Pahuta v. Massey-Ferguson, Inc., MASSEY-FERGUSO

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Citation170 F.3d 125
Docket NumberNo. 97-9597,INC,MASSEY-FERGUSO,97-9597
Parties, Prod.Liab.Rep. (CCH) P 15,459 David J. PAHUTA, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellee, v., Defendant-Third-Party-Plaintiff-Counter-Defendant-Appellant, Keeler Construction Company, Inc., Third-Party-Defendant-Counter-Claimant.
Decision Date29 March 1999

Lawrence A. Schulz, Orchard Park, N.Y. (Brown and Mohun, Depew, N.Y.), for Appellee.

Anthony J. Colucci, III (Debra A. Norton, Block & Colucci, P.C., Buffalo, N.Y.), for Appellant.

Before: MESKILL, WALKER, and SACK, Circuit Judges.

SACK, Circuit Judge:

Defendant-Appellant Massey-Ferguson, Inc., appeals from a judgment entered by Magistrate Judge Heckman 1 following a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff-appellee David J. Pahuta, Jr. on claims of product defect. Massey-Ferguson argues that the district court erred when it: (1) denied Massey-Ferguson's motion for summary judgment on the product defect claims; (2) denied Massey-Ferguson's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) motion, made at the end of the plaintiff's case, for judgment as a matter of law; and (3) denied Massey-Ferguson's request to charge the jury on New York law concerning optional safety equipment. We decline to review the sufficiency of the evidence at trial, as to which necessary trial and post-trial motions were not made. We also decline to review the denial of the motion for summary judgment. We vacate the final judgment, however, and remand the case for

a new trial because of the district court's refusal to instruct the jury as to New York law relating to defects in products sold without optional safety equipment.


On April 20, 1990, Pahuta, an employee of Keeler Construction Company, Inc., in Albion, New York, was operating a Massey-Ferguson hydraulic tractor loader in order to load steel drainage pipes into a dump truck. The tractor loader was a multi-use tractor combined with a hydraulic loader to which one of several pieces of equipment, such as a bucket loader, a backhoe, a crane, or fork tines, could be attached. On the day in question, the tractor loader was equipped with fork tines.

While Pahuta was lifting the pipes some 13 or 14 feet above the ground in order to drop them into the truck, the left front tire of the tractor loader bumped into the right rear tire of the dump truck. The rubber against rubber contact had a spring effect that caused one of the pipes to roll backwards down the fork arms attached to the tractor loader. The pipe rolled over the cradle of the fork arms and struck Pahuta, who had ducked his head, with a blow to his back. He was permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

Pahuta filed this action in Supreme Court, Erie County, against Massey-Ferguson alleging claims sounding in negligence, strict liability and breach of warranty in an attempt to recover for his injuries. The suit was timely removed to the United States District Court for the Western District of New York on the basis of diversity of citizenship. Pahuta's principal claim is that if Massey-Ferguson had equipped the otherwise unenclosed cab area of the tractor loader with an overhead guard, either in the form of a four-post overhead safety frame, a rollbar or another kind of roll over protection structure, the steel pipe would have hit the guard instead of Pahuta. Pahuta also argues that the accident could have been avoided entirely if the hydraulic loader had been equipped with a self-leveling device.

Massey-Ferguson agrees that Pahuta's injuries would have been avoided had the tractor loader been equipped with either piece of safety equipment, but argues that under New York law it should not be held liable because in 1970, at the time of its sale, it had made overhead guards and self-levelers available to purchasers of the tractor loader as optional equipment. Massey-Ferguson contends that liability, if any, should rest with Pahuta's employer, Keeler Construction Co., the purchaser of the tractor loader, since Keeler chose to equip it with a fork attachment but without any of the optional safety equipment at issue. Although Massey-Ferguson commenced a third-party suit against Keeler, that suit was discontinued without prejudice before Pahuta's claims went to trial. Much of the factual dispute between the remaining parties centered on whether overhead guards and self-levelers should have been included as standard equipment rather than offered as options and whether any safety equipment suitable for the tractor loader was actually available when Keeler purchased its tractor loader in April 1970.

After the close of discovery, Massey-Ferguson moved for summary judgment. Magistrate Judge Heckman granted the motion on the breach of warranty claim--a decision not challenged on appeal--but denied summary judgment on both of the product defect claims. See Pahuta v. Massey-Ferguson, Inc., 942 F.Supp. 161 (W.D.N.Y.1996).

After Pahuta presented his case at trial, Massey-Ferguson again moved for dismissal of the product defect claims, this time by means of a motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a). Magistrate Judge Heckman denied Massey-Ferguson's motion. Inexplicably, Massey-Ferguson did not renew the motion at the close of all the evidence or after the entry of judgment under Rule 50(b), nor did it make a motion for a new trial under Rule 59.

Massey-Ferguson did, however, strenuously object to Magistrate Judge Heckman's instructions to the jury. The defendant contended throughout the trial, as it had argued in its motions for summary judgment and judgment as a matter of law, that under New York law a manufacturer cannot be held liable if an injury is caused by the failure of The jury rendered a verdict for Pahuta on the special verdict form submitted to it, and Magistrate Judge Heckman entered a final judgment in his favor in an amount exceeding $2 million. Massey-Ferguson appeals.

the buyer of a multi-use product to purchase available optional safety equipment of which the buyer was aware. The charge ultimately given to the jury did not include any instruction directly addressing this issue.

I. Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law

Massey-Ferguson appeals the district court's denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) made at the close of plaintiff's case on his design defect and failure to warn claims. The ground for the motion, as required by the rule, was that there was "no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for" Pahuta on those claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a). Massey-Ferguson did not, however, comply with Rule 50(b), which requires that when a Rule 50(a) motion made during trial is not granted, the moving party must renew the motion both at the close of the evidence and within ten days after entry of judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b); 9A Charles Alan Wright and Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, §§ 2536, 2537 (2d ed.1995).

In the absence of a Rule 50(b) renewed motion or extraordinary circumstances, an "appellate court [i]s without power to direct the District Court to enter judgment contrary to the one it had permitted to stand." Cone v. West Virginia Pulp & Paper Co., 330 U.S. 212, 218, 67 S.Ct. 752, 91 L.Ed. 849 (1947); Gierlinger v. Gleason, 160 F.3d 858, 869 (2d Cir.1998); Varda, Inc. v. Insurance Co. of North America, 45 F.3d 634, 638 (2d Cir.1995); Hilord Chem. Corp. v. Ricoh Elecs., Inc., 875 F.2d 32, 37 (2d Cir.1989) ("with rare exception"). The purpose of requiring a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law is to give the opposing party " 'an opportunity to cure the defects in proof that might otherwise preclude him [or her] from taking the case to the jury.' " Cruz v. Local Union Number 3 of the Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 34 F.3d 1148, 1155 (2d Cir.1994) (quoting Baskin v. Hawley, 807 F.2d 1120, 1134 (2d Cir.1986)) (alteration in original).

Failure to comply with Rule 50(b) may be excused only when the district court has indicated that the motion need not be renewed, and the party opposing the motion could not reasonably have thought "that the movant's 'initial view of the insufficiency of the evidence had been overcome and there was no need to produce anything more in order to avoid the risk of [such] judgment.' " Best Brands Beverage, Inc. v. Falstaff Brewing Corp., 842 F.2d 578, 587 (2d Cir.1987) (quoting Ebker v. Tan Jay Int'l, Ltd., 739 F.2d 812, 824 (2d Cir.1984)). The district court made no such indication here. Massey-Ferguson therefore procedurally defaulted when it twice, at the close of the evidence and after entry of judgment, failed to renew its Rule 50(a) motion.

We may overlook such a default in order to " 'prevent a manifest injustice' in cases '[w]here a jury's verdict is wholly without legal support.' " Varda, 45 F.3d at 638 (quoting Sojak v. Hudson Waterways Corp., 590 F.2d 53, 54 (2d Cir.1978) (per curiam)); accord Kirsch v. Fleet Street, Ltd., 148 F.3d 149, 164 (2d Cir.1998); Anderson v. Branen, 27 F.3d 29, 30 (2d Cir.1994)(citing United States v. Quiroz, 22 F.3d 489, 490 (2d Cir.1994)). There is no claim or basis for a claim of such manifest injustice here. We therefore affirm the district court's rejection of the motion for judgment as a matter of law made at the close of the plaintiff's case.

II. Motion for Summary Judgment

Massey-Ferguson argues that the judgment below should be vacated because, prior to trial, Magistrate Judge Heckman improperly denied its motion for summary judgment on the product defect claims. See Pahuta, 942 F.Supp. at 166-67. Although judgment against a party upon trial frequently follows denial of that party's pre-trial motion for summary judgment, it would appear that this circuit has yet to address explicitly Based on our review of the case law in this circuit, the Federal Rules of Civil...

To continue reading

Request your trial
162 cases
  • Henry v. Dinelle, 9:10-CV-0456
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • 8 Marzo 2013
    ...Cir. 2009). However, "manifest justice" exists only when a jury's verdict is "wholly without legal support." Pahuta v. Massey-Ferguson, Inc., 170 F.3d 125, 129 (2d Cir. 1999) ("We may overlook such a default in order to 'prevent a manifest injustice' in cases where a jury's verdict is wholl......
  • Jarvis v. Ford Motor Co., 92 Civ. 2900(NRB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 27 Octubre 1999
    ...a motion for judgment as a matter of law with reference to the evidence adduced at trial and the record as a whole. Pahuta v. Massey-Ferguson, 170 F.3d 125, 130 (2d Cir.1999). Our review of the evidence presented in this trial leads us to the conclusion that there is such a complete absence......
  • Colbert v. Furumoto Realty, Inc., 99 CIV 12323 (WCC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 1 Junio 2001
    ...requirements set forth in FED. R. CIV. P. 50(b) precludes the renewed motion submitted subsequent to trial. See Pahuta v. Massey-Ferguson, Inc., 170 F.3d 125, 129 (2d Cir.1999). These procedural requirements may be excused if the trial court indicated that the motion for judgment as a matte......
  • Oden v. Bos. Scientific Corp.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • 4 Junio 2018
    ...Inc. , 663 F.Supp.2d 127, 133 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) ; Voss, 59 N.Y.2d at 107, 463 N.Y.S.2d 398, 450 N.E.2d 204 ; Pahuta v. Massey-Ferguson, Inc. , 170 F.3d 125, 134-35 (2d Cir. 1999). Plaintiff’s design defect claim fails since he has not pleaded sufficient facts satisfying the first and second e......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT