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Daniels v. Keffee Food Co.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 5, 2018

JAMEL DANIELS, Plaintiff,
v.
KEFFEE FOOD CO., et al., Defendants. And GLOBAL BRANDS, LLC, Defendant/Third Party Plaintiff,
v.
BARON CHOCOLATIER, INC., Third Party Defendant.

          Jamel Daniels, SCI Retreat, Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania; Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Peter L. Frattarelli, Esquire, Archer & Greiner, P.C., Wilmington, Delaware; Counsel for Defendant Keefe Group, LLC d/b/a/Keefe Supply Company.

          Tracy A. Burleigh, Esquire, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Wilmington, Delaware; Counsel for Defendant/Third Party Plaintiff Global Brands, LLC.

          Robert D. Cecil, Jr., Esquire, Tybout, Redfearn & Pell, Wilmington, Delaware; Counsel for Third Party Defendant Baron Chocolatier, Inc.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jamel Daniels, a former inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also raised supplemental state claims. (D.I. 3). Plaintiff appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma paupehs. (D.I. 6). Defendants and Third Party Defendant move for summary judgment. (D.I. 53, 57, 59, 61). Briefing on the matters is complete. Plaintiff failed to file oppositions to the motions despite the Court's briefing schedule order and Plaintiff having been given additional time to file oppositions. (See D.I. 68, 71).

         BACKGROUND

         As alleged in the Complaint, on July 7, 2014, Plaintiff purchased a Sweet Obsession Candy Bar[1] from the JTVCC prison commissary. (D.I. 3 at ¶ 13). Defendant Keefe Group, LLC d/b/a/Keefe Supply Company (improperly pled as Keffee Food Co.) is or was the commissary vendor for the JTVCC, and Defendant Global Brands, LLC is or was the manufacturer of products sold by Keefe Supply. (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 8). It appears that the candy bar was delivered to Plaintiff by prison commissary officers on July 21, 2014. (D.I. 3 at ¶ 15 and Ex. A). When Plaintiff began eating his candy bar, he noticed blood in his mouth, and realized that his tongue had been cut and his tooth was chipped. (D.I. 3 at ¶ 16). Plaintiff spit out an object that looked like a hard piece of chocolate. (Id. at ¶ 17). He washed it and discovered that it was a piece of glass or hard plastic. (Id.) Plaintiff was provided medical and dental care. (Id. at¶19). Plaintiff submitted a grievance which indicates the incident occurred on July 24, 2014. (D.I. 3 at Ex. B).

         Plaintiff took several steps to obtain the name and address of the manufacturer of the candy bar, Global Brands, LLC. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-30). Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit on July 24, 2016, [2] alleging unsafe conditions. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

         The Complaint was screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(a). Plaintiff was allowed to proceed with his supplemental state claims against the moving defendants. (D.I. 8, 9). Thereafter, Global Brands LLC filed a Third Party Complaint against Baron Chocolatier, Inc. for contribution and/or indemnification (D.I. 33).

         The following facts are gleaned from the record. According to James Kajosaj, account manager with Keefe Group, LLC, Keefe Supply is one of several vendors periodically chosen through an open market engagement process to supply the JTVCC Commissary. (D.I. 55-1 at¶¶ 1, 4). Keefe Supply's records demonstrate that between July 2012 and December 2014, it did not sell or supply any Sweet Obsession Candy Bars to the JTVCC Commissary. (Id. at ¶ 5). Keefe Supply did not alter the Sweet Obsession Candy Bar that Plaintiff purchased on July 7, 2014 and does not have any knowledge of, or the ability to discover, any defect with the candy bar. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7). Keefe Supply did not have any knowledge of any glass located in any Sweet Obsession Candy Bars or other similar products that it supplied to the JTVCC Commissary. (Id. at ¶8).

         Global Brands, LLC is a wholesale distributor of non-durable food products, including such items as candy, salty and fruit snacks, cookies, honey, preserves, and fruit drinks. (D.I. 60-2 at ¶ 2). According to Richard Ennen, President and CEO of Global Brands, LLC, in July 2014, and for the preceding 18 months, Global Brands provided wholesale distribution of Sweet Obsession Chocolate Bars to various vendors throughout the United States. (Id. at ¶ 3). Global Brands is not a food manufacturer. (Id. at ¶ 4). It does not manufacture Sweet Obsession Chocolate Bars and did not manufacture the Sweet Obsession Chocolate Bar purchased and consumed by Plaintiff. (Id.). Global Brands did not sell the candy bar to JTVCC. (Id. at ¶ 5). Global Brands did not assemble, alter, modify, inspect, package or repackage the candy bar. (Id. at ¶ 6). It did not have any knowledge of, or the ability to discover, any defect with the candy bar. (Id. at ¶ 7). Global Brands did not have any knowledge of any glass being located in any Sweet Obsession Chocolate Bars which it distributed in the United States in July 2014, or in the preceding 18 months. (Id. at ¶ 8).

         Defendants Keefe Supply and Global Brands move for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Keefe Supply and Global Brands are neither the legal nor proximate cause of Plaintiff's alleged injures; (2) Delaware's sealed container defense protects Keefe Supply and Global Brands from liability; and (3) the negligence claim is barred by the two-year statute of limitations. (D.I. 53-60). Third Party Defendant Baron Chocolatier moves for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Global Brands is not entitled to contribution and/or indemnification because Plaintiff's claims are time-barred; and (2) Delaware's sealed container defense protects it from liability. (D.I. 61-63).

         STANDARDS ...


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