AGF&J wins pre-discovery Summary Judgment in products liability case in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York; Complaint dismissed in its entirety on procedural grounds

Brandon Steiner v. Anbrook Industries, Ltd., et al, (S.D.N.Y. April 4, 2018)

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In an Opinion and Order dated April 4, 2018, Judge Katherine B. Forrest, U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York, granted summary judgment to the defendants and dismissed the plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety in Brandon Steiner v. Anbrook Industries, Ltd. et al, docket number 17-CV-5187 (SDNY). In this case, the plaintiff, Brandon Steiner, sued AGF&J's client, Anbrook Industries, and other defendants, based on products liability and breach of warranty causes of action for claims arising out of an alleged defect in cedar shingles used on roof installed on Mr. Steiner's Larchmont, New York home. Anbrook is a Canadian corporation located in British Columbia. The plaintiff alleged that Anbrook was liable for the premature degradation, discoloration and rot of the cedar roof due to negligent design and manufacture of the cedar shingles as well as breach of the warranty that accompanied the shingles.

AGF&J undertook an investigation into Mr. Steiner's claims and discovered that Mr. Steiner and his contractor were aware of problems with the roof beginning in June, 2012, at the latest. AGF&J also determined that, at some point after installation, Steiner had the roof power washed stained in violation of the express terms of the warranty, and that Mr. Steiner never registered the Anbrook warranty that allegedly accompanied the Anbrook shingles. After learning of these facts, AGF&J advised the Court and requested leave to immediately move to dismiss the Complaint. Judge Forrest stayed discovery proceedings and noted that Anbrook's letter "raises a serious question about the Statute of Limitations." However, she granted plaintiff leave to file and serve an amended complaint. Plaintiff amended his complaint to add additional allegations that Anbrook and other defendants had engaged in fraudulent misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment concerning the shingles.

Subsequently, Annbrook moved for summary judgment based on the documentary evidence and admissions contained in plaintiff's pleadings. In support of the motion, Anbrook submitted evidence demonstrating that Mr. Steiner and his contractor knew about the alleged condition of the shingles and held meetings concerning the problems with the roof in June, 2012, at the latest. Based on this evidence, Anbrook argued that the three-year statute of limitations for negligence and products liability expired in June, 2015 and the four-year statute of limitations for breach of warranty claims expired in June, 2016. Thus, Plaintiff's lawsuit, which was not commenced until July 10, 2017, was time barred. With respect to Plaintiff's warranty claim, Anbrook submitted evidence establishing that Mr. Steiner had power washed the roof and applied a transparent stain, in express violation of the warranty. Further, Anbrook submitted evidence that Plaintiff never registered his warranty with Anbrook or timely filed a claim regarding the shingles, as required by the warranty. In opposition to the motion, the plaintiff was unable to refute the evidence submitted by Anbrook.

The Court granted summary judgment to Anbrook on all grounds, holding that the statutes of limitations expired for the plaintiff's causes of action under New York law in June, 2015 and June, 2016, respectively. The Court also agreed that plaintiff violated the express terms of the warranty and thus could not recover based on a breach of warranty claim. Judge Forrest rejected plaintiff's allegations of fraud, holding that fraudulent concealment and misrepresentation require a duty to disclose that is not present in an arms-length financial transaction. Moreover, the Court noted that plaintiff failed to plead the alleged instances of fraud with the particularity required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The motions of the other defendants were also granted in all respects and the lawsuit was dismissed in its entirety.

AGF&J associate James E. Kimmel briefed and argued the motion.