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Shelter Insurance Companies v. Big Lots Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

September 10, 2014

SHELTER INSURANCE COMPANIES, Plaintiff,
v.
BIG LOTS STORES INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motion of Defendant Big Lots Stores for summary judgment (DE 70). For the reasons set out below, the motion is GRANTED.

A. Background

Plaintiff, Shelter Insurance Companies, is the subrogee of its insured, Donna Minniear. This action arises out of a fire at Minniear's residence. Shelter paid her $134, 112.94 under its policy for damages to the house and personal property and for alternative living expenses and then sued Defendant Big Lots along with Sears, Roebuck and Company and Spectrum Brands under Indiana Code § 34-20-2-1, et sec., alleging that the fire was caused by a defective Kenmore coffee maker her husband bought at a Big Lots Store. The amended complaint alleges that Spectrum Brands was a manufacturer of the coffee maker and that Sears was both a manufacturer and seller as defined by Indiana statute. Plaintiff settled with these parties and they have been dismissed. Plaintiff asserts that Big Lots is liable for selling the coffee maker with a manufacturing defect and that it failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions on its use.

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a court shall grant summary judgment if 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.

C. Applicable Law

Indiana Code § 34-20-2-1 outlines Indiana product liability law:

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.

Indiana Code § 34-20-2-2 provides for strict liability for manufacturing defects but requires a showing of negligence with regard to design defects and allegations of failure to provide an adequate warning.

Under Indiana Code § 34-20-2-3, the circumstances under which a seller may be strictly liable for ...


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