American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Company et al v. Cirrus Design Corporation, No. 1:2009cv08357 - Document 22 (S.D.N.Y. 2010)

Court Description: OPINION AND ORDER re: 12 MOTION to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, filed by Cirrus Design Corporation. Cirrus' motion to dismiss the amended complaint is GRANTED with leave to amend. For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiffs' Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend on or before 2/4/11. (Signed by Judge Barbara S. Jones on 12/30/10) (cd)
Download PDF
._, American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Company et al v. Cirrus Design Corporation Doc. 22 USDCSD:N'Y UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK ------- ---- -- ---- ---- -- ----------x AMERICAN GUARNATEE AND LIABILITY L, ri.' 1'1 1J,;i{fE FILl ' ". '. . - , - ,.. -".... . . . . INSURANCE COMPANY ET AL., ;".....'"_..,,'.,_ _ _..-..-........ \J .•-. ">C'_ ;""•.. .._ . .- ----' Plaintiffs, 09 Cv. 8357 (BSJ) (HBP) Qpinion and Order v. CIRRUS DESIGN CORPORATION, Defendant. ---- -----------x BARBARA S. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE Defendant Cirrus Design Corporation ("Cirrus") has moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (6) to dismiss for failure to state a claim the Amended Complaint of Plaintiffs American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Company ("AGLIC"), as subrogee of Belaire Condominium and the Hospital for Special Surgery, and reman's Fund Insurance Company ("FFIC"), as subrogee of Arthur Skodnek, Iris R. Daner, Carol Higgins Clark, and Larry W. Rosenthal (collectively, "Plaintiffs"). For the reasons set forth below, Cirrus' motion to dismiss the amended complaint is GRANTED with leave to amend. 1 Background The following facts are drawn solely from Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. 1 aintiff AGLIC is the insurer of Belaire 4 East 72 nd Street, New York, New York, Condominium, located at and the Hospital for Special Surgery, located at 535 East 70 th St., New York, New York. Plaintiff FFIC is the insurer of the real and personal property of certain residents of Be Condominium. (Am. Compl. re 2-5, 10-15.) Cirrus is in the business of designing, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and distributing aircraft. One of the planes produced and sold by Cirrus was a 2002 model SR-20 aircraft bearing serial number 1230, Model S Code 531577 with tail number N929CD ("the SR-20"). rd. ':lI 6.) On October 11, 2006, the SR-20 crashed into the Belaire Condominium, a mixed-use high- se apartment building cated at 524 East 72 nd Street that included a portion of the Hospital for Special Surgery. lision, the Prior to the 20 were making a left turn over the East River. control an SR-20's flight through the lots of the SRIn order to r a pilot may use, among other things, the ailerons and aileron trim cartridge. Witnesses on the ground observed the plane experience a sudden loss of altitude and the wings wobble from side to side. These a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true the facts iff's complaint. 102 F.3d 660, 662 (2d Cir. 1996); (2d Cir. 1996). a 2 are indications that a pilot may be struggling to control the aircraft. Plaintiffs allege that this loss of control caused the SR-20 to crash into the Belaire Condominium. Id. tjftjf 17-23.) aintiffs allege that Cirrus was aware of these control systems problems because a similar incident occurred prior to the October 11, 2006 crash. Plaintiffs claim that Cirrus failed to immediately investigate and inspect other Cirrus aircraft that experienced similar control problems. They allege that such an investigation would have allowed Cirrus to identify and correct the defect that resulted in the October 11, 2006 crash. (Id. tjftjf 24, 26.) Plaintiffs also claim that Cirrus il to meet minimal accepted standards for the testing of the aileron rudder interconnect and trim cartridge, and failed to conduct sufficient testing of the lateral directional control s terns of the SR-20 prior to placing it in the stream of commerce. (Id. tjf 25. ) Pursuant to the terms and conditions of the insurance policies of Belaire Condominium, the Hosp 1 and the individual tenants, Plaintiffs AGLIC and FFIC made payments to the insured for the damages sustained in the crash. (Id. <[tjf 29-34.) AGLIC and FFIC now bring this action under New York law leging (1) Negligence and (2) Strict Products Liability against Cirrus Design. