Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

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Amling began working in the horticulture industry in 1965 and continued in that career for the rest of his working life. At one point, Robert worked for National Greenhouse, whose products allegedly contained asbestos. National’s assets and liabilities were transferred to Harrow. In 1990, Harrow executed an asset‐purchase agreement with Nexus, transferring all of National’s assets and some of its liabilities to Nexus. Amling was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2015. The Amlings sued Harrow, Nexus, and others in state court and, while that case was stayed, sought a declaratory judgment in federal court that under the terms of the 1990 agreement, Harrow, not Nexus or any other entity, is liable for National Greenhouse’s torts alleged in the Amlings’ state complaint. The district court dismissed the suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. It is virtually certain that the state suit will answer the question presented by the federal suit: whether under the terms of the asset‐purchase agreement Harrow or Nexus could be liable for their injuries. That fact makes this a live controversy but simultaneously justifies the district court’s sound exercise of its discretion in deciding not to issue a declaratory judgment. View "Amling v. Harrow Industries, LLC" on Justia Law

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Road Gear Truck Equipment, LLC ("Road Gear"), a corporation based in Franklin County, petitions this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Marshall Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Road Gear's motion to transfer the underlying action to the Franklin Circuit Court and to enter an order transferring the action. Road Gear manufactures trucking equipment, including "cab guards" designed to prevent passengers in tractor-trailer trucks from being injured by shifting loads. Vernon Dement was operating a tractor trailer pulling a load of logs in Madison County, Alabama. While traveling, Dement's truck over turned on a curve in the road. The cargo crashed into the passenger compartment, crushing Dement to death inside the vehicle, and injuring his wife Deborah Dement, who was a passenger in the truck. Deborah filed suit in Marshall County on behalf of herself and in her capacity as the personal representative and administrator of the estate of her husband against Road Gear and fictitiously named defendants. Dement alleged that her injuries and the death of her husband were caused by Road Gear's negligence and wantonness and that Road Gear was liable under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine ("the AEMLD"). Dement alleged in her complaint that venue was proper in Marshall County because she resided in Marshall County and Road Gear "does business in Marshall County." The Alabama Supreme Court determined FleetPride was Road Gear's "agent" in Marshall County for purposes of determining venue, and that Road Gear failed to show that it did not regularly do business in Marshall County at the time the suit was filed. Therefore, the trial court did not err in denying Road Gear's motion to transfer the action to Franklin County. View "Ex parte Road Gear Truck Equipment, LLC." on Justia Law

