Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Sun Chemical Corp v. Fike Corp
Sun made news ink at its East Rutherford facility and purchased a dust-collection system that included a Fike suppression system to contain explosions in case of a fire in the collection system. On the first day the system was fully operational, the dust-collection system caught fire. The suppression system activated an alarm that workers did not hear. After workers saw flames and extinguished the fire, an explosion sent flames out of the dust-collector system’s ducts, severely injuring several Sun employees and causing significant property damage. The ensuing government investigations caused Sun to end production at the facility.Sun sued Fike under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), N.J. Stat. 56:8-1, alleging that Fike misrepresented that: the suppression-system alarm would be audible and would comply with a specific industry standard; Fike would provide training to Sun employees; the suppression system had never experienced failures in the field; and the system was capable of preventing an explosion from entering the facility. The Third Circuit certified an issue to the New Jersey Supreme Court, then, consistent with the response, held that some of Sun’s CFA claims are absorbed and precluded by the New Jersey Products Liability Act, N.J. Stat. 2A:58C-1, and some are not. As to Sun’s remaining CFA claims, the court concluded that Sun demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sun Chemical Corp v. Fike Corp" on Justia Law
Harris v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
In this "Engle progeny" case, where Florida-resident smokers sought recovery from tobacco companies for cigarette-related injuries, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion for judgment in accordance with the verdict. Plaintiff brought an individual Phase III suit on behalf of her deceased husband, seeking the benefit of the Phase I jury's findings, arguing that her husband was a member of the original class based on two medical conditions.The court concluded that plaintiff's husband had no medical condition that both was caused by cigarette addiction and manifested on or before the class cut-off date. Therefore, plaintiff's husband was not an Engle class member, and nothing in the Florida Supreme Court's treatment of Angie Della Vecchia, one of the three representative plaintiffs, requires the court to conclude otherwise. Furthermore, because plaintiff's husband was not a class member, Florida courts would not give preclusive effect to the Engle Phase I findings in this case. Neither did the court under the Full Faith and Credit Act. Without the preclusive effect of the Phase I findings, plaintiff failed to prove essential elements of her claims. In this case, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the tobacco-company defendants acted tortiously, relying only on the Phase I findings. View "Harris v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
MDB Trucking, LLC v. Versa Products Co.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court imposing case-termination sanctions on MDB Trucking, LLC for spoliation of evidence, holding that the record did not support the imposition of case-terminating sanctions in this case.Plaintiffs filed lawsuits against MDB, a commercial trucking company, and Versa Products Company, which manufactured the dump gate valves, after an MDB driver experienced an uncommanded activation of the dump gate in his rig's trailer, causing it to open and unexpectedly dump its loads. The incident caused several collisions. MBD cross-claimed against Versa for contribution, alleging an unreasonably dangerous and defective design of the Versa valve. MDB reached a settlement with Plaintiffs, who assigned their claims against Versa to MDB. Versa then filed the motion for sanctions underlying this appeal, asking the district court to dismiss MDB's claim with prejudice for having spoliated evidence, namely by discarding plug, sockets, and cords in the tractor/trailer rig. The district court dismissed MDB's claims with prejudice, holding that MDB's failure to preserve the replaced parts caused Versa prejudice that lesser sanctions could not cure. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that MDB acted negligently, not willfully, when it discarded the replaced parts and that, on remand, the district court should consider whether Versa can meet its burden of proving prejudice. View "MDB Trucking, LLC v. Versa Products Co." on Justia Law
Santana v. FCA US, LLC
