Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Allergan in an action under state law alleging that plaintiff suffered injuries when her breast implants bled silicone into her body. Through the Medical Device Amendments (MDA) to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), Congress permitted FDA oversight of medical devices; the MDA expressly preempts state law regulation of medical devices; and for a state law claim regarding a Class III medical device to survive express preemption by the MDA, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant violated an FDA requirement. In this case, the panel held that plaintiff failed to show that Allergan violated a federal requirement for its Style 20 breast implant. The panel held that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine dispute of material fact that Allergan violated the FDA's pre-market approval and Current Good Manufacturing Practices. Therefore, plaintiff has now shown a violation of an FDA requirement, which she must for her state law claims to fit through the narrow exception to MDA preemption. View "Weber v. Allergan, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff filed suit against Mentor and Mentor Corporation for compensatory and punitive damages for injuries she suffered as a result of the surgical implantation of a polypropylene mesh sling manufactured by Mentor to treat her stress urinary incontinence, a jury found Mentor liable and awarded $400,000 in compensatory and $4 million in punitive damages. The district court upheld the jury's verdict with respect to liability and compensatory damages, but concluded that the punitive damages award exceeded Florida's statutory cap, reducing the punitive damages award to $2 million. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the trial court acted well within the bounds of its discretion in allowing the jury to consider an expert's testimony relating to specific causation and Mentor was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court also held that, in this case, which was focused on the physiological response to a design defect in a medical device, the dose-response relation was not implicated and there was no abuse of discretion in admitting the testimony. The court considered Mentor's remaining evidentiary challenges and held that the district court at no point exceeded the bounds of its discretion. Therefore, Mentor was not entitled to a new trial. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's reduction of the punitive damages award where evidence that Mentor knew of a high incidence of injury was not sufficient for finding a specific intent to harm. View "Taylor v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this action to recover damages for personal injuries resulting from an allegedly defective product the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that the amendment to the statute of repose in Number 17-97 of the 2017 Public Acts (P.A. 17-97) retroactively applied to Plaintiff's claims. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the statute of repose applied to her product liability claims is unconstitutional because it creates two classes of claimants - employees subject to a ten-year statute of repose and nonemployees not subject to the statute of repose if the claimant shows the product was within its useful safe life when the injury occurred. While Defendants' motions for summary judgment were pending the legislature enacted P.A. 17-97, which combined the two classes of claimants by removing the limitation provision applicable to employees. The trial court concluded that P.A. 17-97 was not retroactive and applied the ten-year statute of repose to bar Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the amendment to the statute of repose in P.A. 17-97 retroactively applied to Plaintiff's claims. The Court remanded to determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the injury occurred during the safe life of the product. View "King v. Volvo Excavators AB" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court granting judgment as a matter of law to Lycoming Engines on Mark Kedrowski's claim that a defective fuel pump manufactured by Lycoming caused the airplane he was piloting to lose power and crash, holding that the district court abused its discretion by excluding that opinion of Kedrowski's sole expert on causation. The jury returned a $27.7 million verdict for Kedrowski. Thereafter, the district court granted Lycoming's motion for judgment as a matter of law, concluding that the opinion of Kedrowski's sole causation expert lacked foundational reliability and that, without this opinion, Kedrowski's claims failed. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court's evidentiary exclusion was overbroad and an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court remanded the case for a new trial on liability. View "Kedrowskib v. Lycoming Engines" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court accepted certified questions of law from the federal court related to a case involving artificial hip implants, answering to what extent implanted medical devices should be immune from strict liability design defect claims under Utah law because they are "unavoidably unsafe," meaning they are "incapable of being made safe for their intended and ordinary use" but their marketing and use is justified because of the benefit they provide. Specifically, the Court answered (1) while some implanted medical devices are unavoidably unsafe, under current federal regulations, this question should be treated as an affirmative defense and determined by the fact-finder on a case-by-case basis with regard to devices that enter the market through the 510(k) process; and (2) for devices that go through a more rigorous premarket approval process, the Court does not opine on whether such devices might be unavoidably unsafe as a matter of law because they are already exempt from design defect claims under the United States Supreme Court's decision in Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc. 552 U.S. 312 (2008). View "Burningham v. Wright Medical Technology, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff suffered serious injuries from falling off a Vulcan ladder, he and his wife filed suit against Vulcan and GP. The jury rejected plaintiffs' design defect claim, but found that defendants breached an express warranty. The jury awarded plaintiff damages and the district court denied defendants' post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law and, in the alternative, a new trial. