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Caravan Ingredients, Inc. v. Azo, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 16, 2014

Caravan Ingredients, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
AZO, Inc., and Sefar, Inc., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. THOMAS MARTEN, District Judge.

Caravan Ingredients, Inc., a bulk flour processor, has brought the present action against AZO Inc. and Sefar, Inc., alleging that a defective metal screen sold and manufactured by defendants contaminated its product. The matter is before the court on Caravan's motion for partial summary judgment, which seeks a determination that the evidence does not support any inference of fault on its part.[1] For the reasons provided herein, the court hereby grants Caravan's motion.

Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine all evidence in a light most favorable to the opposing party. McKenzie v. Mercy Hospital, 854 F.2d 365, 367 (10th Cir. 1988). The party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate its entitlement to summary judgment beyond a reasonable doubt. Ellis v. El Paso Natural Gas Co., 754 F.2d 884, 885 (10th Cir. 1985). The moving party need not disprove plaintiff's claim; it need only establish that the factual allegations have no legal significance. Dayton Hudson Corp. v. Macerich Real Estate Co., 812 F.2d 1319, 1323 (10th Cir. 1987).

In resisting a motion for summary judgment, the opposing party may not rely upon mere allegations or denials contained in its pleadings or briefs. Rather, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing the presence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial and significant probative evidence supporting the allegation. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). Once the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), the party opposing summary judgment must do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. "In the language of the Rule, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)) (emphasis in Matsushita ). One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses, and the rule should be interpreted in a way that allows it to accomplish this purpose. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986).

Findings of Fact

On June 27, 1990, AZO sold a Bulk Wheat Flour Sifter manufactured by Sefar to Caravan's predecessor, American Ingredients.

In the Fall of 2011, Caravan decided to add a 30-mesh screen on the Sifter in order to meet milling standards of the American Institute of Baking. All of Caravan's customers require compliance with AIB standards.

Victor Gutierrez of Caravan contacted AZO Customer Service Representative Cindy Asquino on October 31, 2011, asking for prices and specifications. Asquino, the only AZO employee who ever directly interacted with Caravan, responded by email with specifications for both stainless steel and nylon screens.

In its motion, the plaintiff contends that AZO offered the stainless steel as an option even though it did not believe a stainless steel screen was fit for use, citing the testimony of AZO's Director of Customer Service Michael Nichols.

AZO attempts to controvert this fact, arguing that Nichols "specifically testified that's how he expected a 30-mesh stainless steel screen would fail, but not that the subject 30-mesh stainless steel screen was not a viable option... or that it was going to fail." (Dkt. 75, at 4).

This denial is not supported in the evidence, which fully supports Caravan's characterization. Nichols testified:

Q. Do you agree with me that a 30-mesh stainless steel screen was not a viable screen for use in the screener?
A. Yes. We let them know that its not a strong screen.
Q. But you didn't tell them that it would fail in the manner reflected in Exhibit 13 did you?
A. No. They never talked to me. If they would have ...

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