United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. MCCONNELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Edward Conway is a former union carpenter with decades of
experience running various power tools. Mr. Conway suffered
serious injuries to his right hand while using a Bosch Model
4100 table saw and its component push stick, designed,
manufactured, and sold by defendant Robert Bosch Tool
Corporation (Bosch). The push stick Mr. Conway was using
broke into pieces when it inadvertently contacted the
spinning blade of the saw, one of which punctured his hand.
Mr. Conway at first sued in the Kent County Superior Court of
Rhode Island before Bosch removed the case to this Court. ECF
No. 4 at 2. Mr. Conway brings claims of strict products
liability, negligence, and breach of implied and express
warranties. Bosch moved for summary judgment of all of Mr.
Conways's claims and, for these reasons, the Court GRANTS
Bosch's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 13.
Bosch Model 4100 table saw is a portable power tool designed,
manufactured, and marketed by Bosch. The saw exerts
tremendous force during use, creating a danger that material
being fed through the saw blade will kick back toward the
user. Kickback occurs when the material binds between the saw
blade and the rip fence or any other fixed object. To minimize
the risk posed to the user, Bosch sells the table saw along
with safety devices, including a detailed operator's
manual, a Smart Guard system, and a push stick. The various
components of the Smart Guard system are designed to prevent the
kickback of material being pushed through the saw. The push
stick is intended to take the place of the user's hand
during operations in which the hand would pass within 6
inches of the saw blade.
table saw and push stick were, at the time of manufacture,
subject to Underwriters' Laboratories (UL) Standard 987.
UL tested exemplars of the table saw and push stick and found
them to comply with the applicable standard that, inter alia,
examined the material composition of the push stick, its
length, its angular orientation, and its ability to withstand
a specified amount of force. Bosch performed internal tests
of the push stick as well to ensure it met standards for
flexibility, strength, and ergonomics. Engineers at Bosch
used the push stick to guide several thousand feet of
material through the saw during which testing the push stick
contacted the blade of the saw.
Conway was using the push stick sold with his table saw while
performing a task that would have brought his hand within 6
inches of the saw blade. He completed the cut without
incident, placed the finished piece of material to the left
of the saw and turned the power switch to the off position.
Then he tried to set the push stick, still in his right hand,
down on the right side of the saw. As Mr. Conway passed the
push stick over the still spinning blade of the saw the two
made contact. The blade grabbed the push stick and forced it
between the blade and the rip fence. The kick back force
created when the push stick became bound between the blade
and the rip fence caused it to bow and then break into
several pieces, one of which punctured Mr. Conway's hand.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is proper when the pleadings, discovery and
disclosure materials on file, affidavits, and any other
admissible material in the record demonstrate 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. To determine whether summary judgment is
suitable, the court analyzes the record in the light most
favorable to the nonmovant and draws all reasonable
inferences in that party's favor. See Cadle Co. v.
Hayes, 116 F.3d 957, 959 (1st Cir. 1997).
burden falls first on the movant to aver an absence of
genuine issue of material fact which requires resolution at
trial. See Nat'l Amusements, Inc. v. Town of
Dedham, 43 F.3cl 731, 735 (1st Cir. 1995) (Citing
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)).
The burden then shifts to the nonmovant who must oppose the
motion by presenting facts to show a genuine issue of
material fact remains. Id. A factual issue is
genuine if it "may reasonably be resolved in favor of
either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A fact is material if it holds the
power to "sway the outcome of the litigation under
applicable law." Nat'l Amusements, 43 F.3d at 735.
The nonmovant must rely on more than "effusive rhetoric
and optimistic surmise" to establish a genuine issue of
material fact. Cadle, 116 F.3d at 960. Rather, the
evidence relied on by the nonmovant "must have substance
in the sense that it limns differing versions of the truth
which a factfinder must resolve...." Nat'l
Amusements, 43 F.3d at 735 (quoting Mack v. Great
Atl. & Pac. Tea Co., 871 F.2d 179, 181 (1st Cir.
Conway asserts claims against Bosch for strict products
liability, negligence, and breach of implied and express
warranty. Because the same evidentiary deficiency undermines
Mr. Conway's allegations of strict products liability and
breach of the implied warrant}', the Court will discuss
those theories together before taking up his remaining claims
Strict Products Liability and Breach of Implied Warranty
to Mr. Conway's strict products liability and breach of
the implied warranty of merchantability claims is the burden
to prove a defect in the product and that the proven defect
is the proximate cause of the plaintiffs injury. See
Thomas v. Amway Corp., 488 A.2d 716, 722 (R.I.1985)
("In a strict liability action, the plaintiff has the
burden of proving a defect in the design or manufacture that
makes the product unsafe for its intended use, and also that
the plaintiffs injury was proximately caused by this
defect"); Plouffe v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber
Co., 373 A.2d 492, 496 (R.I. 1977) (stating that the
correct rule is "in a claim for breach of warranty the
burden is on plaintiffs to prove that the product is
defective, that it was in a defective condition at the time
it left the hands of the seller, and that said defect is the
proximate cause of the injury"). A plaintiff may rely on
circumstantial evidence to arouse the inference of a defect.
See, e.g., King v. Staples, Inc., No. C.A. 06-258S,
2008 WL 3895574, *10 (D.R.I. Aug. 22, 2008). But a ...