Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Phillips v. Sanofi U.S. Services, Inc.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's failure-to-warn claim asserted against the manufacturers of Taxotere, a chemotherapy medication. Plaintiff argues that Taxotere's manufacturers failed to provide an adequate warning of potentially permanent hair loss, which caused her injuries.The court concluded that, under Louisiana law, plaintiff cannot establish causation where, on this record, it is beyond any genuine dispute that a warning of the risk of permanent hair loss—as opposed to temporary hair loss—would not have affected the prescribing physician's decision to prescribe Taxotere. Therefore, plaintiff's claim fails as a matter of law. View "Phillips v. Sanofi U.S. Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Emerson Electric Co. v. Johnson
In this products liability action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court against Petitioners, holding that legally sufficient evidence supported the jury's design-defect findings and that the trial court's jury instructions did not cause an improper verdict.An electric terminal manufacturer made two terminals for essentially the same cost, but the older of the two designs was more susceptible to failure. A corporate affiliate of the terminal maker decided to use the older product in manufacturing new air conditioning compressors. When an experienced HVAC technician purchased and installed a compressor containing the older terminal design, the compressor became overheated and the terminal emitted scalding pressurized fluids that ignited and covered the technician. The technician, who received serious burns, brought this action. The jury found that the older terminal design was unreasonably dangerous and that both the design and the failure warn caused the technician's injuries. The court rendered judgment on the jury's verdict. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. View "Emerson Electric Co. v. Johnson" on Justia Law
Burton v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., Inc.
Plaintiffs, who grew up in Milwaukee homes that had lead-based wall paint, were diagnosed with lead poisoning as children in the 1990s or early 2000s. Years later, they sued manufacturers of white lead carbonate; they identified the paint pigment in their childhood homes as white lead carbonate, but could not identify the specific company responsible for manufacturing the white lead carbonate that they ingested. They relied on “Thomas,” in which the Wisconsin Supreme Court adopted a “risk-contribution” theory of liability for plaintiffs suing manufacturers of white lead carbonate. That theory modifies the ordinary rule in tort law that a plaintiff must prove that a specific defendant’s conduct caused his injury and instead apportions liability among the “pool of defendants” who could have caused the injury. A jury found three manufacturers liable and awarded the plaintiffs $2 million each.The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the district court committed three significant errors about the scope of Wisconsin products liability law, impermissibly expanding the defendants’ potential liability and a separate error in the admission of expert testimony. The court improperly extended Thomas, allowing jurors to find the defendants liable in their capacity as paint manufacturers, rather than white lead carbonate manufacturers, erroneously allowed jurors to find Sherwin-Williams liable on negligence claims without proof of a product defect, and erroneously allowed jurors to find two defendants liable on strict liability claims in the absence of a duty to warn or any proof that the lack of a warning caused the plaintiffs’ injuries. View "Burton v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Griffin v. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates LTD.
Mary Clare Griffin purchased a bottle of Italian wine, which broke in her hands as she attempted to open it, causing substantial injuries. Griffin and her son, a minor who witnessed the event, brought a product liability suit against Zignago Vetro S.P.A. (Zignago), the Italian manufacturer of the wine bottle; Marchesi Antinori SRL (Antinori), the Italian wine company that purchased the bottle from Zignago, filled it with wine, and exported it to the United States; Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Ltd. (Ste. Michelle), the United States importer; S & C Importers and Distributors, Inc. (S&C), the Idaho distributor who purchased the bottle from Ste. Michelle; and, Albertson’s LLC (Albertson’s), the retailer that sold the bottle to Griffin. Zignago successfully moved the district court to dismiss Griffin’s complaint based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. Griffin appealed the district court’s decision, asking the Court of Appeal to apply the personal jurisdiction framework established by World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980). Griffin also appealed the district court’s order granting summary judgment to Antinori and Ste. Michelle on the grounds that Griffin failed to meet her burden to show a prima facie case for a product liability claim. Additionally, Griffin appealed several adverse discovery rulings. The Idaho Supreme Court found the correct test when determining personal jurisdictional issues remained the “stream of commerce” test adopted by the United States Supreme Court in World-Wide Volkswagen. Applying that test to the case here, the Court reversed the district court’s decision to grant Zignago’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court affirmed the district court’s decision granting Antinori’s and Ste. Michelle’s motions for summary judgment, finding it did not abuse its discretion in failing to grant Griffin’s motion to compel discovery against Antinori and Ste. Michelle. View "Griffin v. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates LTD." on Justia Law
