from the Elkhart Superior Court The Honorable David T. Ready,
Senior Judge Trial Court Cause No. 20D01-1605-CT-108
Attorney for Appellant Jeffrey J. Stesiak Pfeifer, Morgan
& Stesiak South Bend, Indiana.
Attorney for Appellee Robert J. Palmer May Oberfell Lorber
Matthew Davis ("Davis") appeals the Elkhart
Superior Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of
Lippert Components Manufacturing, Inc. ("Lippert").
Specifically, Davis argues the trial court erred as a matter
of law when it determined that he did not qualify as a
"user" or "consumer" under Indiana's
Product Liability Act ("IPLA").
Evergreen Recreational Vehicles, L.L.C.,
("Evergreen") manufactured towable travel trailers
in Elkhart, Indiana. Several models of their trailers
contained areas of additional space containing flooring and
furniture, which an owner could slide out when parked to
provide more interior space in the trailer or in a
recreational vehicle. These areas are constructed in the form
of three-sided boxes opening to the interior of the trailer
and are called "slide-outs." Lippert manufactures
the Schwintek System In-Wall Slide Out ("Schwintek
System") which is a mechanism attached to the slide-out
box during the manufacturing process that allows the box to
slide in and out of the trailer or recreational vehicle at
the direction of its owner.
Davis worked for Evergreen in its "slide-out
department" as a "box installer" where his job
was to install the box on the trailer. Appellant's App.
pp. 91, 93. Davis worked on the outside of the trailer where
he would screw down the Schwintek System to the box, glue the
top rubber corners of the box to prevent leaks, complete the
wire harness underneath the box, hook up the light, and then
use an electrical toggle switch to run the box into the
trailer. After Davis was finished with his duties, the
trailer still had to go through three more manufacturing
departments at Evergreen before it was complete and ready for
wholesale to dealers.
On June 17, 2014, Davis was attaching the wire harness when
the box started to move out. He assumed the box would stop
moving, but it did not, and it fell out of the trailer and
onto his lower back. Davis suffered significant injuries,
including paralysis from the waist down.
Davis filed a complaint on May 24, 2016, in which he alleged,
in part, that Lippert was strictly liable for a design defect
in the Schwintek System which made it "unreasonably
dangerous for its reasonably foreseeable uses."
Id. at 20. Lippert moved for summary judgment on
June 29, in which it argued that Davis did not qualify as a
"user" or "consumer" under the IPLA, and
therefore could not state a claim under the Act. On October
10, the trial court agreed and granted summary judgment in
favor of Lippert.
Davis now appeals.
Davis contends that the trial court erred in granting
Lippert's motion for summary judgment. When reviewing a
summary judgment, we apply the same standard as the trial
court and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party. Hughley v. State, 15 N.E.3d 1000,
1003 (Ind. 2014). In conducting our review, we consider only
those matters that were designated at the summary judgment
stage. Haegert v. McMullan, 953 N.E.2d 1223, 1229
(Ind.Ct.App. 2011). Summary judgment is appropriate if the
designated evidence shows that there is no genuine issue as
to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Hughley, 15 N.E.3d at
1003; Ind. Trial Rule 56(C).
Here, the trial court determined that Davis was not a
"user" or "consumer" as those terms are
defined in the IPLA, and therefore had no claim under the
Act. Who qualifies under this statutory definition is a pure
question of law, which we review de novo. Ballard v.
Lewis, 8 N.E.3d 190, 193 ...