Casner & Edwards

Summary judgment in federal court in a wrongful death

Andrew M. Higgins and Robert A. Murphy obtained summary judgment in federal court in a wrongful death/personal injury case on behalf of a company that purchased a product line from a company that manufactured an allegedly defective product.

A company manufactured and sold to the MBTA a train horn that was alleged to be defective because it lacked a device to prevent the horn from clogging with ice and snow. One MBTA employee was killed and two were seriously injured when they were struck by a train. It was alleged that the accident occurred because the horn was clogged with ice and snow and did not sound when activated by the engineer. The corporate assets of the original horn manufacturer were sold to the defendant company years after the horn in question had been sold to the MBTA, but before the accident occurred.

The U.S. District Court, Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, ruled that none of the bases from imposing successor liability applied to the purchase of assets of the horn product line. The only question was whether the defendant company had a “special relationship” with the MBTA sufficient to impose a post sale duty to warn the MBTA of the need for a protective device on the horn. The court concluded that there was no such relationship based upon the facts presented and awarded summary judgment to the purchasing company.

To read the decision in its entirety, click here.

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