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Media Alerts - Dixon v. Foot Locker et al. -- Fourth Circuit
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October 5, 2015
  Dixon v. Foot Locker et al. -- Fourth Circuit
Headline: Hoop Dreams Broken as Pro Se Litigant Fails to Score Against Foot Locker and Nike

Areas of Law: Torts, Products Liability

Issue Presented: Whether the district court erred in denying Mr. Dixon's motions to compel discovery and in granting summary judgment in favor of Foot Locker and Nike.

Brief Summary: Carl J. Dixon bought a pair of Nike sneakers from Foot Locker believing they were suitable for playing basketball. While playing basketball in the shoes, he slipped, injuring his knee and leg. Dixon brought these actions against Nike and Foot Locker as a pro se litigant. In federal district court, Dixon's motions to compel discovery were denied and summary judgment was granted in favor of Foot Locker and Nike. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court.

First, the Fourth Circuit reviewed the lower court's denial of Dixon's motions to compel. Dixon sought to depose the CEOs of Foot Locker and Nike. The Fourth Circuit, affording the district court considerable discretion in managing discovery, found it was appropriate to deny the motion to compel. Looking to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6), the court found a corporation, not the opposing party, chooses the representative who will testify on its behalf at a deposition. Furthermore, the "Apex Deposition Rule" prevented Dixon from compelling the depositions of the CEOs simply as a function of their title. This Rule prevents the deposing of a high level official, like a CEO, if that official does not have any knowledge of the issue at hand. The court affirmed the denial of another motion to compel that was filed outside the discovery period without justification for its delay.

Next, the Fourth Circuit reviewed the district court's grant of summary judgment. Dixon's claims against Foot Locker and Nike were based on the premise that the shoes he bought were unsafe for playing basketball and wearing the shoes while playing basketball led to his injury. Dixon did not provide expert testimony to support his claim. Summary judgment is granted when there is no genuine dispute as to the material facts. In order to survive the summary judgment motion Dixon had to provide evidence sufficient to establish all the elements of his claim. Dixon's claim was decided under Maryland state law even though the case was in federal court on diversity jurisdiction. Maryland courts have adopted a products liability rule that requires expert testimony when knowledge of a defective product is related to scientific or professional knowledge that is beyond that of the average person. Because of this rule, Dixon needed an expert to state there was something wrong with the shoe that caused his injury. The Fourth Circuit found the district court properly granted summary judgment because Dixon failed to provide expert testimony to support his claim.

Dixon also challenged other miscellaneous claims on appeal. For example, he challenged the combining of his claims and the denial of the motion to amend his claims. The Fourth Circuit refused to consider his first argument because he had not raised the issue in district court. The Fourth Circuit also did not consider the denial of his motion to amend because Dixon had not filed a notice of appeal for this claim.

Finally, Dixon claimed he had not received Foot Locker's summary judgment motion. The court found Nike's summary judgment motion provided the notice Dixon would need to produce an expert witness. As a result, not receiving Foot Locker's summary judgment motion did not constitute reversible error.

Panel: Judges Keenan, Harris and Davis

Argument Date: 07/31/2015

Date of Issued Opinion: 09/03/2015

Docket Number: No. 15-1125

Decided: Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion.

Case Alert Author: Diamond Martin, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Carl J. Dixon, Appellant Pro Se. Brian S. Goodman, Justin Akihiko Redd, KRAMON & GRAHAM, PA, Baltimore, Maryland; Paul McDermott Finamore, NILES, BARTON & WILMER, LLP, Baltimore, Maryland; Michael A. Joseph, Howard F. Strongin, STRONGIN ROTHMAN & ABRAMS LLP, New York, New York, for Appellees.

Author of Opinion: Per Curiam

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 10/05/2015 04:03 PM     4th Circuit  

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