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Quality Air Services, LLC v. Milwaukee Valve Co.

November 25, 2009

QUALITY AIR SERVICES, LLC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MILWAUKEE VALVE COMPANY, INC. D/B/A HAMMOND VALVE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Quality Air Services, LLC ("Quality Air") has sued defendant Milwaukee Valve Company, Inc. d/b/a Hammond Valve Company ("Hammond Valve") for damages resulting from the purchase and installation of valves it claims were defectively manufactured. Hammond Valve now moves for partial summary judgment, and for the reasons stated herein, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Quality Air is a limited liability company that installs and repairs heating, ventilation, and air conditioning ("HVAC") units. (Compl. ¶ 1.) It specializes in the restoration, maintenance, and replacement of fan coil units for residential condominiums and rental units within multi-family housing buildings in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. (Id. ¶¶ 1-2.) Hammond Valve manufactures and sells valves used in various commercial and domestic applications, including HVAC systems for multi-family housing buildings. (Id. ¶ 4.) In particular, it manufactures the Hammond 8911 valves at issue in this case.

Between late 2004 and early 2007, Quality Air purchased 13,320 Hammond 8911 valves and installed them in buildings in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. (Id. ¶ 8.) Quality Air purchased the valves from the Noland Company, a wholesale distributor of mechanical equipment and supplies, which sold the product as manufactured and packaged by Hammond Valve. (Id. ¶ 14.) Sixteen of the valves it installed subsequently broke, resulting in leaks and flooding in the buildings in which they were placed. (Id. ¶ 24; see also Pl.'s Supp. Mem. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. ["Pl.'s Supp. Opp'n"] at 1.) As a result, in April 2008, Quality Air sued the defendant, alleging that Hammond Valve had breached express and implied warranties and had sold a defective and unreasonably dangerous product.*fn1 Plaintiff maintains that all of the 13,320 valves it purchased are defective in the manner in which they were manufactured. (Compl. ¶ 9.) Quality Air seeks compensatory and punitive damages, including the cost of replacing each of the 13,320 Hammond 8911 valves it installed. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26; Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. ["Pl.'s Opp'n"] at 8.)

Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment seeks to bar plaintiff's claims for expenses relating to replacement of valves that have not failed. (Mem. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. ["Def.'s Mem."] at 2.) Specifically, defendant argues that 1) plaintiff has failed to offer sufficient evidence that the installed, currently operating valves are non-conforming and/or defective, and 2) plaintiff's claims for damages based on the possibility that some or all of these valves might fail in the future are speculative. (Id.) Hammond Valve also argues that the plaintiff has not complied with the Court's local rules because it did not provide a statement of genuine issues of fact supported by references to specific portions of the record. (Def.'s Mem. in Reply to Opp'n to Mot. for Partial Summ. J. ["Def.'s Reply"] at 2-3.) As such, defendant contends that the Court should strike plaintiff's opposition and assume as true all facts in its own Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute. (Id. at 3.) Finally, defendant contends that plaintiff's claims of express and implied breaches of warranty are barred because plaintiff failed to notify the defendant within a "reasonable" time that it considered the installed and still-operating Hammond 8911 valves to be non-conforming. (Id. at 17-18.)

ANALYSIS

I. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion for summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). There is a "genuine issue" of material fact if a "reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Galvin v. Eli Lily & Co., 488 F.3d 1026, 1031 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). A moving party is thus entitled to summary judgment against "a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Hunt v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., 636 F. Supp. 2d 23, 25-26 (D.D.C. 2009) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).

By pointing to the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. A nonmoving party may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements, but must present "specific facts that would enable a jury to find in its favor." Felton v. Haris Design & Const. Co., 417 F. Supp. 2d 17, 21 (D.D.C. 2006).

II. SUFFICIENCY OF PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION

Hammond Valve argues in its reply that Quality Air failed to provide a statement of genuine issues of fact with references to the record and that the Court should therefore strike Quality Air's opposition and assume as true the facts in Hammond Valve's statement of facts. (Def.'s Reply at 3.) The local rules provide that an opposition to a motion for summary judgment "shall be accompanied by a separate, concise statement of genuine issues setting forth all material facts as to which it is contended there exists a genuine issue necessary to be litigated, which shall include references to the parts of the record relied on to support the statement." Local Civ. R. 7(h). This rule exists to "assist[] the district court to maintain docket control and to decide motions for summary judgment efficiently and effectively." Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, 101 F.3d 145, 150 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Rule 7 "places the burden on the parties to focus the court's attention on the salient factual issues in what otherwise may amount to a mountain of exhibits and other materials." Id. at 153.

While failure to file a proper statement of facts under this rule "may be fatal to the delinquent party's position," id. at 151 (internal quotation marks omitted), the Court declines to strike plaintiff's opposition on this ground.Although Quality Air's Statement of Material Facts in Dispute does not reference the record, plaintiff's memorandum in opposition includes extensive citations to various exhibits and deposition testimony. (See, e.g.,Pl.'s Opp'n at 10-19, 20-21.) As such, plaintiff effectively "isolate[d] the facts that the parties assert are material, distinguishe[d] disputed from undisputed facts, and identifie[d] the pertinent parts of the record." Jackson, 101 F.3d at 151. The Court therefore finds it unnecessary to invoke the drastic step of treating the issues in defendant's motion as conceded. See Burke v. Gould, 286 F.3d 513, 518 (D.C. Cir. 2002) ("[T]he court has ...


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