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Tridon Industries, Inc. v. Willis Chevrolet, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

April 1, 2014

TRIDON INDUSTRIES, INC., a Pennsylvania corporation, TRIDON HOLDINGS, LLC, a Pennsylvania limited liability corporation, and TRIDON LEASING, LLC, a Pennsylvania limited liability company, Plaintiffs,
v.
WILLIS CHEVROLET, INC., a Delaware corporation, and THE ESTATE OF ROBERT H. POORE, Defendants.

D. Miika Roggio, Michael I. Silverman, SILVERMAN, McDONALD & FRIEDMAN, Wilmington, DE Attorneys for Plaintiffs.

Marc S. Casarino, Sean A. Meluney, WHITE AND WILLIAMS, LLP, Wilmington, DE Attorneys for Defendants Willis Chevrolet, Inc. and The Estate of Robert H. Poore.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Tridon Industries, Inc., Tridon Holdings, LLC, and Tridon Leasing, LLC, (collectively, "Tridon") initiated an action alleging negligence by Defendants Willis Chevrolet, Inc. and the Estate of Robert H. Poore (collectively, "Willis" or "Defendants"), as well as breach of contract by Selective Way Insurance Company ("Selective").[1] (D.I. 1) The parties stipulated to a dismissal of Tridon's claims against Selective, so only Tridon's negligence action against Willis remains. (D.I. 49)

At the close of discovery, Defendant Willis filed three motions: (1) a motion in limine to Preclude Reference to Defendants' Insurance Coverage (D.I. 34); (2) a motion to strike expert testimony (D.I. 36); and (3) a motion for summary judgment. (D.I. 38) The Court will deny without prejudice Defendant Willis' Motion in limine to Preclude Reference, as it is premature.[2] The two remaining motions are addressed further below.

BACKGROUND

The complaint arises out of a collision between Robert Poore, an employee of Willis Chevrolet, and a specially modified box truck ("the Truck") owned by Tridon. (D.I. 1 at ΒΆΒΆ 6-8; D.I. 7 at 3; see also D.I. 39-2 at Al) Both vehicles were damaged as a result of the collision. (D.I. 1 at 10; D.I. 7 at 3) The Truck, however, was not used by Tridon for simple transport of freight or goods; rather, Tridon purchased and modified the Truck to be its primary method of installing foam insulation in the masonry foam and tank fill division of its spray product business. (D.I. 37-2 at A11-12; see also id. at A34-38) Specifically, Tridon retrofitted the Truck with a variety of special equipment fixed to the engine and box car (such as a power generator, spray equipment, and tanks for holding the raw material) in order to convert it into a mobile platform for foam installation. (D.I. 37-2 at AS0-53; see also D.I. 42-1 at Al-4) The Truck also contained non-fixed equipment used by Tridon personnel when performing masonry foam installation. (D.I. 37-2 at A46-47)

After the accident, Tridon contacted its insurance provider, Selective, about compensation. (D.I. 48) Tridon then contacted Willis' insurance provider, Uttis, and, between October 10, 2010 and February 14, 2011, made several claims in conjunction with the accident. J (D.I. 39-8 at A168) It is undisputed that the Truck was damaged; it is further undisputed that both Selective and Willis (through its insurance provider) provided some payment to Tridon. ( See D.I. 1; D.I. 6; D.I. 7; see also D.I. 39-2 at AS) The parties do not, however, agree as to the extent of the damage - and thus insurance liability - to the equipment on the Truck; nor do they agree as to the scope of liability for lost business profits as a result of the damage to the Truck and alleged damage to the equipment. ( See id. )

Unsatisfied with the amount paid by the insurance companies, Tridon filed this action against Willis alleging that Willis remains liable for the equipment damage, business expenses, and business losses caused by the negligent conduct of its employee, Robert Poore. (D.I. 1) Willis disputes these allegations. (D.I. 7)

In its Motion for Summary Judgment, Willis claims that: (1) Tridon has not provided the requisite level of proof that the equipment was damaged, and (2) its claimed business losses are too speculative. (D.I. 38) Willis also moves the Court strike expert testimony that Tridon seeks to use in proving its business loss claim on the basis that it fails the threshold test for admissibility. (D.I. 36; D.I. 37)

For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Willis' motion for summary judgment, and deny Willis' Motion to Strike.

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. Motions for Summary Judgment

"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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 415 U.S. 574, 586 n. 10 (1986). A party asserting that a fact cannot be or, alternatively, is genuinely disputed must be supported either by citing to "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for the purposes of the motions only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B). If the moving party has carried its burden, the nonmovant must then "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." ...


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