Baker v. Heye-America

Decision Date09 December 2003
Docket NumberNo. 27A02-0306-CV-523.,27A02-0306-CV-523.
Citation799 N.E.2d 1135
PartiesHenry K. BAKER and Phyllis J. Baker, Appellants-Plaintiffs, v. HEYE-AMERICA, Appellee-Defendant, Emhart Glass Manufacturing, Inc., Defendant.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Daniel J. Harrigan, Bayliff, Harrigan, Cord & Maugans, P.C., Kokomo, IN, Attorneys for Appellants.

Michael Ryan Hartman, Karl L. Mulvaney, Hamish S. Cohen, Bingham McHale LLP, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

OPINION

KIRSCH, Judge.

Henry K. and Phyllis J. Baker appeal the trial court's grant of Heye-America's motion for summary judgment in their product liability suit, contending that genuine issues of material fact remain with regard to whether Heye-America's glass bottle manufacturing machine contained manufacturing or design defects that caused Henry Baker's injuries.

We reverse.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

For more than thirty years, Henry Baker worked at a glass bottle manufacturing facility operated by Ball Foster (now known as Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc.). On November 24, 1998, Baker was working on Machine 51, a glass bottle manufacturing machine that was built by Heye-America according to Ball Foster's specifications. Machine 51 was an eight-section machine that could be operated to make either two or three bottles at a time. It formed bottles when molten glass gobs were fed into it. The machine then formed these gobs into bottles by closing around them, then opening again.1 To cool the glass, wind was funneled into the machine from a fan beneath the factory floor through one of several types of wind appliances, including configurations known as stacked wind and tube wind.

On the day of the accident, Machine 51 was utilizing stacked wind to cool the bottles. Baker realized that some of the bottles that Machine 51 was producing were of uneven thickness. He knew that this defect may be caused by problems with the amount of wind blowing into the machine to cool the bottles. As Baker was using his hand to test the wind velocity on the blank (output) side of the machine, the mold suddenly opened, pinning his hand between the mold and the stacked wind appliance. He was trapped for eight minutes and received serious burns to his hand before he was freed by his co-workers.

On August 7, 2000, the Bakers filed a complaint against Heye-America, the machine manufacturer, and Emhart Glass Manufacturing, Inc. ("Emhart"), the manufacturer of the machine's control components. They subsequently amended that complaint three times, but the complaint essentially stated a cause of action against both defendants on behalf of Henry Baker for product liability and on behalf of Phyllis Baker for loss of consortium.

Both defendants moved for summary judgment. After all parties submitted briefs and the trial court conducted a hearing on the issue, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Bakers now appeal the decision as to Heye-America only.

DISCUSSION AND DECISION

The Bakers allege that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Heye-America on their claim. In reviewing the grant of a motion for summary judgment, this court stands in the shoes of the trial court, applying the same standards in deciding whether to affirm or reverse summary judgment. Wilson v. Lincoln Fed. Sav. Bank, 790 N.E.2d 1042, 1046 (Ind.Ct.App.2003); Ross v. Indiana State Bd. of Nursing, 790 N.E.2d 110, 115-16 (Ind.Ct.App.2003). We do not weigh evidence, but will liberally construe the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Wilson, 790 N.E.2d at 1046; Ross, 790 N.E.2d at 115-16. Summary judgment should be granted only when the designated evidence shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Poznanski ex rel. Poznanski v. Horvath, 788 N.E.2d 1255, 1258 (Ind.2003); Reeder v. Harper, 788 N.E.2d 1236, 1240 (Ind.2003); Ind. Trial Rule 56(C). Accordingly, on appeal, we must determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and whether the trial court has correctly applied the law. Wilson, 790 N.E.2d at 1046. The party appealing the grant of summary judgment has the burden of persuading this court on appeal that the trial court's ruling was improper. Id.; Ross, 790 N.E.2d at 115-16

.

Relying on specifically designated evidence, the moving party bears the burden of making a prima facie showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Ross, 790 N.E.2d at 115-16. If the moving party meets these two requirements, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to set forth specifically designated facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. A genuine issue of material fact exists where facts concerning an issue that would dispose of the litigation are in dispute or where the undisputed material facts are capable of supporting conflicting inferences on such an issue. Poznanski, 788 N.E.2d at 1258; Ross, 790 N.E.2d at 115-16. To be considered genuine for summary judgment purposes, a material issue of fact must be established by sufficient evidence in support of the claimed factual dispute to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial. Street v. Shoe Carnival, Inc., 660 N.E.2d 1054, 1056-57 (Ind.Ct.App.1996).

