Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Blackburn v. Shire U.S., Inc., et al.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified a question of law to the Alabama Supreme Court. Dr. Dino Ferrante, a gastroenterologist, prescribed LIALDA, which is manufactured by Shire U.S., Inc., and Shire, LLC (referred to collectively as "Shire"), to help patient Mark Blackburn with his Crohn's disease. "LIALDA is the brand name for Shire's mesalamine drug, which is an anti-inflammatory drug specifically aimed at the gut. LIALDA is not approved by the FDA to treat Crohn's, but it is approved to treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn's 'sister' disease." After taking LIALDA for between 12 to 16 months, Blackburn discovered that he had developed kidney disease, specifically advanced chronic interstitial nephritis, which had resulted in irreversible scarring and had diminished his kidney function to 20% of normal capacity. As a result, Blackburn is awaiting a kidney transplant. The federal appellate court asked: (1) consistent with the learned intermediary doctrine, may a pharmaceutical company's duty to warn include a duty to provide instructions about how to mitigate warned-of risks?; and (2) might a plaintiff establish that a failure to warn caused his injuries by showing that his doctor would have adopted a different course of testing or mitigation, even though he would have prescribed the same drug? The Supreme Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Blackburn v. Shire U.S., Inc., et al." on Justia Law
In re State of Colorado v. Juul Labs, Inc.
Defendants were California residents who served in various capacities as officers or directors of JUUL Labs, Inc. (“JUUL”), an e-cigarette manufacturer, or its predecessor companies. The State of Colorado filed an amended complaint alleging that defendants in their individual capacities, along with JUUL as a corporation, violated several provisions of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (“CCPA”) and were subject to personal jurisdiction in Colorado. Defendants contended the district court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over them was improper because they lacked the requisite minimum contacts with Colorado and the exercise of personal jurisdiction over them was unreasonable under the circumstances. JUUL did not argue that the district court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that because: (1) the district court based its determination on allegations directed against JUUL and the group of defendants as a whole, rather than on an individualized assessment of each defendant’s actions; and (2) the State did not allege sufficient facts to establish either that defendants were primary participants in wrongful conduct that they purposefully directed at Colorado, or that the injuries alleged in the amended complaint arose out of or related to defendants’ Colorado-directed activities, the district court erred in finding that the State had made a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction in this matter. View "In re State of Colorado v. Juul Labs, Inc." on Justia Law
Salazar v. Walmart, Inc.
After Plaintiff-appellant David Salazar bought Walmart, Inc.’s “Great Value White Baking Chips” incorrectly thinking they contained white chocolate, he filed this class action against Walmart for false advertising under various consumer protection statutes. The trial court sustained Walmart’s demurrers without leave to amend, finding as a matter of law that no reasonable consumer would believe Walmart’s White Baking Chips contain white chocolate. The thrust of Salazar's claims was that he was reasonably misled to believe the White Baking Chips had real white chocolate because of the product’s label and its placement near products with real chocolate. Salazar also alleged that the results of a survey he conducted show that 90 percent of consumers were deceived by the White Baking Chips’ advertising and incorrectly believed they contained white chocolate. “California courts . . . have recognized that whether a business practice is deceptive will usually be a question of fact not appropriate for decision on demurrer. ... These are matters of fact, subject to proof that can be tested at trial, even if as judges we might be tempted to debate and speculate further about them.” After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal determined that a reasonable consumer could reasonably believe the morsels had white chocolate. As a result, the Court found Salazar plausibly alleged that “‘a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled’” by the chips' advertising. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law
Salazar v. Target Corp.