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil 3 Procedure 12(b) (6), Cirrus has moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Legal Standard Ru 12(b) (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. to dismiss for "In ruling on a motion lure to state a claim upon wh relief may be granted, the court is required to accept the material alleged in the complaint as true." 930 F.2d 1004, 1007 (2d Cir. 1991) cts Fras v. Gen. Elec. Co., ----------------------------(citation omitted). A court is also required to read a complaint generously, drawing all reasonable inferences from its allegations in favor of the plaintiff. See Cal. Motor Co. v. Truc 404 U.S. 508, 515 (1972). Unlimited A court should not, however, credit "mere conclusory statements" or "threadbare recitals of elements of a cause of action." 700 F. Supp. 2d 599, 619 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). In Twombl , the Supreme Court held that "a obligation to provide the grounds of his ent aintiff's lement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) 4 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A pleading need not "set out in detail the facts upon which [the claim is based]" in order to successfully state a claim. in original) plainti rd. at 555 n.3 (alteration (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A must, however, assert "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the liable r fendant is misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1940. Discussion A. Plaintiffs Fail to Supply Sufficient Factual Allegations to Support their Claims As discussed, supra, the Amended Complaint alleges that the o was making a routine left turn over the East River when the pilots lost control of the plane. According to the Amended Complaint, the crash debris and witnesses on the ground who observed the crash provide evidence that there was a failure of the flight control systems. resulted in the crash. if PIa argue that this ilure intiffs allege that subsequent investigation revealed that this model plane had "certain defects" its steering controls that made the airplane unable to be controlled and that Cirrus was aware of these defects at the time of the crash. 5 PIa iffs do not, however, speci the actual de component or the nature of the defect. unspecified defe ct As Cirrus notes, s could encompass anyone of hundreds, if not thousands, of component parts of the systems designed to operate the rudder and ailerons of t of specifi aircraft. ty, the Court may not draw a "reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the by Twombl requi In light of the lack sconduct alleged" as and Iqbal. B. Plaintiffs Failed to Plead a Prima Facie Claim for Strict Liability or Negligence Under New York Law The Amended Complaint also Is to pI a ima ie case of negligence or strict liability under New York law. an As ial matter, courts have noted that, for the purposes of analyzing a design defect claim, the theories of strict liabil y and negligence are rtually identical. See ---------Sear v. Suburban Propane Div. of Quantum Chern. Corp., 263 A.D.2d 335, 700 N.Y.S.2d 588, 591 (3d Dep't 2000) ("[IJn a design defect case, there is almost no difference between a prima in negligence and one in st ie case ct liability.") Under New York law, a plaintiff establishes a prima fac case of product 1 ility for a design defect by showing: (1) that the product, as designed, posed a substantial likelihood of harm; (2) that it was feasible r the manufacturer to des 6 the product in a sa r manner; and (3) that the defective design was a substantial factor in causing Tuosto v. Phil Morris USA Inc. aintiff's injury. See 672 F. Supp. 2d 350, 364 (S.D.N.Y. 2009); see also Cover v. Cohen, 61 N.Y.2d 261, 266-67, 473 N.Y.S.2d 378, 461 N.E.2d 864 (1984). When applying this sk-utility balancing test, a plaintiff is required to prove the existence of a feasible alternative design which would have prevent 2d 687, 692 (S.D.N.Y. 2003); see also Voss v. Black & Decker 59 N.Y.2d 102, 108, 463 N.Y.S.2d 398, 402, Mfg. Co., 204 Rypkema v. Time Mfg. Co., 263 F. Supp. the accident. (1983) ("The plaintiff, of course, is under an obligation to present evidence that in a sa r manner."). it was sible to des t product In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs