Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
MAN Roland, Inc.,
f/k/a M.A.N. Truck & Bus Corporation,
a Delaware corporation, et al.,
a Delaware corporation,
defendant and third-party plaintiff,
Metropolitan Council for Transit Operations,
File No. PI9517801
Douglas E. Schmidt, Douglas E. Schmidt & Associates, P.A., 900 Midwest Plaza East, Eighth & Marquette, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
John H. Hinderaker, Deborah J. Mackay, Faegre & Benson LLP, 2200 Norwest Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-3901 (for respondents MAN)
Mark D. Covin, Murnane, Conlin, White & Brandt, P.A., 1800 Piper Jaffray Plaza, 444 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Isringhausen)
Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.
Appellant James Hinze challenges the granting of summary judgment in favor of respondents Isringhausen, Inc. (Isringhausen), and MAN Roland, Inc., MAN AG, and MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG (collectively "MAN") on appellant's claims of strict products liability, negligence, failure to warn, and breach of warranty. Appellant argues the district court erred in concluding as a matter of law that appellant failed to establish a prima facie case. We affirm.
To establish a prima facie case for each of his claims, appellant must demonstrate, among other things, that the defect in the manufacturer's product was the proximate cause of the injuries sustained. See Drager by Gutzman v. Aluminum Indus., Corp., 495 N.W.2d 879, 882, 884-85 (Minn. App. 1993) (applying proximate causation analysis to claims of strict products liability, negligence, and failure to warn), review denied (Minn. Apr. 20, 1993); Craft Tool & Die Co. v. Payne, 385 N.W.2d 24, 26 (Minn. App. 1986) (concluding causation required for breach of warranty claims).
Appellant here failed to establish that the bus seat was the proximate cause of his injuries. It is undisputed that the seat underwent various repairs of an unknown nature. Appellant's inability to produce the allegedly defective seat makes it impossible to determine the extent and effect of the repairs and possible modifications. Further, appellant's failure to produce the bus seat that allegedly caused his injuries is prejudicial to respondents because respondents cannot conduct investigations into the product to determine if the seat could have caused appellant's injuries or to determine the effect of the seat's subsequent repairs. As the supreme court recently stated:
It must be emphasized that this is not simply a design defect case, where at least one court has suggested that the prejudice to the defendant from spoliation may be less than in a manufacturing defect claim. Instead, there is also undisputed evidence that the claimed defective product had been substantially modified or repaired prior to the accident, the extent to which and the effects of which can no longer be ascertained.
Patton v. Newmar Corp., 538 N.W.2d 116, 119 (Minn. 1995) (footnote omitted). Thus, under Patton, even if appellant could demonstrate that a design defect existed when the seat left Isringhausen's control, because there were subsequent repairs, his "failure to preserve the evidence eliminates [his] ability to demonstrate that the defect was present at the time" of the accident or caused the injury. Id. at 120.
As this court has stated, without assessing blame or implying any wrongdoing on appellant's behalf, we recognize that appellant must bear the consequences for his inability to produce the seat. Himes v. Woodings-Verona Tool Works, Inc., 565 N.W.2d 469, 471 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. Aug. 26, 1997). Because appellant has not produced the allegedly defective seat in its post-repair condition, he cannot, as a matter of law, make the required showing that the product in question was the proximate and actual cause of his injuries. Thus, the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of both Isringhausen and MAN.