A jury held defendant FCA US, LLC (Chrysler) liable on three causes of action arising from plaintiff Jose Santana’s defective vehicle: breach of the express and implied warranty under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, and fraudulent concealment. After an award of fees and costs, the total judgment amounted to $1,740,169.58. Chrysler contended most of those damages should have been vacated because there was no substantial evidence of fraudulent concealment. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed: Santana’s fraud theory was that Chrysler concealed an electrical defect in Santana’s vehicle. But the Court found there was no evidence Chrysler was aware of the defect until after Santana purchased his vehicle, and thus no evidence that Chrysler concealed it. Because the fraud judgment could not be supported, the separate award of economic damages, the noneconomic damages, and the punitive damages fell with it. In addition, Chrysler contended there was no evidence of a willful violation of the Song-Beverly Act. To this the Court disagreed, finding that by the time Chrysler’s duty to repurchase arose, it was aware of the electrical defect in Santana’s vehicle, which it chose not to repair adequately. The Court affirmed the trial court in all other respects, and remanded the case for the trial court to enter judgment in favor of Chrysler on the fraud cause of action, striking the additional economic damages of $33,839.91, the noneconomic damages of $100,000, and the punitive damages of $1 million. View "Santana v. FCA US, LLC" on Justia Law
Crawford v. ITW Food Equipment Group, LLC
Plaintiff filed suit against FEG for negligent product design after his arm was amputated when it came into contact with the unguarded blade of one of FEG's commercial meat saws, the Hobart Model 6614. Plaintiff was working as the meat-market manager at a supermarket at the time he sustained his injuries. A jury awarded plaintiff and his wife $4,050,000.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's evidentiary determinations, holding that the district court did not abuse its broad discretion in rejecting FEG's Daubert challenge to the testimony of plaintiff's expert regarding inadequate testing. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that allowing the jury to consider the expert's supplemental affidavit was harmless. The court further held that there was sufficient evidence introduced at trial to satisfy Florida's risk utility test and the evidence was sufficient to uphold a verdict of negligent design. Furthermore, the evidence introduced at trial was sufficient to support a finding that FEG's saw failed the consumer expectations test. Although it may have been error for the district court not to issue FEG's requested Florida state-of-the-art instruction, the court held that it was not reversible error. Finally, the district court did not abuse its broad discretion by admitting summaries of OSHA reports of fatalities and catastrophes. View "Crawford v. ITW Food Equipment Group, LLC" on Justia Law
Hammons v. Ethicon, Inc., et al
Appellee-Plaintiff Patricia Hammons (“Hammons”) was an Indiana resident who suffered significant injuries following the May 2009 implantation in Indiana of Appellant-Defendant Ethicon, Inc.’s Prolift Kit, a medical device used to treat “medical conditions in the female pelvis, primarily pelvic organ prolapse and/or stress urinary incontinence.” She received treatment in Indiana and Kentucky. All parties agreed the mesh was the only aspect of the Prolift Kit produced in Pennsylvania. Ethicon contracted with Secant Medical, Inc., a Bucks County manufacturer, to weave the mesh according to Ethicon’s specifications from Ethicon’s proprietary polypropylene filament. Hammons filed a complaint in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas against Ethicon, Johnson & Johnson, Gynecare, and Secant, asserting various claims related to the implanted device. Ethicon was a wholly-owned subsidiary of co-defendant Johnson & Johnson, both of which were headquartered and incorporated in New Jersey (jointly “Ethicon”). After initially being removed to federal court based on Ethicon’s claim of diversity jurisdiction, the case was eventually remanded to the Pennsylvania court, where it was transferred to the Complex Litigation Center Pelvic Mesh Mass Tort Program. Relevant to Hammons’ claim, Plaintiffs alleged that Ethicon “designed, manufactured, packaged, labeled, marketed, sold, and distributed” the Prolift Kit. Plaintiffs named Secant as a defendant, claiming that it “designed, tested, inspected, wove, knitted, cut, treated, packaged, manufactured, marketed, and/or sold a mesh made from polypropylene and/or other synthetically derived filaments that was the actual mesh utilized” in Ethicon’s Prolift Kits. This case presented a challenge to the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania over New Jersey corporate defendants, to a case filed by an Indiana resident. After reviewing recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court revising its personal jurisdiction jurisprudence, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that the imposition of personal jurisdiction in this case met the relevant constitutional and statutory requirements, and affirmed the Superior Court. View "Hammons v. Ethicon, Inc., et al" on Justia Law
Johns, et al. v. Suzuki Motor of America, Inc., et al.