After Plaintiff-appellant David Salazar bought Target Corporation’s White Baking Morsels incorrectly thinking they contained white chocolate, he filed this class action against Target for false advertising under various consumer protection statutes. Salazar claimed he was reasonably mislead to believe the White Baking Morsels had real white chocolate because of the product’s label, its price tag, and its placement near products with real chocolate. To support his position, Salazar alleged that the results of a survey he conducted showed that 88 percent of consumers were deceived by the White Baking Morsels’ advertising and incorrectly believe they contained white chocolate. He also alleged that Target falsely advertised on its website that the “‘chocolate type’” of White Baking Morsels was “‘white chocolate,’” and placed the product in the “‘Baking Chocolate & Cocoa’” category. Target demurred to all three claims on the ground that no reasonable consumer would believe the White Baking Morsels contained real white chocolate. Target also argued that Salazar lacked standing to assert claims based on Target’s website because he did not view the website and did not rely on its representations. The court sustained Target’s demurrer without leave to amend and entered judgment for Target. “California courts . . . have recognized that whether a business practice is deceptive will usually be a question of fact not appropriate for decision on demurrer. ... These are matters of fact, subject to proof that can be tested at trial, even if as judges we might be tempted to debate and speculate further about them.” After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal determined that a reasonable consumer could reasonably believe the morsels had white chocolate. As a result, the Court found Salazar plausibly alleged that “‘a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled’” by the White Baking Morsels’ advertising. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. Target Corp." on Justia Law
Sheila A. Knepfle v. J & P Cycles, LLC, et al
Plaintiff appealed from the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a mixed group of domestic and foreign corporations, (collectively, “the defendants”), in a product liability action stemming from a motorcycle accident and allegedly defective helmet. Plaintiff contended that the district court erroneously excluded the testimony of her expert witness, after finding his testimony based on novel and untested theories unreliable. In the district court proceedings, defendant HJC Corporation (“HJC”), a foreign corporation organized under the laws of, and principally operating within, South Korea, moved separately for summary judgment based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court denied this motion as moot, after granting summary judgment to all the defendants on the merits. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of Defendants’ motion to exclude Plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. Because the district court properly excluded Plaintiff’s expert’s testimony, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court reversed its denial of HJC’s motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that the district court erred by failing to conduct a veil piercing or alter-ego analysis with respect to HJC and HJCA for personal jurisdiction purposes. The court agreed with HJC that the district court erred by failing to address HJC’s jurisdictional motion before reaching the merits of Defendants’ summary judgment motion. View "Sheila A. Knepfle v. J & P Cycles, LLC, et al" on Justia Law
Smith v. NIBCO, Inc.
Martha and Kevin Smith purchased and lived in a house that had a plumbing system composed of polyethylene ("PEX") tubing manufactured by NIBCO, Inc. The PEX tubing failed, which allowed water to leak into the house, allegedly causing damage. The Smiths subsequently commenced a lawsuit in against NIBCO, among others, asserting various theories of liability. Ultimately, the circuit court entered a summary judgment in favor of NIBCO and certified the judgment as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. App. P. The Smiths appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court found that the Smiths' claims against NIBCO, the judgment on which was certified as final under Rule 54(b), and the Smiths' claims against D.R. Horton and Dupree Plumbing that remained pending in the circuit court were so closely intertwined that separate adjudication of those claims would pose an unreasonable risk of inconsistent results. Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court exceeded its discretion in certifying the September 20, 2021, order granting NIBCO's summary-judgment motion as final. The Supreme Court therefore dismissed the appeal. View "Smith v. NIBCO, Inc." on Justia Law
USA v. Honeywell International, Inc.
The United States sued Honeywell International Inc. for providing the material in allegedly defective bulletproof vests sold to or paid for by the government. Among other relief, the government sought treble damages for the cost of the vests. It has already settled with the other companies involved, and Honeywell seeks a pro tanto, dollar for dollar, credit against its common damages liability equal to those settlements. For its part, the government argues Honeywell should still have to pay its proportionate share of damages regardless of the amount of the settlements with other companies. The district court adopted the proportionate share rule but certified the question for interlocutory review under 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b). The DC Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and held the pro tanto rule is the appropriate approach to calculating settlement credits under the False Claims Act. The court explained that in the False Claims Act, Congress created a vital mechanism for the federal government to protect itself against fraudulent claims. The FCA, however, provides no rule for allocating settlement credits among joint fraudsters. Because the FCA guards the federal government’s vital pecuniary interests, and because state courts widely diverge over the correct rule for settlement offsets, the court found it appropriate to establish a federal common law rule. The pro tanto rule best fits with the FCA and the joint and several liability applied to FCA claims. Thus, Honeywell is entitled to offset its common damages in the amount of the government’s settlements from the other parties. View "USA v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law
Thacker v. Ethicon, Inc.
