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Brittain v. Motorola Mobility, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

August 2, 2019



          Kenneth D. Bell, United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Motorola Mobility, LLC's (“Motorola” or “Defendant”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 29), which Plaintiff Daniel Brittain (“Plaintiff”) opposes. The Court has carefully reviewed the Motion and considered the parties' briefs and exhibits. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will GRANT the motion and enter Summary Judgment in favor of Defendant.


         Plaintiff originally filed this action in Superior Court of Catawba County against Lenovo (United States), Inc. (“Lenovo”) and Motorola on June 28, 2017 (Doc. No. 1-1.). Motorola and Lenovo removed the action to this court on August 3, 2017. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his claims against Lenovo on October 16, 2017. (Doc. No. 14.)

         Plaintiff styled this action as a product liability case based on two distinct grounds: breach of implied warranty and negligence. Plaintiff indicates in his Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment that he will not proceed with his negligence-based claim. (Doc. No. 34, at 13.) Accordingly, the only issue before the court is whether or not Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's breach of implied warranty claim.

         The undisputed facts are as follows: In December 2014, Plaintiff purchased a Droid Turbo cellular telephone (the “Phone”) manufactured by Motorola. (Doc. No. 30, at 2.) Plaintiff subsequently experienced hearing loss documented by physicians in March and April 2015. (Id. at 4.) He testified that this hearing loss was caused by the Phone emitting loud “firework” sounds on two occasions. (Id. at 2-3.) The exact dates of the two incidents are disputed, but it is clear that the first one occurred in late-January or early-February, 2015, and the second occurred April 2015. (Id.) At the time of both incidents, Plaintiff was performing a Google search using an application on the Phone. (Id.) At least the first incident occurred when Plaintiff pressed the “search” button on the Phone's touchscreen. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff testified he did not notice anything abnormal about the Phone when either incident occurred, such as overheating or odor. (Id. at 2-3.) After both incidents, the Phone reverted to normal function. (Id.) Plaintiff continued to use the Phone until his service contract expired. (Id. at 4.)

         Motorola filed the instant Motion on October 29, 2018, seeking summary judgment in its favor on all claims.[1] The parties presented oral arguments at a hearing before the Court on July 23, 2019. This matter is now ripe for adjudication.


         Summary judgment must be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. A factual dispute is considered genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Vannoy v. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, 827 F.3d 296, 300 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013)).

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact through citations to the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions or affidavits in the record. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). “The burden on the moving party may be discharged by ‘showing'. . . an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. Once this initial burden is met, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party. The nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, ” Id. at 322 n.3. The nonmoving party may not rely upon mere allegations or denials of allegations in his pleadings to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 324.

         When ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court must view the evidence and any inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. 650, 657 (2014); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. “Summary judgment cannot be granted merely because the court believes that the movant will prevail if the action is tried on the merits.” Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting 10A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller et al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 2728 (3d ed.1998)). “The court therefore cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations.” Id. at 569 (citing Mercantile Peninsula Bank v. French (In re French), 499 F.3d 345, 352 (4th Cir. 2007)).

         However, “[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (internal citations omitted). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Also, the mere argued existence of a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion. Id. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at 249-50.

         In the end, the question posed by a summary judgment motion is whether the evidence as applied to the governing legal rules “is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 252.

         III. ...

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