914 F.2d 790 (6th Cir. 1990), 89-5731, Hutt v. Gibson Fiber Glass Products, Inc.

Docket Nº:89-5731.
Citation:914 F.2d 790
Party Name:Joseph D. HUTT, Administrator of the Estate of Kathy Sue Deuser; Jack S. Deuser, Jr.; and Todd Deuser, Co-Administrators of the Estate of Jack S. Deuser, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. GIBSON FIBER GLASS PRODUCTS, INC., et al., Defendants, Fuhry, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:September 19, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 790

914 F.2d 790 (6th Cir. 1990)

Joseph D. HUTT, Administrator of the Estate of Kathy Sue

Deuser; Jack S. Deuser, Jr.; and Todd Deuser,

Co-Administrators of the Estate of Jack

S. Deuser, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

GIBSON FIBER GLASS PRODUCTS, INC., et al., Defendants,

Fuhry, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 89-5731.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

September 19, 1990

Argued Feb. 2, 1990.

Page 791

F. Thomas Conway, William J. Nold, Eugene L. Mosley (argued), Miller, Mosley, Clare & Townes, Louisville, Ky., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Robert Stopher (argued), Boehl, Stopher, Graves & Deindoerfer, David Johnstone, Alagia, Day, Marshall, Mintmire & Chauvin, Gary Anderson, Rice, Seiller, Cantor, Anderson & Bordy, Louisville, Ky., for defendant-appellee.

Before MERRITT, Chief Judge, and JONES and RYAN, Circuit Judges.

NATHANIEL R. JONES, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs-appellants, Joseph D. Hutt, administrator of the estate of decedent Kathy Sue Deuser, Jack S. Deuser and Todd Deuser (collectively referred to as "the Administrators") appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant Fuhry, Inc. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

I.

On July 29, 1986, Jack and Kathy Deuser were electrocuted while swimming near the houseboat of Jack's brother, Courtney Deuser, in Harrod's Creek, Jefferson County, Kentucky. At the time of their deaths, the houseboat was docked at a marina owned by Steven and Charlene Habbich.

Gibson Fiber Glass Products, Inc. (Gibson) had manufactured the houseboat with a dual voltage electrical system: an alternating current (AC) circuit connected to electrical outlets on shore, and a direct current circuit (DC) drawing power from batteries. The circuits were designed to be electrically isolated from each other, and each operated on a two-wire rather than a three-wire system. The Deusers' deaths

Page 792

resulted from the malfunction of a switch in a light fixture on the houseboat, which caused the AC current to flow from the shore hookup into the switch, through the metal base of the fixture and then into the DC circuit. When the DC current attempted to ground itself through the outdrive of the boat, the water became electrified, killing the Deusers. Investigation subsequent to the accident showed that Gibson employees had removed the grounding wire from the light fixture prior to its installation on the houseboat.

On January 8, 1987, the Administrators filed suit against Challenger Circle F Inc. (Circle F), which manufactured the switches; Fuhry Inc. (Fuhry), which manufactured and assembled the light fixture; Gibson, which manufactured the houseboat; Courtney Deuser, owner of the houseboat; Stephen and Charlene Habbich, who owned the boat dock; and Underwriter's Laboratory, Inc. This complaint, originally filed in Jefferson County (Kentucky) Circuit Court, was removed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Chief Judge Johnstone presiding, after the Administrators settled with all defendants except Fuhry. The Administrators agreed as part of the settlement to indemnify the settling defendants should they be found liable to the remaining defendants. Upon completion of discovery, Fuhry moved for summary judgment.

In an order entered on March 22, 1989, the district court ruled that Fuhry was entitled to summary judgment because Gibson's employees knew of the importance of attaching the grounding wire in the light fixture; therefore, Fuhry had no duty to warn. The court further ruled that because Gibson altered the light fixture when installing it, Fuhry was entitled to the defense of KRS Sec. 411.320(1), precluding liability when a product has been substantially changed or altered.

On March 1, 1989, the...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP