O'Neal v. Remington Arms Co., LLC

2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32432 (D.S.D. Mar. 13, 2014)



Summary judgment is appropriate "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." 


Plaintiff, Carol O'Neal, as personal representative of the estate of Lanny O'Neal, deceased, brought an action against defendants, Remington Arms Company, LLC, Sporting Goods Properties, Inc., and E.I. Dupont De Nemours and Company, alleging strict liability (product defect), strict liability (failure to warn), negligent design and manufacture, negligent failure to warn, and spoliation of evidence. O'Neal's spoliation of evidence claim was  dismissed following a motion by defendants because it is not an independent cause of action. Defendants previously moved for summary judgment while discovery was still occurring. The court denied defendants' motion at that time, in part because additional discovery may provide O'Neal sufficient facts to support her claims. Discovery had concluded, and there were three motions pending before the court. O'Neal moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of product defect, arguing issue preclusion applies. Defendants moved to exclude the testimony of O'Neal's expert witness  and also moved for summary judgment on all of O'Neal's claims. Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment was denied, defendants' motion to exclude the testimony of Powell was denied as moot, and defendants' motion for summary judgment was granted.


Should plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment be granted because collateral estoppel precludes defendants from relitigating the issue of whether their product—the Model 700 rifle—was defective?




O'Neal has the burden to prove that the specific Model 700 rifle at issue here is defective. O'Neal has not identified a final judgment that would allow her to meet her burden via issue preclusion. Simply put, the issues decided in LewyCampbell, and Collins are not identical to the issue presented here or there was not a final judgment on the merits, and thus, whether the particular Model 700 rifle in this case is defective was not actually litigated in previous cases. Therefore, issue preclusion does not preclude litigation of whether the Model 700 rifle involved in this case is defective, and O'Neal's motion for partial summary judgment is denied.

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