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Piltch v. Ford Motor Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

February 11, 2015

HOWARD PILTCH, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, et al., Defendants-Appellees

Argued December 1, 2014.

Page 629

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. 3:11-cv-00001-JTM-CAN -- James T. Moody, Judge.

For Howard Piltch, Barbara Nelson-Piltch, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Donald E. Wertheimer, Attorney, Donald E. Wertheimer Law Office, South Bend, IN.

For Ford Motor Company, Defendant - Appellee: Sean Marotta, Attorney, Dominic Francis Perella, Attorney, Hogan Lovells U.S. Llp, Washington, DC; Kevin C. Schiferl, Attorney, Frost Brown Todd LLC, Indianapolis, IN.

For Mercury Divison of Ford Motor Company, Defendant - Appellee: Vanessa A. Davis, Frost Brown Todd LLC, Indianapolis, IN; Sean Marotta, Attorney, Dominic Francis Perella, Attorney, Hogan Lovells U.S. Llp, Washington, DC.

Before BAUER, KANNE, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 630

Bauer, Circuit Judge.

Howard Piltch and Barbara Nelson-Piltch (the " Piltches" ) were traveling in their 2003 Mercury Mountaineer in February 2007 when they hit a patch of black ice, causing the car to slide off the road and into a wall. Upon impact, none of the car's air bags deployed and both Piltches were injured. The Piltches filed the present action in Indiana state court against Ford Motor Company (" Ford" ) in 2010, alleging the vehicle was defective under Indiana law. Ford removed the action to federal court, and shortly thereafter moved for summary judgment. On March 28, 2014, the district court granted Ford's summary judgment motion holding that, without expert testimony, the Piltches could not create an issue of fact as to proximate cause. On appeal, the Piltches contend that (1) they state a claim for relief under the Indiana Products Liability Act (" IPLA" ); (2) there is sufficient circumstantial evidence of a defective product that expert testimony is not required; (3) they are not required to produce expert testimony to establish proximate cause; and (4) the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies, raising an inference of negligence on the part of Ford. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The Piltches were co-owners of a 2003 Mercury Mountaineer. While driving the Mountaineer in 2006, the Piltches were involved in a car accident in which the air bags did not deploy. Following the accident,

Page 631

the Piltches had the vehicle repaired. They did not confirm whether the restraint control module, which monitors a crash and decides whether to deploy air bags, was reset during or after repairs after the 2006 collision. But Mr. Piltch explained that it was his understanding that " whatever needed ...


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