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Estabrook v. Mazak Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

May 17, 2017

BRADLEY A. ESTABROOK, Plaintiff,
v.
MAZAK CORPORATION, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Mazak Corporation's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 37], filed on November 10, 2016. Plaintiff Bradley A. Estabrook filed a Second Amended Complaint [ECF No. 35] on October 27, 2016. The Defendant moves to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), asserting that the Second Amended Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. On November 30, 2016, the Plaintiff filed his Opposition [ECF No. 43] to the Defendant's Motion. The Defendant's Reply [ECF No. 46] was entered December 10, 2016. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiff is a resident of Indiana who works as a Maintenance Engineer at General Products, an Indiana company that provides parts for the automotive industry. (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 7-8, ECF No. 35.) “As a Maintenance Engineer . . ., [the Plaintiff] was charged with, among other things, troubleshooting and repairing Computer Numerical Control (“CNC”) machines.” (Id. ¶ 9.) Approximately ten of the CNC machines at General Products are Mazak FH6800 CHC machines, which are manufactured by the Defendant, a New York corporation. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 10.) General Products also has a Mazak Flexible Manufacturing System (“FMS”) “that interacts/interfaces with each FH6800 by loading and unloading pallets by way of a conveyor system that has a track that goes down the line alongside each FH6800.” (Id. ¶ 10.)

         According to the Second Amended Complaint, the Defendant “design[ed], research[ed], manufacture[d], test[ed], advertise[ed], promote[d], market[ed], s[old], distribute[d], and install[ed] the Mazak FH6800 and Mazak FMS that are the subject of” this lawsuit. (Id. ¶¶ 11.)[1]The machines were installed prior to September 5, 2006, which is when the Plaintiff began working for General Products. (Id. ¶ 12.) Further, the Defendant “designed the layout and customization” of its Mazak FH6800 machines “for their installation and use at General Products” by creating “a gap along the bottom of the loading doors of the machine so that it could connect to, and interface with the Mazak FMS.” (Id. ¶ 13.)[2]

         General Products and the Defendant had a service contract for “servicing, repairing, rebuilding, reconstructing, reconditioning, and/or maintenance of the Mazak machines” at the manufacturing plant. (Id. ¶ 14.) “In total, [the Defendant] serviced . . . the Mazak machines that are the subject of this lawsuit no less than 15 times between . . . September 5, 2006, and November of 2014.” (Id. ¶ 15.) In October of 2014, an employee of the Defendant “serviced, repaired, or rebuilt the Mazak FH6800, Control Number M640M, Serial Number 165025, because of a problem with the machine not properly rotating the pallets.” (Id. ¶ 16.)

         On November 11, 2014, the Plaintiff and a coworker were working inside that same Mazak FH6800 machine to conduct additional repairs, as it “was still experiencing problems with . . . not properly rotating pallets.” (Id. ¶ 17.) The Plaintiff “followed the lock-out tag-out procedures” on the Mazak FH6800 that he was repairing. (Id. ¶ 18.) However, the “adjacent/connected Mazak FMS was not subject to any lock-out tag-out procedures and was still operational” even though the two were “inside the Mazak FH6800 performing repairs.” (Id. ¶ 19.) While conducting repairs, the Plaintiff dropped an Allen Wrench, bent down to pick it up, happened to slide his foot under an opening in the machine, “and an automatic robot from the Mazak FMS sheared off and crushed his right leg below the knee.” (Id. ¶ 20.)[3] The Plaintiff was airlifted to the hospital “and underwent multiple surgeries with a hospitalization lasting 19 days, ” “has required extensive physical rehabilitation and ongoing pain management, ” and “may have to have his right leg amputated.” (Id. ¶ 22.)

         In the Second Amended Complaint, the Plaintiff asserted state tort law claims against the Defendant for negligence and for violations of the Indiana Products Liability Act (“IPLA”), Ind. Code § 34-20-1-1, due to defective design and failure to warn. The parties completed briefing the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss on December 10, 2016. Also on that date, the Defendant filed a Motion for Hearing [ECF No. 47] regarding its Motion to Dismiss and the technology at issue in this case. After this case was transferred to this Court, the Defendant's Motion for Hearing was denied. [See ECF No. 63.]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint and not the merits of the suit. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). The court presumes all well-pleaded allegations to be true, views them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accepts as true all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the allegations. Whirlpool Fin. Corp. v. GN Holdings, Inc., 67 F.3d 605, 608 (7th Cir. 1995).

         The Supreme Court has articulated the following standard regarding factual allegations that are required to survive dismissal:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the “grounds” of his “entitlement to relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation marks, ellipsis, citations, and footnote omitted). A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to “state a claim that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Although the court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and draw all permissible inferences in the plaintiff's favor, it need not accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly at 555). Legal conclusions can provide a complaint's framework, but unless well-pleaded factual allegations move the claims from conceivable to ...


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