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Insurer Loses Suit Over Relient K Tour Bus Fire

(CN) - Engine part makers are not liable for the tour bus fire that befell the Christian rock band Relient K, a federal judge ruled.

The Relient K tour bus caught fire as it was traveling along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the early hours of June 28, 2007.

Westfield Insurance filed suit in the Somerset County Court of Common Pleas after receiving property damage claims from THP Entertainment, temporarily doing business as Relient K.

The Billboard chart-toppers signed with Capitol nearly a decade ago and will reportedly release its next album through RCA Records.

Westfield blamed the band's tour bus fire on a defective engine or turbocharger. It complaint alleged product liability, negligence, and breach of warranty against Detroit Diesel Corp., Honeywell International Inc., Honeywell Transportation Systems and Honeywell Turbo Technologies.

The defendants removed the case to federal court in 2010, and the Western District of Pennsylvania eventually entered summary judgment for the manufacturers.

U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson refused to reconsider that decision Friday.

Westfield failed to properly file a concise statement of material facts (CSMF) in response to the summary judgment motion, according to the ruling.

Gibson rejected the insurer's belated justification to the court that "the document itself was saved in counsel's office computer system as '2011.11.01 Concise Statement of Facts.'"

"Plaintiff's position is unpersuasive in that the court did not have access to counsel's computer files; the court must rely upon the parties' filings," Gibson wrote.

Westfield also failed to convince the court that an expert's phone interview with the vehicle operator and final turbocharger examination sufficiently identified his investigative methodology.

"Plaintiff's perception that this would pass for acceptable methodological standards yielding reliable expert opinion is misplaced," the 14-page opinion states. "Rather than engage in debating metatheory concerning proper methodological standards, the court finds it sufficient to acknowledge that a phone interview and initial examination are not a sufficiently detailed methodology of coming to a final assessment of the cause of the fire."

Gibson also criticized Westfield for failing to present "new evidence indicating the cited reports contained details concerning the scientific methods of how the expert arrived at his findings. Such additional evidence is lacking in the instant motion."

She also shot down its calls for an in limine hearing.

"Plaintiff is unable to present to the court any change in law, new evidence, or make a persuasive argument that there was a clear error of law or that manifest justice would result," Gibson wrote. "Plaintiff has attempted to bring forth the same argument before this court on the motion for summary judgment. Indeed, plaintiff has failed to acknowledge this district's instruction that 'a motion for reconsideration is not a tool to re-litigate and reargue issues which have already been considered and disposed of by the court.' For these reasons, the court will not grant plaintiff's motion to reconsider on these grounds."

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