News Brief

Reif and Horst Obtain Pre-answer Dismissal of Product Liability Third-Party Complaint

August 8, 2021

Frederick Reif (Partner-New York, NY) and Nathan Horst (Of Counsel-New York, NY) obtained pre-answer dismissal of a product liability third-party complaint in the Southern District of New York on behalf of an automotive component manufacturer. The third-party complaint stemmed from four class actions facing the manufacturer and its U.S. subsidiary in other districts, arising out of allegations of a safety defect in one of their components. In the instant case, the defendant/third-party plaintiff driver struck a vehicle in which one of the manufacturer’s components was incorporated. Counsel for his employer, seeking to distract from the driver’s negligence, copied the class action liability and jurisdiction allegations verbatim in a third-party complaint in order to assert negligence and products liability claims against the component manufacturer. The third-party complaint alleged the underlying plaintiff’s injuries resulted from the component defect, not the driver’s conduct. Fred and Nathan moved to dismiss on numerous grounds, including lack of personal jurisdiction, lack of standing to pursue tort claims against the component manufacturer, law of duty owed and lack of causation. They also noted that the defendants/third-party plaintiffs’ claims represented a disguised indemnity action impermissible under New York law given their undeniable fault in causing the accident. During pendency of the motion, Fred and Nathan obtained dismissal of three of the four class actions, and in doing so obtained an opinion dismissing the component manufacturer on personal jurisdiction grounds, which they supplied to the court as supplemental authority. The Southern District of New York subsequently issued an order dismissing the third-party complaint on jurisdictional grounds, consistent with the disposition of the class actions.


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