Ferry v. De Longhi Am. Inc., Case No: C 16–00659 SBA

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Citation276 F.Supp.3d 940
Docket NumberCase No: C 16–00659 SBA
Parties Patrick FERRY, individually and as successor and executor to the Estate of Randy Sapp, et al., Plaintiffs, v. DE LONGHI AMERICA INC., et al., Defendants.
Decision Date16 August 2017

276 F.Supp.3d 940

Patrick FERRY, individually and as successor and executor to the Estate of Randy Sapp, et al., Plaintiffs,
DE LONGHI AMERICA INC., et al., Defendants.

Case No: C 16–00659 SBA

United States District Court, N.D. California, Oakland Division.

Signed August 16, 2017

276 F.Supp.3d 942

Albert Gustav Stoll, Jr., Walter Alexander Haynes, IV, Albert G. Stoll, Jr. | a Law Corporation, San Francisco, CA, Sharon Joellen Arkin, The Arkin Law Firm, Los Angeles, CA, for Plaintiffs.

James William Hunt, Stephanie B. Gonzalez, Fitzpatrick and Hunt Pagano Aubert, LLP, Kellian Summers, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard Smith LLP, Los Angeles, CA, Rudolph Victor Pino, Jr., Pino and Associates, LLP, Thomas Edward Healy, Fitzpatrick & Hunt, Pagano, Aubert, LLP, White Plains, NY, for Defendants.


SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG, Senior United States District Judge

Plaintiffs Patrick Ferry ("Mr. Ferry")—individually and as successor and executor to the Estate of Randy Sapp ("Mr. Sapp")—Brenda Gonzales, Don Sapp, and Sharon Cornelius (collectively, "Plaintiffs") bring the instant personal injury and wrongful death action against Defendants De'Longhi America Inc. and De'Longhi S.p.A. (collectively "De'Longhi"). The action arises out of a residential fire caused by a purportedly defective heater that De'Longhi manufactured and distributed. The fire resulted in Mr. Sapp's death and injuries to Mr. Ferry. The parties are presently before the Court on De'Longhi's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment of Plaintiff Patrick Ferry's Wrongful Death Claim. Dkt. 58. Having read and considered the papers filed in connection with this matter and being fully informed, the Court hereby GRANTS the motion, for the reasons stated below. The Court, in its discretion, finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b) ; N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7–1(b).



Mr. Ferry was Mr. Sapp's "domestic partner, business partner, and beneficiary." First Am. Compl. ("FAC") ¶ 3, Dkt. 36. Messrs. Ferry and Sapp met in or

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about May 1984 and began living together in or about August 1985. Decl. of Pl. Patrick Ferry in Opp'n to Partial Mot. for Summ. J. ("Ferry Decl.") ¶ 2, Dkt. 61–1. Messrs. Ferry and Sapp never separated or lived apart until the date of Mr. Sapp's death on December 26, 2013. Id.

On March 6, 1993, Messrs. Ferry and Sapp "were married in a religious ceremony performed by a religious leader pursuant to the principles of [their] beliefs ... at the First Unitarian Church of San Francisco." Id. ¶ 3. "Had it been possible to do so," they "would have obtained a marriage license." Id. At that time, however, same sex marriage was not legal. After the ceremony, Messrs. Ferry and Sapp held themselves out as a married couple. Id. ¶ 5. They "shared everything," including personal and business assets, and named each other as sole beneficiaries of their respective estates. Id. ¶ 6.

Although Mr. Ferry "recognized" that the marriage "was not viewed under the law as ‘legal,’ " he and Mr. Sapp "always viewed it as absolutely valid and binding." Id. ¶ 7. They "believed that any prohibition of same-sex marriage ... was discriminatory and unconstitutional." Id. Messrs. Ferry and Sapp never registered as domestic partners, in part because they "held most firmly" that their marriage was already valid. Id."It was [Mr. Ferry's] personal belief that [their] marriage was valid because the laws providing otherwise were both invalid and unconstitutional." Id. In June 2013, after the Supreme Court affirmed the decision striking down the ban on same-sex marriage, Messrs. Ferry and Sapp "felt that [their] position on the issue of whether [they] had, in fact, been married had been vindicated." Id. ¶ 8. The ruling "confirmed" their long held belief that they were "legally married." Id. Thus, they "did not believe" there was any reason to ‘remarry.’ " Id.


