Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

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The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the trial court erred in concluding that defendant Ford Motor Company was subject to general personal jurisdiction in Colorado, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in "Daimler A.G. v. Bauman," (134 S. CT. 746 (2014)). This case arose out of a 2013 accident in Colorado in which plaintiff John Magill's 2007 Ford Fusion collided with a vehicle driven by defendant Mark Polunci. Magill (and his wife) alleged that Ford, as manufacturer of the Fusion, was liable for Mr. Magill's serious injuries based on three causes of action sounding in tort. Ford moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. After review, the Colorado Court determined that the record did not support a finding that Ford was "essentially at home" in Colorado, and therefore not subject to general personal jurisdiction here, "maintaining a registered agent in the state does not convert a foreign corporation to a resident." Because none of the parties resided in Denver and the accident did not occur there, the Supreme Court concluded venue was not appropriate where the action was originally filed, in Denver County. The Supreme Court remanded this case for the trial court to transfer this case to an appropriate venue. The proper venue would then determine whether Ford was subject to specific jurisdiction. View "Magill v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Consolidated appeals arose from the death of four-year-old Nevaeh Johnson in a fire that destroyed her family's mobile home in May 2011. Following Nevaeh's death, Nevaeh's mother, Latosha Hosford; Latosha's husband, Chad Barley ("Barley"); and Nevaeh's grandmother, Rhonda Hosford ("Hosford"), sued multiple parties, of note, BRK Brands, Inc. ("BRK"), the manufacturer of two smoke alarms in the mobile home at the time of the fire. The plaintiffs alleged that BRK was responsible for Nevaeh's death inasmuch as a BRK-manufactured ionization smoke alarm allegedly did not respond to smoke caused by the fire and sound an alarm in time to allow Nevaeh to escape. In appeal no. 1140899, Latosha appealed the judgment as a matter of law entered on her failure-to-warn, negligence, and wantonness claims, as well as a judgment entered on the jury's verdict following the trial of her products-liability claim brought under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine ("AEMLD"). In appeal no. 1140901, Latosha and Hosford, as co-administratrixes of Nevaeh's estate, appealed the judgment as a matter of law entered on their breach-of-warranty claim seeking compensatory damages on behalf of Nevaeh for pain and mental anguish she allegedly suffered before her death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that with respect to Latosha's AEMLD claim, she did not submit evidence identifying a safer, practical, alternative design that BRK could have used for the ionization smoke alarms purchased by Barley for use in the mobile home; accordingly, BRK was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on that claim. Inasmuch as Latosha and Hosford conceded that the Supreme Court need not consider any of the other judgments entered by the trial court if the judgment entered on the AEMLD claim was affirmed, the Court affirmed those other judgments. View "Hosford v. BRK Brands, Inc." on Justia Law

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A recreational boating accident killed four adults. The boat had been rented from Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services, LLC. Because the accident occurred on navigable waters, the case fell within federal admiralty jurisdiction. Anticipating that it would be sued for damages, Aramark filed in the United States District Court for the District of Utah a petition under the Limitation of Liability Act, which permitted a boat owner to obtain a ruling exonerating it or limiting its liability based on the capacity or value of the boat and freight. The district court denied the petition, leaving for further proceedings the issues of gross negligence, comparative fault, and the amount of damages. Aramark appealed the denial. After review, the Tenth Circuit held the district court erred in its application of admiralty principles of duty and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re: Aramark Sports" on Justia Law

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Fred Duran filed a putative class action complaint against Obesity Research Institute, LLC (ORI) and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart) (collectively, defendants). Duran alleged defendants falsely claimed that ORI's products, Lipozene and MetaboUp, had weight loss benefits. The court approved a claims-made settlement providing that class members submitting a claim without proof of purchase would receive $15, and those submitting receipt(s) would receive one refund of double the unit price paid. The settlement also provided that ORI would cease making certain assertions in product advertising. Defendants also agreed to not oppose a motion seeking $100,000 in attorney fees to class counsel. Objectors, class members DeMarie Fernandez, Alfonso Mendoza, and Brian Horowitz appealed, contending the settlement was the product of collusion. Objectors claimed the class did not receive sufficient notice of settlement, and the settlement was unreasonable and inadequate. They also contended the attorney fee award was excessive. The Court of Appeal reviewed the case and concluded that the trial court's judgment had to be reversed because the class notice failed in its fundamental purpose, to apprise class members of the terms of the proposed settlement. "The erroneous notice injected a fatal flaw into the entire settlement process and undermines the court's analysis of the settlement's fairness." View "Duran v. Obesity Research Institute" on Justia Law

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Timothy Parks died from asphyxiation after the Gravely Promaster 152Z riding mower he was operating on his property fell off the edge of an embankment and rolled over on top of him. Plaintiff, Timothy's wife, filed suit alleging that the manufacturer of the 152Z, Ariens, was negligent for failing to equip the machine with a rollover protection system (ROPS). The district court granted summary judgment against plaintiff. The optional equipment doctrine holds that a manufacturer is, under certain circumstances, not negligent if a purchaser fails to buy optional safety equipment that would have prevented the accident. Although the Iowa Supreme Court has not yet considered the optional equipment doctrine, policy reasons and the popularity of the optional equipment doctrine lead the court to conclude that the Iowa court would adopt it. Therefore, in this case, the court concluded that Ariens fulfilled any duty it had to Timothy when it provided the ROPS as an optional feature for the 152Z mower and ensured that he had the information necessary to make an informed choice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Parks v. Ariens Co." on Justia Law

