United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
RICHARD M. GIOVANINI, Plaintiff,
MATTHEWS INTERNATIONAL CORP., Defendant.
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
J. MCKINNEY, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Matthews International Corp. (“Defendant
Matthews” or “Matthews”) has moved for
summary judgment on the claims brought against it by
Plaintiff Richard M. Giovanini (“Plaintiff
Giovanini” or “Giovanini”). Dkt. No. 33.
For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is DENIED.
Matthews is a manufacturer of caskets. Plaintiff Giovanini is
the owner and operator of a funeral home in Clinton, Indiana.
Prior to a funeral mass at a local Catholic Church one of the
handles of the casket broke upon its removal from the hearse.
With the aid of a special cart, the casket was transported
into the Church for the funeral and placed back into the
hearse for the procession to the cemetery. Upon arrival at
the cemetery, no special cart was available. Plaintiff
Giovanini offered the decedent's family an intact casket
for burial at a later time. The family declined the offer and
asked for the burial to proceed apace.
Giovanini joined as a pall bearer and issued new instructions
that the casket be carried by grasping its underside. As
Plaintiff Giovanini and the rest of the pall bearers
proceeded to the grave site, with Plaintiff Giovanini
assisting to carry the casket, he twisted his ankle. He
alleges that his injury was the proximate result of the
defect in the casket handle.
Matthews now brings this summary judgment motion alleging
that Plaintiff Giovanini has not shown sufficiently that the
casket was manufactured by it, that he cannot establish
proximate cause as a matter of law, and that the injury
suffered by Plaintiff Giovanini was not a natural and
probable consequence that should have been foreseen or
anticipated by Matthews.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
stated by the Supreme Court, summary judgment is not a
disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather is an integral
part of the federal rules as a whole, which are designed to
secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of
every action. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). See also United Ass'n of
Black Landscapers v. City of Milwaukee, 916
F.2d 1261, 1267-68 (7th Cir. 1990). Motions for summary
judgment are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56(a), which provides in relevant part:
The 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.
party has made a properly-supported motion for summary
judgment, the opposing party may not simply rest upon the
pleadings but must instead submit evidentiary materials
showing that a fact either is or cannot be genuinely
disputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). A genuine issue of material
fact exists whenever “there is sufficient evidence
favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict
for that party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The nonmoving party
bears the burden of demonstrating that such a genuine issue
of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986);
Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc.. 621 F.3d
651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). It is not the duty of
the Court to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat
a motion for summary judgment; rather, the nonmoving party
bears the responsibility of identifying applicable evidence.
See Goodman, 621 F.3d at 654; Bombard v. Fort
Wayne Newspapers, Inc., 92 F.3d 560, 562 (7th Cir.
evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court should
draw all reasonable inferences from undisputed facts in favor
of the nonmoving party and should view the disputed evidence
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See
Estate of Cole v. Fromm, 94 F.3d 254, 257 (7th Cir.
1996). The mere existence of a factual dispute, by itself, is
not sufficient to bar summary judgment. Only factual disputes
that might affect the outcome of the suit in light of the
substantive law will preclude summary judgment. See
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; JPM Inc. v. John Deere
Indus. Equip. Co., 94 F.3d 270, 273 (7th Cir. 1996).
Irrelevant or unnecessary facts do not deter summary
judgment, even when in dispute. See Clifton v.
Schafer, 969 F.2d 278, 281 (7th Cir. 1992). If the
moving party does not have the ultimate burden of proof on a
claim, it is sufficient for the moving party to direct the
court to the lack of evidence as to an element of that claim.
See Green v. Whiteco Indus., Inc., 17 F.3d 199, 201
& n.3 (7th Cir. 1994). “If the nonmoving party
fails to establish the existence of an element essential to
[her] case, one on which [she] would bear the burden of proof
at trial, summary judgment must be granted to the moving
party.” Ortiz v. John O. Butler Co., 94 F.3d
1121, 1124 (7th Cir. 1996).
Court now DENIES the Motion for Summary Judgment. Both
proximate cause and foreseeability are issues for a jury in
this case. There is no real dispute that Matthews
manufactured the casket at issue. With respect to causation,
reasonable jurors might conclude that a casket manufacturer
should foresee that proceeding to carry a casket to the grave
site despite its broken handle is not unreasonable. A
reasonable jury might also conclude that Plaintiff
Giovanini's injuries were the proximate result of the
defect in the casket handle. In short, the issues raised by
the Plaintiffs Complaint are for a jury to decide.