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that plaintiff's expert was qualified and his testimony was properly admitted under Federal Rule of Evidence 702; the expert provided a sufficient case-specific basis to support his opinion and he did not simply speculate on causation after a great deal of prodding; GP waived its statute of limitations defense; and the evidence was sufficient to support the jury verdict on the breach of contract claim; defendants waived their remaining arguments; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendants' motion for a new trial. View "Klingenberg v. Vulcan Ladder USA, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Philip Morris under the Connecticut Product Liability Act, alleging that the company's Marlboro and Marlboro Lights cigarettes were negligently designed and caused his wife's death. After a jury found for Philip Morris, plaintiff appealed. The Second Circuit held that, although the district court misapplied the nonmutual offensive collateral estoppel standard, the error did not necessarily require vacatur of the judgment. Therefore, the court remanded and directed the district court to consider whether the application of nonmutual offensive collateral estoppel would be unfair. View "Bifolck v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law

by
Donald and Mary Timm sustained serious injuries in a horrific motorcycle accident. A few months later, they received notice that the helmets they were wearing at the time of the accident were recalled. Believing defects with the motorcycle and its rear tire caused the accident—and that their injuries were especially severe because of a defect with their helmets—the Timms brought a products liability action under Indiana law against defendants involved in the sale and manufacture of the motorcycle, its rear tire, and the helmets. Concluding that the Timms failed to present admissible expert testimony to support their claims, the district court entered summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Timms did not present any expert testimony to show that, because of a defect with their helmets, their injuries were worse than they otherwise would have experienced in such a severe motorcycle crash. The court rejected the Timms’ claims alleging negligent recall and failure to comply with federal safety standards, concluding that the Indiana Products Liability Act permits neither claim. The court properly excluded expert testimony against Harley-Davidson and Goodyear as lacking the reliability required by Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and “Daubert.” View "Timm v. Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America, Ltd." on Justia Law

by
In March 2016, plaintiff James Virgin filed a personal injury lawsuit against defendants Fireworks of Tilton, LLC (Fireworks of Tilton) and Foursquare Imports, LLC d/b/a AAH Fireworks, LLC (Foursquare). As pertinent to this appeal, the complaint alleged breach of the implied warranty of merchantability for damages purportedly sustained as a result of an incident involving fireworks sold by Fireworks of Tilton, and distributed by Foursquare. In May 2017, Foursquare made a “DeBenedetto” disclosure pursuant to the case structuring order identifying a Chinese company as the manufacturer of the fireworks that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Plaintiff moved to strike the disclosure arguing, among other things, that apportionment of fault did not apply to breach of warranty claims. The trial court denied the motion, but later granted plaintiff’s request to file an interlocutory appeal, which the New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted. The Supreme Court concluded RSA 507:7-e (2010) did not apply to personal injuries that alleged breach of the implied warranty of merchantability under RSA 382-A:2-314 (2011), thus permitting a named defendant to apportion fault to a non-litigant. View "Virgin v. Fireworks of Tilton, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals certified two questions of law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. John Wickersham, Jr. was seriously injured in an automobile accident. After months of severe pain from the injuries he received in the accident, he committed suicide. His widow filed lawsuits for wrongful death, survival, and loss of consortium against Ford Motor Company in state circuit court. She alleged that defects in the airbag system in Mr. Wickersham's Ford Escape enhanced his injuries, increasing the severity of his pain, which in turn proximately caused his suicide. She included causes of action for negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. Ford removed the cases to the federal district court, then moved for summary judgment in the wrongful death suit, arguing Mrs. Wickersham had no wrongful death claim under South Carolina law because Mr. Wickersham's suicide was an intervening act that could not be proximately caused by a defective airbag. The district court denied Ford's motion, ruling Mrs. Wickersham could prevail on the wrongful death claim if she proved the enhanced injuries Mr. Wickersham sustained in the accident as a result of the defective airbag caused severe pain that led to an "uncontrollable impulse" to commit suicide. Ford renewed the motion during and after trial, but the district court denied both motions. In returning a verdict for Mrs. Wickersham, the jury found the airbag was defective and proximately caused Mr. Wickersham's enhanced injuries and suicide. However, the jury also found Mr. Wickersham's actions in being out of position enhanced his injuries, and found his share of the fault was thirty percent. The district court entered judgment for Mrs. Wickersham, but denied Ford's request to reduce the damages based on Mr. Wickersham's fault. Ford filed motions to alter or amend the judgment, for judgment as a matter of law, and for a new trial, all of which the district court denied. Responding to the two questions certified by the federal appellate court, the South Carolina Supreme Court held traditional principles of proximate cause governed whether a personal representative has a valid claim for wrongful death from suicide, and whether a person's own actions that enhance his injuries, as opposed to those that cause the accident itself, should be compared to the tortious conduct of a defendant in determining liability. View "Wickersham v. Ford Motor Co" on Justia Law