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After Old GM filed for bankruptcy, New GM emerged. This case involves one of the consequences of the GM bankruptcy. Beginning in February 2014, New GM began recalling cars due to a defect in their ignition switches. Many of the cars in question were built years before the GM bankruptcy. Where individuals might have had claims against Old GM, a ʺfree and clearʺ provision in the bankruptcy courtʹs sale order barred those same claims from being brought against New GM as the successor corporation. Various individuals nonetheless initiated class action lawsuits against New GM, asserting ʺsuccessor liabilityʺ claims and seeking damages for losses and injuries arising from the ignition switch defect and other defects. The bankruptcy court enforced the Sale Order to enjoin many of these claims against New GM. The court concluded that the bankruptcy court had jurisdiction to interpret and enforce the Sale Order; the ʺfree and clearʺ provision covers pre‐closing accident claims and economic loss claims based on the ignition switch and other defects, but does not cover independent claims or Used Car Purchasersʹ claims; the court found no clear error in the bankruptcy court's finding that Old GM knew or should have known with reasonable diligence about the defect, and individuals with claims arising out of the ignition switch defect were entitled to notice by direct mail or some equivalent, as required by procedural due process; because enforcing the Sale Order would violate procedural due process in these circumstances, the bankruptcy court erred in granting New GMʹs motion to enforce and these plaintiffs cannot be bound by the terms of the Sales Order; and the bankruptcy courtʹs decision on equitable mootness was advisory. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "In re Motors Liquidation Co." on Justia Law

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David Helmer and Felicia Muftic were lead plaintiffs representing a certified class of homeowners who contended a radiant-heating hose, the Entran 3, manufactured by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (“Goodyear”) suffered design defects leading to cracks and leaks (the hose was used to convey hot fluid to provide heating for homes, installed permanently in walls, under flooring and in ceilings and concrete. At trial, Goodyear argued the leaks were caused by third parties’ improper installations. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Goodyear, concluding the Entran 3 was not defectively designed. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that insufficient evidence supported the district court’s instruction on nonparty fault. They further argued that the district court failed to require proof of a necessary fact before instructing the jury regarding Colorado’s presumption that a product was not defective if ten years have passed since it was first sold. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that any error in the third-party liability instruction was harmless, and the inclusion of the instruction as to the presumption was proper. View "Helmer v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber" on Justia Law

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The American husband and German wife have lived together in Germany since 2002. They sought damages for complications that arose when a surgical stapler manufactured in Mexico by an American corporation, Ethicon, allegedly malfunctioned during a 2012 surgery that husband underwent in Germany. An Ohio district court dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens in favor of litigating in Germany. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Where a district court has considered all relevant public- and private-interest factors, and has reasonably balanced those factors, its decision deserves substantial deference. Private-interest factors include the relative ease of access to sources of proof; availability of compulsory process and the cost of obtaining witnesses; possibility of view of premises, id appropriate; and all other practical problems. Public-interest factors include administrative difficulties from court congestion; the local interest in the controversy’; the interest in having the trial in a forum that is at home with the law that governs the action; and the unfairness of burdening citizens in an unrelated forum with jury duty. The court here correctly concluded that Ethicon met its burden of showing that if the case remained in Ohio, the vexation it would endure and trouble to the court would be disproportionate to the plaintiffs’ minimal convenience. View "Hefferan v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs' 23-month-old son, Jacob, drowned in a pond after climbing out of his crib and leaving their home in the middle of the night, plaintiffs filed a products liability and negligence suit against Dorel. Dorel denied that the doorknob cover it designed and manufactured was defective or unreasonably dangerous when used properly. The jury unanimously found Dorel was not liable for Jacob’s death and rendered a general verdict in Dorel’s favor. The court concluded that the district court did not err in admitting evidence that mother failed to secure the chain lock the night of Jacob’s death and father knew before that night that Jacob could defeat the doorknob cover. Even if the court accepted plaintiffs' alleged evidentiary errors for the purpose of argument, plaintiffs failed to establish how those errors prejudicially influenced the outcome of the trial. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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While working amidst a high-wall mining (HWM) system at Southern Coal’s Harlan County mine, Smith, disengaging a conveyor car from the system, inadvertently placed his foot in a “pinch point” that existed between a hydraulic pusher used to launch cars into the mine and an outer guide rail on the mining platform. When the hydraulic pusher was prematurely activated by another worker, it crushed Smith’s foot against the guide rail. The injury resulted in the amputation of his lower left leg. In Smith’s suit, alleging negligence and strict liability for defective design and failure to warn, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the HWM manufacturer (Joy). The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Smith's arguments that the district court erred by instructing the jury that Joy could be liable for negligent failure to warn only if Smith was unaware of the danger he faced and regarding a rebuttable presumption of nondefectiveness. The court declined a request to certify to the Kentucky Supreme Court questions of state law concerning both of those jury instructions. View "Smith v. Joy Techs., Inc." on Justia Law