Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Hangey, et al. v. Husqvarna, et al.
In this case, a Pennsylvania trial court transferred venue based on a determination the corporate defendant did not regularly conduct business in Philadelphia County because only 0.005% of the company’s total national revenue was derived from that county. On appeal, the Superior Court reversed, holding the trial court abused its discretion in transferring venue. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to evaluate the Superior Court’s determination, and affirmed: venue was proper in Philadelphia County. View "Hangey, et al. v. Husqvarna, et al." on Justia Law
Dickinson v. Kim
The Supreme Court adopted conspiracy jurisdiction in this case in which three law firms petitioned the Court to order a judge to dismiss them from the underlying lawsuit, holding that the law firms demonstrated a "clear and indisputable right to the relief requested and a lack of other means to redress adequately the alleged wrong or to obtain he requested action."Plaintiffs sued certain cigarette manufacturers and retailers, bringing product liability, fraud, and conspiracy claims. Plaintiff also sued three law firms that counseled the tobacco companies, alleging two counts of conspiracy. The law firms each filed motions to dismiss under Haw. R. Civ. P. (HRCP) Rule 12(b)(2), claiming that Hawai'i courts lacked general and specific jurisdiction over them. The circuit court denied the motions to dismiss without making minimum contacts findings or undertaking any due process analysis. The law firms subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition and, alternatively, for a writ of mandamus ordering dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. The Court adopted conspiracy jurisdiction and granted the law firms' writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court clearly exercised jurisdiction beyond its authority, and there were no other means for the law firms to adequately address the alleged wrong or to obtain dismissal. View "Dickinson v. Kim" on Justia Law
Commercial Painting Co. v. Weitz Co., LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals as to the applicability of the economic loss doctrine in this case, holding that the economic loss doctrine applies only in products liability cases and should not be expanded to apply outside the products liability context.In the underlying suit brought by a drywall subcontractor against a general contractor under theories of breach of contract and tort a jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages to the subcontractor. The court of appeals affirmed in part the award of compensatory damages for breach of contract, dismissed the tort claim, and reversed the award for punitive damages, holding that the economic loss doctrine applied outside the products liability context when the contract was negotiated between sophisticated commercial entities. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the economic loss doctrine only applies in products liability cases and should not be extended to other claims; and (2) the economic loss doctrine did not bar the subcontractor's recovery of compensatory and punitive damages based on its tort claim. View "Commercial Painting Co. v. Weitz Co., LLC" on Justia Law
Trumbull County v. Purdue Pharma, L.P.
In the multidistrict National Prescription Opiate Litigation, municipalities from across the nation, Indian Tribes, and other entities allege that opioid manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and retailers acted in concert to mislead medical professionals into prescribing, and millions of Americans into taking and often becoming addicted to, opiates. Two northeast Ohio counties, Trumbull and Lake, alleged that national pharmaceutical chains “created, perpetuated, and maintained” the opioid epidemic by filling prescriptions for opioids without controls in place to stop the distribution of those that were illicitly prescribed and that conduct caused an absolute public nuisance remediable by abatement under Ohio common law.The district court ordered a bellwether trial, after which a jury concluded that the “oversupply of legal prescription opioids, and diversion of those opioids into the illicit market” was a public nuisance in those counties and that defendants “engaged in intentional and/or illegal conduct which was a substantial factor in producing" that nuisance. The district court entered a $650 million abatement order and an injunction requiring defendants to “ensure they are complying fully with the Controlled Substances Act and avoiding further improper dispensing conduct.” On appeal, the Sixth Circuit certified a question of law to the Ohio Supreme Court: Whether the Ohio Product Liability Act, Ohio Revised Code 2307.71, abrogates a common law claim of absolute public nuisance resulting from the sale of a product in commerce in which the plaintiffs seek equitable abatement, including both monetary and injunctive remedies? View "Trumbull County v. Purdue Pharma, L.P." on Justia Law
RSD Leasing, Inc. v. Navistar Int’l Corp.