Hamer v. LivaNova Deutschland GMBH
Hamer underwent open-heart surgery using LivaNova’s 3T Heater-Cooler System. He developed an infection in the incision, which his physicians suspected stemmed from a non-tuberculosis mycobacterium (NTM). The hospital had experienced an outbreak of NTM infections in other patients who had undergone surgery using the 3T System. Hamer’s treatment team never isolated NTM from any of the swabs or cultures. Hamer, alleging that his treatment caused him lasting injuries, filed suit under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) for failure to warn and inadequate design.Hamer’s case was transferred to Multidistrict Litigation case 2816, along with other cases alleging damages from the NTM infection caused by the 3T System. Case Management Order 15 (CMO 15) required plaintiffs to show “proof of NTM infection” through “positive bacterial culture results.” Hamer did not comply but opposed dismissal, claiming he had stated a prima facie claim under Louisiana law and sought remand.The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal. The court could have dismissed Hamer’s claims without prejudice, could have suggested remand, or could have dismissed Hamer’s claims with prejudice, if it found that Hamer had not stated a prima facie case under Louisiana law. .Under the LPLA, Hamer’s facts might state a prima facie case for defective design. Hamer’s allegations may diverge from those of other cases in MDL 2816 in which an NTM infection was verified but stating alternative theories of liability cannot justify foreclosing his claims. View "Hamer v. LivaNova Deutschland GMBH" on Justia Law
Rustico v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Intuitive Surgical, the designer and manufacturer of the da Vinci surgical robot, in a product liability action brought by plaintiff and her husband, holding that the action was time-barred under California's two-year statute of limitations under California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1.The panel concluded that the two-year California—not three-year Connecticut—statute of limitations applies to plaintiff's claim. The panel explained that, although the district court erred by failing to consider whether Connecticut had a legitimate interest in seeing its law applied, the district court correctly held that California's statute of limitations governs the claims. The panel also concluded that the Tolling Agreement does not render plaintiff's claims timely. In this case, because the Tolling Agreement expressly preserved Intuitive's statute-of-limitations defense for "the applicable" jurisdiction, Intuitive is entitled to employ its statute-of-limitations defense under California law. Finally, the panel concluded that equitable estoppel did not apply to plaintiff's claims where she failed to submit evidence identifying a misrepresentation, material omission, or false promise made on behalf of Intuitive. View "Rustico v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc." on Justia Law
Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. v. Fitch
Two cases consolidated for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review presented common questions of the validity of a cause of action brought by the Mississippi Attorney General under the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act, Mississippi Code Section 75-24-5. The first was whether the Act covered the State’s claim, and the second was whether that claim was preempted by federal law. In 2014, the State commenced an action against Johnson & Johnson for what it alleged to have been unlawful, unfair, and deceptive business practices related to its cosmetic talcum powder products. Specifically, the State alleged that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn of the risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talc. The Chancery Court denied the summary judgment motion made by Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. Johnson & Johnson then filed an interlocutory appeal of the chancellor’s decision, which the Supreme Court granted. The Court concluded the Act did not exclude the State's talc labeling claim. Further, because of the lack of any specific requirement by the Food and Drug Administration, the State’s claim was not barred by the principles of express or implied preemption. Therefore, the judgment of the Chancery Court was affirmed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. v. Fitch" on Justia Law
Camacho v. Ford Motor Co.