Ethicon manufactures a mesh sling, used to treat stress urinary incontinence, and a posterior mesh “Prolift, “designed to treat pelvic organ prolapse. In 2009, Dr. Guiler surgically implanted both devices to treat Thacker. Before the surgery, Thacker reviewed and signed an informed consent form that listed several risks, including: “infections and/or erosions of the mesh” which could require additional follow-up surgeries, urinary retention, “[p]ainful intercourse and vaginal shortening,” and treatment failure. After the surgery, Thacker’s incontinence worsened, and she suffered from shooting pain in her groin area and severe abdominal swelling and bloating. In 2010, Thacker started experiencing severe and unbearable pain during intercourse.Thacker ultimately sued Ethicon, alleging strict liability and negligence claims under the Kentucky Product Liability Act for design defect and failure to warn. The district court granted Ethicon summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Dr. Guiler’s testimony suggested that he likely would have recommended a different course of treatment had Ethicon given adequate information. Thacker’s expert testified that no reasonable physician would have used the Pelvic Mesh Devices to treat Thacker had Ethicon given adequate information in 2009. A jury could accept that expert’s opinion that a feasible alternative design would have prevented Thacker’s injuries. View "Thacker v. Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law
Elizabeth Zick v. Paccar, Inc.
Plaintiff was severely injured in a crash while he was driving a Peterbilt semi-truck. He sued the truck’s manufacturer, PACCAR, Inc. (PACCAR), alleging that the truck’s defective design caused his injuries. A jury returned a verdict in PACCAR’s favor. His estate appeals, arguing that the district court committed several evidentiary errors at trial.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held, 1.) Plaintiff's expert's second report was untimely under the discovery orders in the case, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding it; 2.) the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that plaintiff had failed to show the good cause required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4) to modify the scheduling order after the court declared a mistrial; 3.) Plaintiff failed to preserve his challenge to Defendant's "state-of-the-art" defense.Applying plain error review to Plaintiff's challenge to Defendant's "state-of-the-art" defense, the court held the district court did not plainly err in admitting the testimony as the witnesses were testifying based on their extensive industry experience, and noted that Iowa law permits industry custom as evidence of the state of the art. View "Elizabeth Zick v. Paccar, Inc." on Justia Law
Lori Nicholson v. Biomet, Inc.
This product liability case arises out of the multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) proceedings regarding Biomet’s M2a Magnum hip-replacement device. After experiencing complications from a hip replacement surgery using the M2a Magnum, Plaintiff sued Biomet, Inc., Biomet Orthopedics, LLC, Biomet Manufacturing LLC, and Biomet U.S. Reconstruction, LLC (collectively, “Biomet”), alleging multiple claims, including defective design. A jury ultimately found in Plaintiff’s favor, concluding the M2a Magnum was defectively designed. The jury also awarded Plaintiff punitive damages. Biomet moved for a new trial and renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law, but the district court denied these motions. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court’s summary judgment ruling concluded the M2a Magnum’s warnings and instructions were legally sufficient in the context of Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim. This ruling has no bearing on whether the M2a Magnum’s warnings and instructions prove an alternative design was unreasonable or would not have prevented the foreseeable risks it posed. Further, at trial, Plaintiff introduced evidence suggesting Biomet should have tested the M2a Magnum device before introducing it to the market but failed to do so. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, a reasonable jury could have found in favor of Plaintiff on the issue of punitive damages. Thus, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, the district court did not err in denying Biomet’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on punitive damages View "Lori Nicholson v. Biomet, Inc." on Justia Law