Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

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In this case, a manufacturer sold a surgical device to a hospital, which credentialed some of its physicians to perform surgery with the device. The manufacturer's warnings regarding that device were at the heart of this case: whether the manufacturer owed a duty to warn the hospital that purchased the device. The manufacturer argued that since it warned the physician who performed the surgery, it had no duty to warn any other party. The Supreme Court disagreed because the doctor was often not the product purchaser. The Court found that the WPLA required manufacturers to warn purchasers about their dangerous medical devices. “Hospitals need these warnings to credential the operating physicians and to provide optimal care for patients. In this case, the trial court did not instruct the jury that the manufacturer had a duty to warn the hospital that purchased the device. Consequently, we find that the trial court erred.” View "Taylor v. Intuitive Surgical Inc." on Justia Law

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In July 2003, plaintiff Andrew McCarrell filed a products-liability action alleging that Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. (Roche) had failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks and side effects associated with taking Accutane. Plaintiff timely filed this products-liability action within New Jersey's statute of limitations, but Alabama's limitations period had expired by the time of the filing. The issue is which state's statute of limitations applied under New Jersey s choice-of-law jurisprudence. Roche moved for summary judgment, citing Alabama's two-year statute of limitations. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the governmental-interest test set forth in "Gantes v. Kason Corp.," (145 N.J.478 (1996)), directed that New Jersey's statute of limitations governed the case. The jury found in favor of McCarrell on the failure-to-warn claim, but the Appellate Division reversed based on evidentiary issues. The Appellate Division approved the trial court's application of New Jersey's statute of limitations to the case, however, and the Court denied Roche's petition for certification. After a new trial, a jury found Roche liable for failure to warn, awarding McCarrell $25,159,530. Roche challenged the verdict on the ground that the governmental-interest test had been supplanted by the most-significant-relationship test of sections 146, 145, and 6 of the Second Restatement of Conflicts of Law and argued that, under this test, Alabama's statute of limitations applied. The trial court denied the challenge as untimely. An appellate panel expressly declined to apply section 142 of the Second Restatement, vacated the jury's verdict and award, dismissed McCarrell's complaint as untimely, and did not reach the remaining issues raised by Roche on appeal. McCarrell's petition for certification was granted. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the jury's verdict and award. Analysis under section 142 of the Second Restatement lead to the conclusion that New Jersey's statute of limitations was properly applied to this action. The matter was remanded to the Appellate Division for consideration of unaddressed issues remaining on appeal. View "McCarrell v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc." on Justia Law

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Howard and Nancy Nease filed a products liability suit against Ford, alleging that Howard sustained serious injuries in an accident caused by a design defect in the speed control system of his 2001 Ford Ranger pickup truck. The jury awarded plaintiffs over $3 million in damages. The district court denied Ford's post-trial motions. The court concluded that the expert testimony of Samuel Sero regarding the speed control cable should not have been admitted. The court explained that Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. applies to Sero's testimony and the district court did not perform its gatekeeping duties with respect to Sero’s testimony. In this case, Sero’s testimony should have been excluded under Daubert because it was unsupported. Without any other expert testimony to establish that the 2001 Ford Ranger was defectively designed and that there were safer alternative designs available that a reasonably prudent manufacturer would have adopted, the court concluded that the Neases cannot prove their case under West Virginia law. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for entry of judgment in Ford's favor. View "Nease v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and her husband filed a products liability suit against Ethicon after she experienced complications from the implantation of a transvaginal mesh medical device. On appeal, Ethicon challenges the denial of its post-trial renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial. The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that the district court did not commit reversible error where plaintiffs offered sufficient evidence to sustain the jury's general verdict for plaintiffs on their design defect, failure to warn, and loss of consortium claims. In this case, the district court did not err by excluding evidence of the FDA's section 510(k) evaluation process; excluding the FDA Advisory Committee evidence; and excluding evidence of the Prolene suture's regulatory history. View "Huskey v. Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law

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Virgil Becker, a retired doctor, was killed in a plane crash. His estate claimed that a faulty carburetor caused the crash. Forward Technology Industries Inc. (FTI) built a component for that carburetor. The Estate brought numerous claims against FTI, including a state product liability claim implicating a faulty carburetor component. FTI moved for summary judgment, arguing that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 preempted state law. The federal district court for the Third Circuit recently found that federal aviation regulations do not preempt the state product liability of an aviation systems manufacturer because they were “not so pervasive as to indicate congressional intent to preempt state law.” The Washington Supreme Court followed the Third Circuit and found that the Federal Aviation Act did not preempt state law, reversed the Court of Appeals which held to the contrary, and remanded this case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Estate of Becker v. Forward Tech. Indus., Inc." on Justia Law

