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Commerce and Industry Insurance Co. v. Watts Water Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

October 31, 2016

COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY INSURANCE COMPANY, as subrogee of Charles and Jennifer Kelley, Plaintiff,
v.
WATTS WATER TECHNOLOGIES, INC.; WATTS REGULATOR CO.; JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-20; DOE CORPORATIONS 1- 0; DOE PARTNERSHIPS 1-20; DOE GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES 1-20; DOE ENTITIES 1-20, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS WATTS WATER TECHNOLOGIES, INC. AND WATTS REGULATOR CO.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 52)

          HELEN GILLMOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Commerce and Industry Insurance Company has filed a Complaint alleging claims of strict products liability and negligence against Defendants Watts Water Technologies, Inc. and Watts Regulator Company. Plaintiff alleges that in August 2002 Defendants manufactured a toilet connector, which they sold and distributed in 2003 with a one-year limited warranty. Plaintiff asserts that more than ten years later, the toilet connector malfunctioned and caused water to flow into the home of Charles and Jennifer Kelley, resulting in over $350, 000 in damages.

         Plaintiff insured the Kelleys and reimbursed them for the damage to their home. Plaintiff seeks to recover the payments it issued to the Kelleys as it is subrogated to the Kelleys' right of recovery against Defendants.

         Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that both tort causes of action in Plaintiff's Complaint are barred pursuant to the economic loss rule. Defendants argue the Plaintiff is precluded from bringing tort causes of action to recover purely economic damages.

         Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 52) is GRANTED.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 17, 2015, Plaintiff Commerce and Industry Insurance Company, as subrogee of Charles and Jennifer Kelley, filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii. (ECF No. 2-2).

         On August 13, 2015, Defendants Watts Water Technologies, Inc. and Watts Regulator Company removed the state court action to the United States District Court, District of Hawaii. (ECF No. 2).

         On June 7, 2016, Defendants filed DEFENDANTS WATTS WATER TECHNOLOGIES, INC. AND WATTS REGULATOR CO.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 52) along with DEFENDANTS WATTS WATER TECHNOLOGIES, INC. AND WATTS REGULATOR CO.'S SEPARATE AND CONCISE STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF THEIR MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. (ECF No. 53).

         On June 16, 2016, the Court issued a briefing schedule. (ECF No. 54).

         On June 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed PLAINTIFF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY INSURANCE COMPANY'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS WATTS WATER TECHNOLOGIES, INC. AND WATTS REGULATOR CO.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 55) along with PLAINTIFF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY INSURANCE COMPANY'S RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS WATTS WATER TECHNOLOGIES, INC. AND WATTS REGULATOR CO.'S SEPARATE AND CONCISE STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF THEIR MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. (ECF No. 56).

         On June 30, 2016, Plaintiff requested a continuance for the scheduled hearing date for Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, which was granted. (ECF Nos. 59, 60).

         On July 27, 2016, Defendants filed DEFENDANTS WATTS WATER TECHNOLOGIES, INC. AND WATTS REGULATOR CO.'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE DEFENDANTS WATTS WATER TECHNOLOGIES, INC. AND WATTS REGULATOR CO.'S REPLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF ITS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. (ECF No. 62).

         On July 28, 2016, the Court issued an Order granting Defendants' Motion for Leave to file a Reply. (ECF No. 63).

         On the same date, Defendants filed DEFENDANTS WATTS WATER TECHNOLOGIES, INC. AND WATTS REGULATOR CO.'S REPLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF ITS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. (ECF No. 64).

         On July 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Response that it did not oppose Defendants' Motion for Leave to file a Reply. (ECF No. 65).

         On August 11, 2016, the Court held a hearing on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         The Parties agree to the following facts:

         In August 2002, Defendants Watts Water Technologies, Inc. and Watts Regulator Company manufactured a toilet connector that it distributed and sold in 2003. (Declaration of Gregory Gyorda, Director of Marketing and Communications for Defendants Watts Water Technologies, Inc. and Watts Regulator Company, (“Gyorda Decl.”) at ¶¶ 1, 5, attached to Def.'s Concise Statement of Facts (“CSF”), ECF No. 53-2). A toilet connector is a small hose with a coupling nut that connects a toilet to a home's interior plumbing for the purpose of supplying water to the toilet. (Gyorda Decl. at ¶ 3, attached to Def.'s CSF, ECF No. 53-2; Photograph of toilet connector, attached as Ex. E to Def.'s CSF, ECF No. 53-7).

         The toilet connector manufactured and distributed by Defendants was used to connect a toilet to the interior plumbing in the home of Jennifer and Charles Kelley in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Toilet connector, attached as Ex. E to Def.'s CSF, ECF No. 53-7; Complaint at ¶¶ 7-8, attached as Ex. A to Def.'s CSF, ECF No. 53-3).

         At the hearing, Plaintiff's counsel stated that the Kelleys' home was built in the 1930's and was purchased by the Kelleys in the 1990's. The installation of the toilet connector occurred sometime after its manufacturing date of August 2002.

         Although the Kelleys have owned the home since the 1990's, Plaintiff has not provided any information as to when the toilet connector was purchased, when it was installed or who installed it. While the product was manufactured in 2002, Plaintiff stated in its First Supplemental Answers to Interrogatories that “it has no information regarding who installed or assisted in installing the toilet connector. Plaintiff consulted with the Kelleys and the Kelleys do not know who installed the toilet connector.” (Pla.'s First Supp. Answers at p. 4, attached as Ex. F to Pla.'s CSF, ECF No. 57-1).

         The toilet connector was sold with a limited one-year warranty provision by Defendant Watts Regulator Company. (Warranty ...


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