Adrien Johns was seriously injured in August 2013 when the front brake on his Suzuki motorcycle failed suddenly. He sued the designer and manufacturer of the motorcycle, Suzuki Motor Corporation, and its wholly-owned subsidiary and American distributor, Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. (collectively, “Suzuki”), asserting a claim of strict products liability based on a design defect and two negligence claims (breach of a continuing duty to warn and negligent recall). Adrien’s wife, Gwen Johns, also sued Suzuki, alleging loss of consortium. At trial, the Johnses presented evidence showing that the brake failure of Adrien’s motorcycle was caused by a defect in the design of the front master brake cylinder that created a corrosive condition, which resulted in a “leak path” that misdirected the flow of brake fluid and caused the total brake failure. About two months after Adrien’s accident, Suzuki issued a recall notice warning about a safety defect in the front brake master cylinder. Suzuki had notice of the issue, including reports of similar accidents, for a significant amount of time before Adrien’s accident. Adrien admitted, that contrary to the instructions in the owner’s manual to replace the brake fluid every two years, he had not changed the fluid during the eight years he had owned the motorcycle. The jury found in favor of the Johnses on all claims. Because the damages after apportionment were less than the Johnses’ pretrial demand of $10 million, the trial court rejected the Johnses’ request for pre-judgment interest under OCGA 51-12-14 (a). The Johnses cross-appealed, arguing that because their claim was based on strict products liability, the trial court erred in reducing the damages awards based on OCGA 51-12-33 (a), and therefore also erred in failing to award them pre-judgment interest. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari review to decide whether OCGA 51-12-33 (a) applied to a strict products liability claim under OCGA 51-1-11. The Court of Appeals held that strict products liability claims were subject to such apportionment. To this, the Supreme Court agreed and affirmed. View "Johns, et al. v. Suzuki Motor of America, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Sherrer v. Boston Scientific Corp.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Boston Scientific Corporation (BSC) and C.R. Bard Inc. on Plaintiff's claims related to Defendants' design and manufacture of polypropylene mesh slings that were surgically implanted in Plaintiff, holding that any errors were not prejudicial.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not err in excluding evidence of Bard's prior convictions; (2) the circuit court erred by not sustaining Plaintiff's objections to BSC's and Bard's use of her claims brought in the original petition against former defendants, but the errors were not prejudicial; and (3) the circuit court did not manifestly abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiff's request for a mistrial after Bard displayed to the jury prejudicial evidence of Plaintiff's settlements with the dismissed defendants. View "Sherrer v. Boston Scientific Corp." on Justia Law
Stiner v. Amazon.com, Inc.
In this products-liability action, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment to Amazon.com, Inc., holding that, under the facts of this case, Amazon could not be held liable as a "supplier" under the Ohio Products Liability Act, Ohio Rev. Code 2307.71 et seq.Eighteen-year-old Logan Stiner died after ingesting a fatal dose of caffeine powder that he obtained from his friend, K.K. His friend purchased the caffeine powder on Amazon. Tenkoris, LLC, a third-party vendor, sold the caffeine powder and posted the product on Amazon's website under the storefront name TheBulkSource. After K.K. gave some caffeine powder to Logan, he died of cardiac arrhythmia and seizure from acute caffeine toxicity. Dennis Steiner, the administrator of Logan's estate, brought this action against Amazon, alleging claims under the Ohio Products Liability Act and the Ohio Pure Food and Drug Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for Amazon. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Amazon was not a "supplier" as defined in section 2307.71(A)(15). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly granted summary judgment to Amazon on Plaintiff's product-liability claims. View "Stiner v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law
Bader v. Avon Products, Inc.
Schmitz's estate sued Avon, alleging that Schmitz used Avon’s perfumed talc powder products for around 20 years and that these products contained asbestos and caused Schmitz’s mesothelioma. The court granted Avon’s motion to quash service of summons, concluding that it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over Avon because Bader failed to establish that her claims were related to or arose from Avon’s forum contacts--Bader failed to establish that Avon sold, and Schmitz used, in California talc powder products that contained asbestos as opposed to talc powder products without asbestos. The court also found that Bader failed to show that Avon injected the particular products at issue into California in a manner that related to Schmitz’s acquisition and usage of those products.The court of appeal reversed. Bader satisfied her burden on the relatedness prong and Avon does not contest purposeful availment or argue that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over it would be unreasonable. Precedent does not require the estate to establish at the jurisdictional stage the alleged defect in the Avon products that she used. Bader contended and Avon never disputed that Avon’s sale of talc powder products through its sales representatives directly to Schmitz in California are contacts that Avon created with California that satisfy purposeful availment; the claims arise out of or relate to Avon’s California contacts. View "Bader v. Avon Products, Inc." on Justia Law