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D-J Engineering, Inc. v. 818 Aviation, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

August 1, 2017

D-J ENGINEERING, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
818 AVIATION, INC., Defendant. 818 AVIATION, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
D-J ENGINEERING., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JULIE A. ROBINSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         These consolidated cases involve a dispute between 818 Aviation, Inc. (“818”) and D-J Engineering, Inc. (“D-J”) concerning work performed by D-J on 818's aircraft parts. The parties have partially settled except as follows: (1) 818's claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied warranty of workmanlike performance, and negligence with respect to D-J's work on five specified parts because the work done by D-J resulted in excessive pitting, axle nut thread damage, and improper overhaul to five aircraft parts, and (2) D-J's claim for breach of contract on one purchase order for which 818 has not compensated D-J for work performed. This matter is before the Court on 818's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 64) on its negligence claim as to one of the aircraft parts at issue, and on D-J's claim for breach of contract. The motion is fully briefed and the Court is prepared to rule. For the reasons explained in detail below, 818's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact” and that it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[1]In applying this standard, the Court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[2] “There is no genuine [dispute] of material fact unless the evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.”[3] A fact is “material” if, under the applicable substantive law, it is “essential to the proper disposition of the claim.”[4] A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “there is sufficient evidence on each side so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue either way.”[5]

         The moving party initially must show the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.[6] Where the movant bears the burden of proof on a claim or defense, a more stringent standard applies. It “must establish, as a matter of law, all essential elements of the issue before the nonmoving party can be obligated to bring forward any specific facts alleged to rebut the movant's case.”[7] If the moving party properly supports its motion, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, “who may not rest upon the mere allegation or denials of his pleadings, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”[8] In setting forward these specific facts, the nonmovant must identify the facts “by reference to affidavits, deposition transcripts, or specific exhibits incorporated therein.”[9] If the evidence offered in opposition to summary judgment is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.[10] A party opposing summary judgment “cannot rely on ignorance of the facts, on speculation, or on suspicion, and may not escape summary judgment in the mere hope that something will turn up at trial.”[11] Put simply, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”[12]

         Finally, summary judgment is not a “disfavored procedural shortcut”; on the contrary, it is an important procedure “designed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.”[13]

         II. Uncontroverted Facts

         The parties filed a Joint Status Report as to the claims remaining to be tried following their partial settlement. Pursuant to paragraph 6.3 of the parties' settlement agreement, 818 reserved claims of excessive pitting, axle nut thread damage, and improper overhaul relating to five parts, including a nose axle under Purchase Order 1643. Pursuant to paragraph 6.4 of the parties' settlement agreement, D-J reserved its claim for unpaid invoice on Purchase Order 1642, in the amount of $4, 025.

         The following material facts are uncontroverted, stipulated to for the purposes of summary judgment, or viewed in the light most favorable to D-J, the nonmoving party.

         818 contracted with D-J to perform work on certain aircraft parts. Ryan Hernandez, vice-president of engineering and technical services at D-J testified that the first step in D-J's intake process for aircraft part repair is for the customer to send D-J the part together with a purchase order, requesting a quote. Because the purchase order is a document generated by the customer, it will have a purchase order number on it generated by the customer. The customer provides a description of the work to be done, and if the work is standard, D-J can price the repair sight unseen. D-J usually requests that the damaged item be provided for an evaluation and a quote if the information the customer provides is insufficient. After D-J has received the part, it provides a quote based on the assumption the part is repairable. If D-J later determines the part to be unrepairable, D-J still charges for its work processing and evaluating the part. Once the parties agree on a price, the customer provides a final revised purchase order based on that quote.

         When D-J first receives a part, it performs a receiving inspection report to assess visible damage, such as damage that occurred during shipping. D-J then prepares a work plan outlining all of the work to be done to the part. The plan is reduced to a report, often referred to as “planning, ” and is assigned a “work order number.” After all work is done, the part cannot be returned to service until D-J's mechanic provides an airworthiness certification.

         818 submitted a nose axle to D-J for repair on January 15, 2013, which generated Purchase Order 1643. The nose axle received the usual preliminary visual inspection for damage, and D-J's initial inspection report documentation contains no notation of any damage. D-J accepted the nose axle for repair and assigned the part work order 1516 on that same date. On November 11, 2013, after subsequent inspection, D-J declared the part “beyond economic repair, ” or “BER, ” and cancelled the work order on the basis that the nose axle was not capable of being refurbished because it was unsafe for future use. According to Hernandez's testimony, the BER determination was primarily due to metal pitting, which was concealed at the time of initial inspection by chrome paint. The BER determination was partially based on damaged threads.

         D-J has not completed work on Purchase Order 1642, generated for the repair of a nose piston, and the part is still in D-J's possession. D-J has not provided an airworthiness certification on this part. Work had stopped due to ongoing litigation, but it has recommenced. D-J has not completed work on the part.

         III. Discussion

         818 seeks partial summary judgment on two claims: (1) 818's claim that D-J's negligence caused damage to Purchase Order 1643, the nose axle, under a theory of res ipsa loquitur, and (2) D-J's claim that 818 breached its contract with D-J by failing to pay for services on Purchase Order 1642. The Court discusses each in turn.

         A. 818's Negligence Claim on ...


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