The Fifth Circuit held that a car manufacturer's transfer of a vehicle to a dealer counts as a "sale of the product" that triggers the statute of repose. The court also held that the statutory rule that a period of minority is "not included in a limitations period" does not toll the statute of repose.The court affirmed the district court's judgment that the statute of repose bars plaintiffs' products liability action against Ford under Texas law. Ford argued that plaintiffs' claims were barred by section 16.012(b) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the 15-year statute of repose for products-liability claims. The district court granted Ford's motion. In this case, the statute of repose began running on October 6, 2003, rendering this lawsuit, filed more than fifteen years later on January 10, 2019, untimely. Furthermore, the minor plaintiff's claims are also barred by the statute of repose. View "Camacho v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law
Allianz Global Risks v. ACE Property & Casualty Ins. Co.
Daimler-Benz AG acquired Freightliner Corporation (Freightliner) from Consolidated Freightways (now Con-Way) in 1981. As part of the transaction, it liquidated Freightliner’s assets and liabilities into a subsidiary, Daimler Trucks North America LLC (Daimler). Between 1952 and 1982, Freightliner and then Daimler had engaged in business activities, primarily the manufacture of trucks, that subsequently led to several environmental remediation proceedings, including claims related to the Portland Harbor Superfund cleanup, and to some 1,500 asbestos personal injury claims. Plaintiffs Allianz Global Risk US Insurance and Allianz Underwriters Insurance Company (Allianz) insured Freightliner in 1981 and Daimler from 1981 to 1986 through a general commercial liability insurance policy. Daimler also purchased from Allianz another policy to provide coverage for future claims that might be made against Freightliner based on its past operations that were “incurred but not yet reported.” By the time it filed the operative complaint in this action in 2014, Allianz had spent more than $24 million defending and paying environmental and asbestos claims against Daimler and the now-dissolved Freightliner arising from Freightliner’s business operations between 1952 and 1982. In this litigation, Allianz sought contribution for the payments it has made and will make in the future based on those environmental and asbestos claims from insurance companies that insured Freightliner -- either directly or through its parent, Con-Way -- from 1976 to 1982. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals' holding that Daimler did not assume the contingent liabilities of Freightliner (including the liabilities at issue here) and affirmed the jury verdict on that issue. On Allianz's appeal, the Supreme Court agreed that the trial court erred in submitting to the jury the question of whether, because of side agreements between Con-Way/Freightliner and the insurers, those insurers had a "duty to defend or indemnify Freightliner" -- that question was to be decided by the trial court as a matter of law based on the relevant policies. As to the "London pollution exclusion", the Supreme Court agreed with Allianz that it was error for the trial court not to provide a legal interpretation of a key provision in the policy as part of the jury instructions. The Court also concluded that the jury instructions regarding the London pollution exclusion should be similar to those regarding the Domestic exclusion. The decision of the Court of Appeals was reversed. The limited judgments of the trial court were affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Allianz Global Risks v. ACE Property & Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Kirk v. Clark Equipment Co.
Sterling purchased the Loader new in 2008 from a dealership; it was equipped with a 62-inch bucket and components that increased the Loader’s rated operating capacity (ROC—maximum load) to 1,420 lbs. Kirk regularly used the Loader to scoop up material and move it up a concrete ramp with an approximate 30-degree incline. Kirk claims that on May 12, 2015, while going up the ramp, the Loader began to wobble and tip forward as he raised its lift arms. In an effort to stabilize himself, Kirk braced his foot on the console. His foot slipped out of the cab and he brought the lift-arm down on it. Kirk suffered a permanent leg disability, loss of his job, and medical expenses totaling $433,000.In a strict liability claim against the Loader’s manufacturer, Clark, Kirk’s only expert witness, Pacheco, opined that the Loader was “unreasonably dangerous for its intended and foreseeable use” and that its “design providing for the use of the [62-inch] bucket … made it highly likely" that the bucket would be loaded in excess of"the ROC. The district court granted Clark summary judgment, concluding that Pacheco’s opinions did not meet the Rule 702 and “Daubert” standards. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A court’s determination that an expert possesses the requisite qualifications does not, alone, provide a sufficient basis for admissibility. The court acted within its discretion in finding Pacheco's evidence in support of his opinion unreliable. Pacheco's causation opinion rested on speculation that the weight of the load exceeded the ROC but Pacheco did not know the weight of the load at the time of the accident. View "Kirk v. Clark Equipment Co." on Justia Law