On December 25, 2013, Mr. Sapp was in bed when a purportedly defective De'Longhi heater caught fire. FAC ¶ 23. Mr. Sapp was initially disoriented as flames quickly engulfed the bedroom. Id. Mr. Ferry called out to Mr. Sapp, who followed Mr. Ferry's voice out into the hallway. Id. ¶ 24. Mr. Ferry tackled Mr. Sapp to the ground and partially extinguished the flames on Mr. Sapp with his own body and a hallway carpet runner. Id. Mr. Ferry then dragged Mr. Sapp down a flight of stairs and outside, where bystanders and arriving firemen further extinguished the flames on Mr. Sapp's body. Id. 1

Mr. Sapp sustained severe burn injuries that resulted in his death. Id. Mr. Ferry also sustained significant burns that required hospitalization, as well as emotional trauma. Id. ¶ 25. As a result of Mr. Sapp's death, Mr. Ferry has been deprived of his partner's care, comfort, society and household services. Id. ¶ 26. Additionally, the fire partially destroyed Mr. Ferry's home, resulting in property damage and loss of use. Id. Mr. Sapp's estate and Mr. Ferry have suffered loss of income and support from their business. Id. Finally, as a disabled person, Mr. Ferry has lost the primary care provider on whom he depended. Id.


On December 22, 2015, Plaintiffs initiated the instant action in the San Francisco County Superior Court. Dkt. 1, Ex. A. On October 24, 2016, after De'Longhi removed

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the action to this Court, Plaintiffs filed the operative First Amended Complaint. Dkt. 36. Under theories of general negligence and product liability, Plaintiffs allege causes of action for personal injury and wrongful death, including a claim for wrongful death by Mr. Ferry.

On February 24, 2017, De'Longhi filed the instant motion for partial summary judgment of Mr. Ferry's wrongful death claim. Dkt. 58. Mr. Ferry filed an opposition, Dkt. 61, and De'Longhi filed a reply, Dkt. 62. The motion is ripe for adjudication.2


A party may move for summary judgment on some or all of the claims or defenses presented in an action. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "Summary judgment is appropriate only where ‘there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.’ " Salazar–Limon v. City of Houston, Tex., ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S.Ct. 1277, 1280, 197 L.Ed.2d 751 (2017) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the pleadings, discovery, and affidavits that establish the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Cline v. Indus. Maint. Eng'g & Contracting Co., 200 F.3d 1223, 1229 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323–25, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ). If the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and identify specific facts demonstrating the existence of a triable issue. Id. (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323–24, 106 S.Ct. 2548 ; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ).

In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, "the court must ‘view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the [non-moving party].’ " Salazar–Limon, 137 S.Ct. at 1281 (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007) (quotation omitted)). Facts must be viewed in this manner, however, only if there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact. Scott, 550 U.S. at 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769. A factual dispute is material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Jenkins v. Anderson, 447 U.S. 231, 248, 100 S.Ct. 2124, 65 L.Ed.2d 86 (1980). "Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id. A factual dispute is genuine if it properly can be resolved in favor of either party. Id. at 250, 100 S.Ct. 2124. "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249–50, 100 S.Ct. 2124 (internal citations omitted).


De'Longhi argues that Mr. Ferry's wrongful death claim fails as a matter of law because he does not have standing to bring such a claim.

"In California, wrongful death actions are statutory in origin and exist only so far and in favor of such persons as the legislative power may declare." Ceja v. Rudolph & Sletten, Inc., 56 Cal. 4th 1113, 1118, 158 Cal.Rptr.3d 21, 302 P.3d 211 (2013) (quotation omitted). Standing to sue for wrongful death is governed by

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California Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 (" section 377.60"), which provides that such an action may only be brought by a defined list of persons. Soto v. BorgWarner Morse TEC Inc., 239 Cal. App. 4th 165, 188, 191 Cal.Rptr.3d 263 (2015), reh'g denied (Aug. 5, 2015), as mod. (Aug 20, 2015),...

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