A fact is material when its existence facilitates resolution of any of the issues involved. Rose & Walker v. Swaffar, 721 N.E.2d 899, 901 (Ind.Ct.App.2000), trans. denied. Notwithstanding a conflict in the facts on some elements of a claim, summary judgment is appropriate when there is no dispute with regard to facts that are dispositive of the litigation. Id. However, even if the facts are undisputed, summary judgment is inappropriate where the record reveals an incorrect application of the law to the facts. Ross, 790 N.E.2d at 115-16.

This court may not search the entire record but may only consider the evidence that has been specifically designated. Goodrich v. Indiana Michigan Power Co., 783 N.E.2d 793, 795 (Ind.Ct. App.2003), trans. denied. All pleadings, affidavits, and testimony are construed liberally and in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id.; May v. Frauhiger, 716 N.E.2d 591, 594 (Ind.Ct.App. 1999).

When the defendant is the moving party, the defendant must show that the undisputed facts negate at least one element of the plaintiff's cause of action or that the defendant has a factually unchallenged affirmative defense that bars the plaintiff's claim. Indiana Michigan Power Co. v. Runge, 717 N.E.2d 216, 226 (Ind. Ct.App.1999).

The Indiana Product Liability Act ("IPLA") states in part:

"Except as provided in section 3 of this chapter, a person who sells, leases, or otherwise puts into the stream of commerce any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to any user or consumer or to the user's or consumer's property is subject to liability for physical harm caused by that product to the user or consumer or to the user's or consumer's property if:
(1) that user or consumer is in the class of persons that the seller should reasonably foresee as being subject to the harm caused by the defective condition;
(2) the seller is engaged in the business of selling the product; and

(3) the product is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial alteration in the condition in which the product is sold by the person sought to be held liable under this article."

IC XX-XX-X-X. A product may be defective within the meaning of the IPLA because of a manufacturing flaw, a defective design, or a failure to warn of dangers in the product's use. Natural Gas Odorizing, Inc. v. Downs, 685 N.E.2d 155, 161 (Ind.Ct.App.1997), trans. denied (1998). In the Bakers' reply brief, they specifically disavow their intent to raise a "failure to warn" product liability claim: "The Bakers do not allege that Heye-America failed to satisfy its duty to warn the users of machine 51 about its operation.... Baker[ ]s[`] claim does not revolve around any duty to warn." Appellants' Reply Brief at 14. Thus, we consider only whether the designated materials raise an issue of fact with regard to design or manufacturing defects.

IC XX-XX-X-X explains that a product is defective if, at the time it is conveyed by the seller to another party, it is in a condition: (1) not contemplated by reasonable persons among those considered expected users or consumers of the product; and (2) that will be unreasonably dangerous to the expected user or consumer when used in reasonably expectable ways of handling or consumption. See also Vaughn v. Daniels Co. (West Virginia), Inc., 777 N.E.2d 1110, 1128 (Ind.Ct.App.2002),

decision clar'd on reh'g 782 N.E.2d 1062 (Ind.Ct.App.2003) (stating statutory definition).

Accordingly, under the IPLA, the plaintiff must prove that the product was in a defective condition that rendered it unreasonably dangerous. Cole v. Lantis Corp., 714 N.E.2d 194, 198 (Ind.Ct.App. 1999); Welch v. Scripto-Tokai Corp., 651 N.E.2d 810, 814 (Ind.Ct.App.1995). This requirement that the product be in a defective condition focuses on the product itself while the requirement that the product be unreasonably dangerous focuses on the reasonable expectations of the consumer. Cole, 714 N.E.2d at 198-99; Welch, 651 N.E.2d at 814. Unreasonably dangerous has been defined as dangerous to an extent beyond that which would be contemplated by the ordinary consumer with the ordinary knowledge common to the community as to its characteristics. Vaughn, 777 N.E.2d at 1128 (citing IC XX-X-X-XXX); Cole, 714 N.E.2d at 199; Rupert v. Mach. Tool Corp., 661 N.E.2d 826, 827 (Ind.Ct.App.1995). Further, to be unreasonably dangerous, a defective condition must be hidden or concealed. Cole, 714 N.E.2d at 199. A product may be dangerous in the ordinary sense but not "unreasonably dangerous" for product...

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