv HE mid-back
general-purpose office chair with height adjustable arms
(“Model Chair” (as compared to the
“Chair” which refers to the specific chair used
by Couture)). (Id. ¶8). Couture's employer,
Hartford, ordered the Chair on April 3, 2000. Haworth
manufactured the Chair on May 2, 2000 and delivered it to
Hartford on May 11, 2000. (Id. ¶¶28-29).
Before February 12, 2013, Couture had been using the Chair
for approximately four to five years. (Id.
Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers'
Association (“BIFMA”) has developed standards and
guidelines for office furniture since 1973, and has been an
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Accredited
Standards Developer since 1980. (Id.
¶¶12-13). Haworth designs its office chairs in
accordance with the ANSI/BIFMA X5.1 General Purpose Office
Chairs Standard (the “BIFMA X5.1 Standard”).
(Id. ¶16). Haworth subjects its chairs, including
the Model Chair, to periodic compliance testing to ensure the
chairs pass the current BIFMA standard. (Id.
¶21). In 2000, Haworth subjected the Model Chair
to compliance testing that tested arm rest strength in
accordance with the then-current 1993 BIFMA Standard, and the
Model Chair passed these tests. (Id. ¶22). In
addition, Haworth tested the arm durability of the Model
Chair, which was an additional test not required by the 1993
BIFMA Standard, and the Model Chair passed that test.
(Id. ¶24). In addition to the Model Chair,
Haworth also manufactures an office chair specifically
designed for larger, heavier individuals-the Improv HE XL
chair “XL Chair.” (Id. ¶39). It is
larger than the Model Chair, and designed and tested to
support individuals weighing up to 500 pounds. (Id.
August 15, 2014, Couture filed a products liability lawsuit
against Haworth, Inc. based on his injuries resulting from
the Chair armrest breaking. (DSOF ¶5; see No.
14-cv-07127, Dkt. 1-1). The case was later removed to federal
court, and on March 13, 2015, Couture voluntarily dismissed
the case, with the parties filing a stipulated dismissal
without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
41. (DSOF ¶6; No. 14-cv-07127 at Dkts. 23, 24). On March
11, 2016, Couture filed the instant complaint in state court.
(Compl., Dkt. 1-2). He brought the same claims as in the 2014
case for strict products liability, breach of warranty, and
negligent products liability, and this time named as
defendants both Haworth, Inc. and Haworth International, LTD.
Defendants timely removed the case from state to federal
court. (Dkt. 1; DSOF ¶7).
Couture's Strict Liability and Breach of Warranty Claims
are Time- Barred
concedes that his strict liability and breach of warranty
claims are untimely. (Dkt. 70). Under Illinois' statute
of repose, “no product liability action based on the
doctrine of strict liability in tort shall be commenced
except within the applicable limitations period and, in any
event, within 12 years from the date of first sale, lease or
delivery of possession by a seller or 10 years from the date
of first sale, lease or delivery of possession to its initial
user, consumer, or other non-seller, whichever period expires
earlier.” 735 ILCS 5/13-213(b); see also Yao-Wen
Chang v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 599 F.3d 728, 733 (7th
Cir. 2010) (“a statute of repose, which is designed
specifically for products-liability suits…overrides
the discovery rule [because] because of the long latency of
many product defects, which can under a discovery rule impose
vast and unpredictable products liability on
manufacturers.”). It is undisputed that the chair was
delivered to the Hartford on May 11, 2000. (DSOF ¶29).
Couture therefore had to bring his strict products liability
claim by May 11, 2010 to be timely. He did not do so in his
original 2014 complaint or in this case.
breach of warranty claim, the statute of limitations in
Illinois is four years. 810 ILCS 5/2-725. A cause of action
accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run when
delivery is made, regardless of when the defect is
discovered, with one exception which Couture does not argue
applies here. See 810 ILCS 5/2-725(2). The Chair was
delivered on May 11, 2000 (DSOF ¶29), so Couture's
breach of warranty claim should have been filed by May 11,
2004. Couture did not timely file this claim. Therefore, both
the strict product liability claim (Count II) and breach of
warranty (Count III) claims are time-barred and dismissed
Haworth International, LTD
argue that Couture failed to timely plead any claims against
Haworth International, LTD. In response, Couture contends
that his claims against Haworth International, LTD
“relate back” to his original complaint under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c). However, Federal Rule
15(c)(1), which governs amendments to pleadings, does not
apply here. This case does not involve an amendment to a
currently pending pleading. It involves a re-filed action
under Illinois' “savings statute” which
allows a plaintiff to “commence a new
action” within one year after voluntarily
dismissing it. 735 ILCS 5/13-217 (emphasis
added). See Short v. Grayson, 2017 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 36389, at *24 n.9 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 14, 2017)
(“Section 13-217, however, governs the
refiling of causes of action, not the relation back
of amendments to a currently pending pleading, which
is governed by 735 ILCS 5/2-616.”) (emphasis in
original); see also Apollo Real Estate Inv. Fund, IV,
Ltd. P'ship v. Gelber, 398 Ill.App.3d 773, 782, 343
Ill.Dec. 721, 730 (1st Dist. 2009) (distinguishing amendments
from refiled actions).
reason Couture's negligence claims against Haworth Inc.
are timely is because of Illinois' savings statute which
operates as “an extension of the applicable statute of
limitations.” Kruk v. Birk, 168 Ill.App.3d
949, 954, 119 Ill.Dec. 625, 629 (1st Dist. 1988). But that is
not so for Haworth International, LTD. Haworth International,
LTD was not named in the 2014 action. Even if the re-filed
complaint is based on the same set of facts, adding a
different defendant “constitute[s] a separate
‘action.'” Flynn v. Allis Chalmers
Corp., 262 Ill.App.3d 136, 140, 199 Ill.Dec. 408, 410
(2d Dist. 1994). Thus “section 13-217 does not entitle
a plaintiff to refile an action naming a new
defendant.” Guiffrida v. Boothy's Palace
Tavern, Inc., 2014 IL App (4th) 131008, ¶ 56, 387
Ill.Dec. 154, 166. See also Brengettcy v. Horton,
2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45828, *23 (N.D. Ill. 2006) (a
plaintiff may not use the savings statute to add new
result, to be timely, Couture had to file his negligent
products liability (including failure to warn) claim against
Haworth International, LTD by February 13,
2015. Couture did not do so. He filed this
lawsuit on March 11, 2016. Accordingly, all claims against
Haworth International, LTD are dismissed with
Negligence Claims against Haworth Inc.
remaining claims are negligent products liability and
negligent failure to warn against Haworth Inc. ...