TABISH v. TARGET CORPORATION
Kenneth Tabish, Appellant,
Target Corporation, Respondent,
IMPACT Resource Group, Inc., an Ohio corporation, et al., Respondents,
John Does I-X, Defendants
Court of Appeals of Minnesota.
Filed June 27, 2011.
Louise A. Behrendt, Jessica Richardson Wymore, Stich, Angell, Kreidler, Dodge & Unke, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Peter J. Korneffel, Jr., Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, Denver, Colorado, for respondents IMPACT Resource Group, Inc. and National Product Services Acquisition Corporation.
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Worke, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment on his negligence and strict-liability claims. We conclude that the district court appropriately granted summary judgment in favor of both respondents on appellant's negligence claims. In granting summary judgment on appellant's strict-liability claims, however, the district court abused its discretion by sanctioning appellant for spoliation of evidence. Despite this error, summary judgment is still appropriate on appellant's strict-liability claim against respondent IMPACT Resource Group, Inc. But because genuine issues of material fact exist regarding appellant's strict-liability claim against respondent Target Corporation, we reverse and remand this issue for further proceedings.FACTS
In September 2004, appellant Kenneth Tabish was knocked unconscious and comatose for several weeks after crashing a bicycle owned by his friend, Joseph DeGrado, in Salt Lake City, Utah. The bicycle appellant crashed was a Huffy Surfside, which featured a fender partially covering the front wheel. The fender was made of a relatively flimsy material and required assembly at retail stores. Assembly involved attaching the fender anywhere along a sliding slot above the wheel; at the lowest slot location, the fender cleared the actual wheel by only 0.2 inch. DeGrado purchased the bicycle from a Target store in Utah less than a week before the accident. DeGrado attached a gasoline motor to the bicycle after purchasing it; despite this modification, DeGrado did not notice anything wrong during test rides prior to the accident. There were no witnesses to the accident and appellant has no memory of the crash.
Officer Michael Anderson, an accident reconstructionist for the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, responded to the scene of the accident and collected the bicycle as evidence. Officer Anderson observed nothing abnormal about the road that could have contributed to the accident. Officer Anderson also noted a short, straight tire-skid mark on the road where the accident occurred, indicating that appellant had not lost control of the bicycle. Officer Anderson concluded that the fender came in contact with the front wheel, causing the wheel to abruptly collapse and flip the bicycle, tossing appellant over the handlebar.
Officer Anderson examined the remainder of the bicycle and the motor, and concluded that there was no irregularity or defect in these parts. Having independently concluded that the cause of the accident was the fender digging into the front wheel, Officer Anderson retained only these pieces of the bicycle and returned the rest of the frame and the motor to DeGrado. But Officer Anderson did not instruct DeGrado to retain the returned pieces. DeGrado disassembled the remainder of the bicycle, found the motor to be in working condition, attached it to another bicycle, and sold the new bicycle with the old motor. DeGrado does not recall to whom he sold the new bicycle, and he discarded the remaining parts of the bicycle appellant crashed within nine months of the accident.