United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
HILDA BATES, as Administrator of the Estate of Neman T. Bates, Plaintiff,
TIPPMANN SPORTS, LLC, and GAYSTON CORPORATION, Defendants, And GAYSTON CORPORATION, Third-Party Plaintiff,
BDX, ENTERPRISES, INC., Third-Party Defendant.
C. MULLEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon motions of the Defendants and
the Third-Party Defendant for Summary Judgment. These motions
are fully briefed and this matter is ripe for disposition.
a products liability action arising from the death of Newman
Bates (“Mr. Bates”). Around Christmas of 2014 Mr.
Bates purchased paintball marker kits at Dick's Sporting
Goods (“DSG”) for himself and his 10-year-old
son. One of the kits contained a 9 oz. CO2 canister. The
canister was sold by Defendant Tippmann Sports, LLC
(“Tippmann”) and was designed, manufactured, and
assembled by Defendant Gayston Corporation
(“Gayston”). The canister was equipped with a
pressure relief device (“PRD”) designed to
release the CO2 inside the canister if it ever exceeded 3000
psi. The service pressure of the canister was 1800 psi, and
it was rated to rupture at 4500 psi. The pin valve of the
canister, including its PRD, was sold to Gayston by
Third-Party Defendant, BXD, Enterprises, Inc.
(“BXD”). It is undisputed that the PRD at issue
contained two “burst disks” instead of
This rendered the PRD defective, causing it to fail to
activate when the pressure in Mr. Bates' canister rose.
The cylinder itself was not defective.
Mr. Bates and his group of friends began playing paintball,
they had their CO2 canisters filled at DSG in Gastonia, North
Carolina, a 30-minute drive from Mike Shipley's house,
where the group played paintball. At some point, members of
the group began to consider whether they could fill their own
canisters. The canisters, including the one at issue herein,
contained the following warning on the label affixed to the
IMPROPER USE, FILLING, STORAGE OR DISPOSAL OF THIS CYLINDER
MAY RESULT IN DEATH, PERSONAL INJURY AND PROPERTY DAMAGE.
THIS CYLINDER MUST BE FILLED ONLY BY PROPERLY TRAINED
PERSONNAL IN ACCORDANCE WITH CGA PAMPLETS P.1.C6, G-6.8,
& AV-7.2 AVAILABLE FROM THE COMPRESSED GAS ASSOCIATION,
4221 WALNEY ROAD 5th FLOOR, CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA
DO NOT OVER PRESSURIZE. . . .
Owner's Manual that accompanied the marker kit contained
a similar warning.
some research, the group learned that there is no
certification or license that qualifies someone as a
“trained personnel” capable of filling a CO2
canister. Mr. Bates and his friend group began researching
how to safely fill a CO2 canister. One of the members of the
group rented a bulk CO2 tank from a welding supply store so
the group could refill their CO2 canisters at a lesser cost
without traveling to a store. They stored the rented tank
inside Mr. Shipley's garage. Shipley purchased a fill
station and scale so that the group could transfer CO2 from
the bulk tank to their personal CO2 canisters. The group
reviewed fill instructions available online, watched several
videos demonstrating the process, and watched a DSG employee
fill a canister. Mr. Bates personally reviewed the videos and
available instructions, just like the rest of the group. He
read the included Owner's Manual. He asked questions and
learned about the fill process from an employee at a
paintball field and gear store. Prior to filling his first
canister, he received personal instruction from Shipley, who
by that time had filled several canisters.
February 1, 2015, Mr. Bates played paintball with his friends
and refilled his canisters, including the one at issue
herein, in Mr. Shipley's garage after the games ended.
There is no dispute that the canister at issue was filled
above its capacity. On February 2, 2015, Mr. Bates was in his
kitchen wrapping the exterior of the CO2 canister with
camouflage tape when it exploded. Mr. Bates was taken by
ambulance to the hospital where he was pronounced dead upon
arrival from massive internal trauma to the chest and neck as
a result of the canister explosion.
Hilda Bates filed this lawsuit naming Tippmann and
Gayston as Defendants and alleging claims of
negligent design, negligent manufacture, negligent failure to
warn or instruct, and breach of implied warranties. Gayston
filed a Third-Party Complaint against BDX seeking
indemnification if it is found that BDX sold a negligently
manufactured valve and PRD to Gayston. All three Defendants
have now moved for summary judgment, arguing that Mr. Bates
was contributorily negligent, thus barring Plaintiff's