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In 2012, Timothy Hinton was deer hunting when he fell from his tree stand. He was using a fall-arrest system (FAS), but the tree strap snapped, and Timothy plunged eighteen feet, eventually dying from his injuries. In 2013, Timothy’s parents, Marsha and Thomas Hinton, filed a wrongful-death suit based on Mississippi products-liability law. The defendant manufacturer, C&S Global Imports, Inc., defaulted and was not a source of recovery. So the litigation turned its focus to the manufacturer’s insurer, Pekin Insurance Company. After the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Mississippi had personal jurisdiction over the Illinois-based insurer, Pekin successfully moved for summary judgment based on the clear tree-stand exclusion in C&S Global’s policy. Retailer Sportsman’s Guide, which sold Timothy the tree stand and FAS in 2009, also moved for and was granted summary judgment, giving rise to this appeal. As grounds for its decision, the trial court relied on the innocent-seller provision in the Mississippi Products Liability Act (MPLA), and found no evidence of active negligence by Sportsman's Guide. The Hintons argued in response: (1) Sportsman’s Guide waived its innocent-seller immunity affirmative defense; (2) a dispute of material fact existed over whether Sportsman's Guide was an innocent seller; or (3) alternatively, Mississippi’s innocent-seller provision should not control: instead the trial court should have followed Minnesota’s approach - the state where Sportsman’s Guide is located (under Minnesota’s law, innocent sellers may be liable when manufacturers are judgment proof, like C&S Global was here). Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hinton v. Sportsman's Guide, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lopez was diagnosed with epithelioid mesothelioma with a deciduoid pattern at the age of 59. He died from his disease at the age of 61. The physician who diagnosed him believed his mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos. His survivors sued Hillshire, a sugar refinery that used a great deal of asbestos insulation. The plaintiffs argued that Lopez had been exposed to asbestos as a child in three ways when his father worked at the refinery owned by Hillshire’s predecessor: he visited his father and grandfather at the refinery itself several times; he lived from 1954-1964 in a company-owned town, where asbestos drifted from the refinery; and his father inadvertently brought asbestos from the refinery into the family home. The jury awarded plaintiffs $1,958,461 in economic damages and a total of $11 million in noneconomic damages but did not award punitive damages. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Hillshire’s challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence, the jury instructions given, and the failure of the jury to apportion any fault to the companies that manufactured asbestos used in the refinery. View "Lopez v. Hillshire Brands Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Ronald and Donna Rowe filed an asbestos product liability action alleging that Ronald contracted mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos-containing products sold by defendants. Plaintiffs settled their claims with eight defendants. When the trial commenced, "Universal" was the only defendant remaining. Universal moved to admit excerpts from the settling defendants’ answers to interrogatories and the deposition testimony of their corporate representatives. Relying on N.J.R.E. 803(b)(1), and noting Universal’s crossclaims, the trial court admitted the interrogatory answers as statements by a party to the case. Although the court cited N.J.R.E. 804(b)(1) with respect to only one settling defendant, it deemed the corporate representatives of six out-of-state settling defendants to be unavailable to testify at trial and admitted their deposition testimony. However, the trial court excluded the deposition testimony of the corporate representatives of two defendants, as well as portions of certain answers to interrogatories and deposition testimony proffered by Universal. The jury returned a verdict in plaintiffs’ favor but allocated only twenty percent of the fault to Universal, sharing the remainder of the fault among the eight settling defendants. Plaintiffs moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial, arguing in part that Universal had failed to present prima facie evidence sufficient to warrant an allocation of fault to the settling defendants. The trial court denied plaintiffs’ motion and entered a molded judgment in plaintiffs’ favor. The Appellate Division reversed and remanded for a new trial on the apportionment of fault. It held that the disputed evidence was inadmissible under N.J.R.E. 803(b)(1) because Universal did not offer that evidence against the settling defendants and under N.J.R.E. 804(b)(1) because the declarants were not “unavailable.” The Appellate Division further held that the disputed evidence did not constitute statements against interest for purposes of N.J.R.E. 803(c)(25). It declined to reverse the trial court’s denial of plaintiffs’ post-verdict motion, however. The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court's judgment, reversed it, and reinstated the trial court's judgment. View "Rowe v. Bell Gossett Company" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the court of appeals' judgment reversing the district court's judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' claim for, inter alia, product liability, holding that the Kansas Product Liability Act, Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-3301 et seq., does not subsume or extinguish any legally viable alternative cause of action seeking recovery for direct or consequential economic loss. After Plaintiffs built thousands of homes they installed bathroom ceiling fans constructed by Defendants. Several ceiling fans caught fire and damaged several homes. Plaintiffs removed and replaced the remaining fans and then brought this lawsuit asserting several claims, including claims for product liability. The district court concluded that the economic loss doctrine barred Plaintiffs from recovery. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the economic loss doctrine did not bar Plaintiffs from asserting a product liability claim because the property damage to the homes was not economic loss. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeals properly reversed the summary judgment with respect to any property damage; and (2) because it cannot be discerned whether some or all of the claims Plaintiffs claimed as removal and replacement damages were legally recoverable in an unjust enrichment cause of action, the case must be remanded. View "Corvias Military Living, LLC v. Ventamatic, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Forest Laboratories, LLC ("Forest"), filed a permissive appeal pursuant to Rule 5, Ala. R. App. P., of an Alabama circuit court's order denying it summary judgment. Forest manufactured and marketed Lexapro, a drug prescribed for depression, and Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ("FPI") sold and distributed Lexapro. In 2015, Elias Joubran's physician prescribed Lexapro for Elias's depression. Elias's prescription was filled with generic escitalopram that was manufactured and sold by a company other than Forest. On December 30, 2015, Elias entered the house belonging to him and his wife, Sheila Joubran; he shot and killed Sheila, then shot and killed himself. Kevin Feheley, Sr., serving as personal representative of Shiela's estate, sued Mary Jourbran in her capacity as the personal representative of Elias's estate. Forest, FPI and several fictitiously named defendants were included in the suit. The complaint alleged that, at the time of the murder/suicide, Elias was under prescription for pharmaceuticals manufactured by defendants, including Forest and FPI, and that "Forest's Lexapro[] enhanced, enabled and aggravated [Elias's] depression and violent behaviors." The Alabama Legislature enacted section 6-5-530, Ala. Code 1975, "on the heels" of the Alabama Supreme Court's decision in Wyeth, Inc. v. Weeks, 159 So. 3d 649 (2014). In addressing the Weeks decision, section 6-5-530 specifically provided that a plaintiff who is suing based on personal injury, death, or property damage caused by a product "must prove ... that the defendant designed, manufactured, sold, or leased the particular product the use of which is alleged to have caused the injury on which the claim is based" regardless of the type of claims or theory of liability the plaintiff asserts. Because this case was a permissive appeal, the questions before the Supreme Court were limited to whether 6-5-530 effectively overruled Weeks, and whether a manufacturer could be held liable for an injury caused by a product it did not manufacture. The Court determined Section 6-5-530 abrogated Weeks: a pharmaceutical manufacturer cannot be held liable for injury caused by a product it did not manufacture. Based on the Court's answer to the trial court's certified question in the permissive appeal, it reversed the trial court's order denying Forest's motion for a summary judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Forest Laboratories, LLC v. Feheley, Sr." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Dometic, alleging that the fire that extensively damaged a storage building and personal property owned by plaintiffs was caused by a defective Dometic refrigerator installed in their RV. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Dometic, holding that Dometic was immune from liability under Iowa Code 613.18 because it sold, but did not manufacture, design, or assemble the refrigerator. The court held that any design input by Dometic was not related in any way to the boiler tubes, or that Dometic had any role in designing the boiler tubes. View "Merfeld v. Dometic Corp." on Justia Law

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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

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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