Plaintiff RSD Leasing Inc., a company that leases and, eventually, resells trucks to other commercial entities, appealed from a district court decision, granting in relevant part summary judgment to Defendants Navistar International Corp. and Navistar, Inc., the manufacturer of several allegedly substandard trucks in RSD’s fleet. The sole question on appeal is whether, for purposes of its purchase of those trucks, RSD qualifies as a “consumer” under the Vermont Consumer Protection Act and therefore is eligible to invoke the Act’s protections. In the absence of any on-point Vermont caselaw signaling whether the statute extends “consumer” protections to a business that purchases a good intending exclusively to lease that good to a third party and then to resell it at the end of the lease term, the district court relied in substantial part on two brief passages from the Act’s legislative history, holding that RSD was not acting as a “consumer” when it purchased the trucks at issue. The Second Circuit wrote that it is unable to confidently predict how the Vermont Supreme Court would decide the matter. Therefore, the court certified to the Vermont Supreme Court the following question: Does a business that purchases goods intending first to lease those goods to end users and then to resell them at the termination of the lease term qualify as a ‘consumer’ under the VCPA? View "RSD Leasing, Inc. v. Navistar Int'l Corp." on Justia Law
Baker v. Croda Inc.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of law to the Delaware Supreme Court. The question arose in connection with a toxic tort class action in the federal district court for the District of Delaware that was appealed to the Third Circuit. Delaware resident Catherine Baker filed suit individually and on behalf of fellow residents who lived near Atlas Point, a chemical plant that regularly used and emitted ethylene oxide, a dangerous chemical. The question asked whether an increased risk of illness, without present manifestation of a physical harm, was a cognizable injury under Delaware law. Put another way: did an increased risk of harm only constitute a cognizable injury once it manifested in a physical disease? To this, the Supreme Court answered: an increased risk of illness without present manifestation of a physical harm is not a cognizable injury under Delaware law. View "Baker v. Croda Inc." on Justia Law
IN RE: LAW OFFICES OF BEN C. MARTIN V. BABBITT & JOHNSON PA, ET AL
Appellants, the Law Offices of Ben C. Martin and the law firm Martin Baughman, PLLC (collectively, BCM), argued that the district court in this multidistrict litigation (MDL), In re Bard IVC Filters Products Liability Litigation, lacked authority to order common benefit fund assessments against the recoveries of claimants who were not involved in cases that were part of the MDL—that is, those with claims that were not filed in any court, or were filed in state court, or were filed in federal court after the MDL closed (collectively, non-MDL cases). After settling their clients’ claims against C.R. Bard, Inc. and Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc. (collectively, Bard), BCM moved to exempt the recoveries of their clients in non-MDL cases from common benefit fund assessments. The district court denied the motion. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order. The panel held that the district court’s order requiring common benefit fund assessments in the non-MDL cases was within the scope of the district court’s authority. A district court properly exercises its authority to order common benefit fund holdback assessments from claimants’ recoveries in non-MDL cases when (1) counsel for claimants voluntarily consents to the district court’s authority by signing, or otherwise entering into, a participation agreement requiring contributions in exchange for access to common benefit work product, (2) that participation agreement is incorporated into a court order, and (3) as a result of entering the participation agreement, counsel receives access to common benefit work product. The panel affirmed the district court’s order denying claimants’ motion to exempt non-MDL cases from common benefit fund assessments. View "IN RE: LAW OFFICES OF BEN C. MARTIN V. BABBITT & JOHNSON PA, ET AL" on Justia Law
Primal Vantage Co., Inc. v. O’Bryan
The Supreme Court reaffirmed its ultimate holding affirming in part and reversing in part the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's judgment awarding substantial damages to Plaintiffs in this product liability case, holding that remand was required for a new trial.The product at issue in this case was a ladder stand manufactured by Defendant that Kevin O'Bryan affixed to a tree and was using it for hunting when the polypropylene straps broke, the stand fell, and Kevin sustained injuries. A jury found Primal Vantage for failure to warn and to instruct of dangers associated with use of the straps. On appeal, the Supreme Court originally reversed in part and remanded the case for a new trial, ruling that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing the jury to hear other-incidents evidence before ruling the evidence inadmissible. The Court then granted rehearing and reaffirmed its ultimate holding, ruling (1) the introduction of the other-incidents evidence was not harmless error; (2) the trial court's jury instructions regarding failure to warn were not erroneous; (3) Plaintiffs were properly excluded from apportionment of fault; and (4) a directed verdict in favor of Primal Vantage on the design defect claims was appropriate. View "Primal Vantage Co., Inc. v. O'Bryan" on Justia Law
Hakim v. Safariland, LLC
Hakim, a DuPage County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) SWAT officer, was accidentally shot by a colleague during a training exercise, using a Safariland “breaching” shotgun round. Breaching rounds assist in breaking down doors by disabling hinges and other attachments on doorframes. When used as intended, they disintegrate harmlessly on impact with a metal attachment mechanism. Hakim’s fellow officer missed the door hinge he was shooting at. The round struck wood, remained live, and hit Hakim in the spine. Hakim’s 13-month recovery required multiple surgeries. He still experiences severe pain. Hakim sued Safariland under Illinois’s strict product liability law. Hakim claimed that the Safariland round was defective in its manufacture and design and that Safariland failed to provide adequate warning that its rounds do not disintegrate if they strike wood instead of metal.A jury found for Safariland on the manufacturing- and design-defect claims, but awarded Hakim $7.5 million on his failure-to-warn claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The fact that the rounds might be complex in some respects does not mean that expert testimony is required for every product liability claim involving them. The jury reasonably could have found Safariland’s warnings inadequate. Even assuming that DCSO was negligent, Safariland’s own failure to warn could constitute an additional proximate cause of Hakim’s injuries. The jury’s award of $7.5 million, “while perhaps on the high side,” was not unreasonable. View "Hakim v. Safariland, LLC" on Justia Law
Kielar v. Super. Ct.
Mark Kielar challenged a superior court’s decision to grant Hyundai Motor America’s (Hyundai) motion to compel arbitration of his causes of action for violation of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, and fraudulent inducement arising from alleged mechanical defects in the condition of his 2012 Hyundai Tucson. The superior court’s ruling followed Court of Appeal's earlier decision in Felisilda v. FCA US LLC, 53 Cal.App.5th 486 (2020) and concluded Hyundai, a nonsignatory manufacturer, could enforce the arbitration provision in the sales contract between Kielar and his local car dealership under the doctrine of equitable estoppel. The Court of Appeal joined recent decisions that have disagreed with Felisilda and concluded the court erred in ordering arbitration. Therefore, it issued a preemptory writ of mandate compelling the superior court to vacate its June 16, 2022 order and enter a new order denying Hyundai’s motion. View "Kielar v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law