do not specify a particular ign de , nor do they make any mention of a feasible alternative design. of 450 N.E.2d sufficiently detailed Plaintiffs do not cts that would allow a reasonab person to conclude that the product should not have been marketed in its present form. Similarly, intiffs have not properly pleaded a claim under New York's strict liability law for a manufacturing defect. Under New York law, "[t]o plead and prove a manufacturing flaw under either negligence or strict liability, the plaintiff must show that a speci c product unit was defective as a result of 'some mishap in the manufacturing 7 process itself, improper workmanship, or because de mate als were used in construction,' and that ct de twas the cause of plaintiff's injury." Colon ex reI. Molina v. BIC USA, Inc., 199 F. Supp. 2d 53, 85 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (quoting ., 52 N.Y.2d 114, 436 N.Y.S.2d 251, 417 N.E.2d 545, 552-53 (1981)). fy the Plaintiffs have not only failed to fective component but have also fai to adequately allege any deviations from the manufacturing process, improper workmansh , or defective materials. aintiffs also fail to properly plead a cIa for Cirrus' failure to warn of the risks and dangers associated with the SR20. In order to recover under a failure to warn theory, a claimant must show: "(1) that a manufacturer has a duty to warn; (2) against dangers resulting from foreseeable uses about which it knew or should have known; and (3) that failure to do so was the proximate cause of harm." pleaded sufficient Id. at 84. Plaintiffs have not s to allow the Court to make a reasonable inference that the lack of warning was a substantial factor in causing t specifi accident. As Plaintiffs have not adequately the danger that was not warned against, they cannot state a plausible claim for failure to warn. Finally, as set forth above with respect to the ual allegations relating to strict liability, Plaintiffs have not pleaded suf cient facts to recover under a theory of 8 negligence. In order to recover in negligence under New York law, a successful plaintiff must demonstrate the existence of a duty, the breach of which may be considered the proximate cause of the damages suffered by the injured party. See Kosmynka v. Polaris Indus., Inc. 462 F.3d 74, 79-80 (2d Cir. 2006). The Amended Complaint does not contain sufficient facts to establish either knowledge of a defect on the part of rrus or anything that Cirrus did that fell below the standard of reasonable care that rendered the steering controls fective. C. Leave to Amend Plaintiffs have requested leave to amend should the Court dismiss the Amended Complaint. Plaintiffs volunt Defendant opposes this request. ly filed an Amended Complaint as of right to by the Defendant attempt to correct issues rai motion to dismiss. its initial (Pl.'s Opp. at 11.) Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure directs that leave to amend a pleading "shall justice so requires. H freely given when Teachers Ret. Bd. v. Fluor 654 F.2d 843, 856 (2d Cir. 1981). In Foman v. Davis, the Supreme Court explained that absent "undue dilatory motive on the part of the movant, to the opposing party by lay, bad ith or . undue prejudice rtue of allowance of the amendment" 9 ---- ... .. ..- -..- -..- - -...­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ - or "futility of amendment," leave should "be 'freely given.'" 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Defendant argues that amendment would be futile as Plainti base their claims on the same liability evidence, witnesses, and theories as the plaintiffs in Lidle ex reI Li et al. v. Cirrus Des (BSJ) (HBP). ration et al. No. 1:08­CV­1253 However, this Court, after reviewing that evidence, denied Defendant's motions to st ke all of the Lidle plaintiffs' expert opinions and Defendant's motion for summary judgment. In the instant matter, Defendant's claim of futility is unpersuasive. Plaintiffs are granted leave to amend on or before February 4, 2011. Conclusion For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiffs' Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend on or before February 4, 2011. SO ORDERED: BARBARA S. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE Dated: New York, New York December 30, 2010 10 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE Dated: New York, New York December 30, 2010 11