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Acqua Vista Homeowners Association ("the HOA") sued MWI, Inc. ("MWI"), a supplier of pipe used in the construction of the Acqua Vista condominium development. The operative third amended complaint contained a claim for a violation of Civil Code section 8951 et seq. ("the Act") standards in which the HOA alleged that "[d]efective cast iron pipe manufactured in China [was] used throughout the building." At a pretrial hearing, the HOA explained that it was not pursuing a claim premised on the doctrine of strict liability, only that it was alleging a single cause of action against MWI for violations of the Act's standards. During a jury trial, near the close of evidence, MWI filed a motion for a directed verdict on the ground that the HOA failed to present any evidence that MWI had caused a violation of the Act's standards as a result of MWI's negligence or breach of contract, as required. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the HOA was not required to prove that any violations of the Act's standards were caused by MWI's negligence or breach of contract. On appeal, MWI claimed that the trial court misinterpreted the Act and, as a result, erred in denying its motion for a directed verdict and motion for JNOV. After review, the Court of appeal agreed, reversed and remanded for entry of MWI’s directed verdict. View "Acqua Vista Homeowners Assn. v. MWI, Inc." on Justia Law

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After a bus rollover accident in Arizona caused injuries and deaths, plaintiffs filed suit seeking to recover in strict liability. Plaintiffs, Chinese nationals, are the passengers who were injured, and the survivors of the passengers who were killed. Plaintiffs' theory of the case is that passenger seatbelts would have prevented the deaths and greatly lessened the injuries suffered. The court concluded that the trial court erred in applying Indiana products liability law, which is substantially less favorable to plaintiffs, as opposed to California products liability law. In this case, the tour bus had been manufactured in Indiana, by an Indiana manufacturer, but the manufacturer had previously settled out of the case. The court explained that the trial court should have fully reconsidered the choice of law issue after the manufacturer's settlement with plaintiffs. On de novo review, the court concluded that, considering the governmental interests at stake, California law has an interest in applying its laws, while Indiana does not. The court stated that California’s interest in imposing its rules of strict products liability, in which a California dealership ordered an allegedly defective product, imported it into the state, and sold it to a California tour company, for use on California roads, is strong. Because the trial court erred in applying Indiana law and the error was prejudicial, the court reversed and remanded for a new trial. View "Chen v. L.A. Truck Centers" on Justia Law

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Baugh fell off a five‐foot, A‐frame aluminum ladder while working on a gutter. Baugh sustained significant bleeding in his brain, which caused seizures, dementia, and quadriplegia. In a suit against Cuprum, which designed and manufactured the ladder, alleging a design defect under strict liability and negligence theories, Baugh argued that the ladder was not designed to accommodate 200-pound individuals and that a feasible alternate design would have prevented the accident. Cuprum argued that the accident occurred because Baugh climbed too high on the ladder, standing on its fourth step and pail shelf, neither of which were intended to be stood on. A jury found in Cuprum’s favor. On remand, Baugh elicited testimony from neighbors and a paramedic, all of whom arrived post‐accident, and from experts relating to the cause of the accident and the severity of his resulting injuries. There was testimony concerning how many pounds per square inch could be exerted on the ladder and how Baugh was standing on the ladder. Cuprum elicited contrary testimony. The Seventh Circuit affirmed an award of $11 million. Baugh’s experts’ methodologies were adequate; Cuprum’s challenges concerned the weight of their testimony rather than its admissibility. A reasonable jury could find in Baugh’s favor. Baugh supplied sufficient evidence that a feasible alternative existed, and that the accident was more likely attributable to the ladder’s original defective design than to its improper use. View "Baugh v. Cuprum S.A. de C.V." on Justia Law

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Ross Linert sustained severe injuries when Adrien Foutz, an intoxicated driver, struck Ross’s vehicle from behind, triggering a fuel-fed fire. At the time of the accident, Ross, a veteran police officer, was on patrol in a 2005 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI) manufactured by Ford Motor Company. Ross and his wife, Brenda Linert, sued Foutz. The Linerts subsequently added product liability and malice claims against Ford. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Ford on all of the Linerts’ claims. The Linerts appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on Ohio Rev. Code 2307.76(A)(2), Ohio’s statute governing manufacturers’ postmarked duty to warn consumers of risks associated with a product that are not discovered until after the product has been sold. The appellate court ordered a new trial on the Linerts’ postmarketing failure-to-warn claim, concluding that the there was sufficient evidence to warrant a jury instruction on the Linerts’ postmarketing failure-to-warn claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court properly refused to instruct on a postmarketing duty to warn in this case. View "Linert v. Foutz" on Justia Law

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Appellee Marcella Fletcher was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, which she attributed to years of laundering her father’s asbestos-dust-covered work clothing, and she sued Appellant CertainTeed Corporation, who manufactured the asbestos-laden water pipes with which her father had worked. In her complaint, she alleged, inter alia, negligent design and negligent failure to warn. Before the completion of discovery, the trial court granted CertainTeed’s motion for summary judgment, and Fletcher appealed. A majority of the Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment, concluding that CertainTeed had failed to demonstrate, as a matter of law, the absence of evidence that its product was defectively designed. The Court of Appeals also found that a jury question existed as to whether CertainTeed had a duty to warn Fletcher of the risks associated with inhaling asbestos dust. After its review, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded that CertainTeed owed no duty to warn Fletcher of the possible hazards of asbestos-dust from its products, but that the Court of Appeals correctly reversed the trial court’s judgment with respect to Fletcher’s defective design claim. View "CertainTeed Corp. v. Fletcher" on Justia Law