Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Brown, et al. v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation, et al.
The United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire certified two questions of law for the New Hampshire Supreme Court's consideration. Plaintiffs, individuals who presently or formerly lived in the Merrimack area, brought tort claims, including negligence, nuisance, trespass, and negligent failure to warn, alleging that defendants’ manufacturing process at its facility in the Town of Merrimack used chemicals that included perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). They alleged PFOA was a toxic chemical that was released into the air from the Merrimack facility and has contaminated the air, ground, and water in Merrimack and nearby towns. As a result, plaintiffs alleged the wells and other drinking water sources in those places were contaminated, exposing them to PFOA, placing them at risk of developing health problems, including testicular cancer, kidney cancer, immunotoxicity, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy induced hypertension. The first question from the federal circuit court asked whether New Hampshire recognized “a claim for the costs of medical monitoring as a remedy or as a cause of action” in plaintiffs' context. Depending on the answer to the first question, the second question asked, “what are the requirements and elements of a remedy or cause of action for medical monitoring” under New Hampshire law. Because the Supreme Court answered the first question in the negative, it did not address the second question. View "Brown, et al. v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation, et al." on Justia Law
USA v. Sharp
Defendant appealed his sentence following his guilty-plea conviction of felon in possession of a firearm. He argued that the district court erred in enhancing his sentence under U.S.S.G. Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B), which applies only when a defendant’s firearm “had an altered or obliterated serial number,” because there is no evidence that his rifle ever had a serial number. The Fifth Circuit agreed and vacated Defendant’s sentence and remanded. The court explained that it agreed that Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B) does not apply when there is no evidence that the firearm ever had a serial number. The text of Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B) is clear that it only applies when the firearm “had an altered or obliterated serial number.” U.S.S.G. Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B). And in ordinary parlance, something cannot be “altered or obliterated” if it never existed in the first place. Consequently, to apply an upward enhancement under the provision, the government must present evidence showing that Defendant’s rifle once had a serial number. Because there was no such evidence, the court held that the district court erred in applying a four-level enhancement under Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B). View "USA v. Sharp" on Justia Law
Cash-Darling v. Recycling Equipment, Inc.
Cash died when a hammermill shredder exploded at his workplace. The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) determined that the explosion was primarily caused by the accumulation of combustible aluminum dust produced by the shredding process. The personal representative of his estate sued REI, the company that assembled and sold the shredder to LR, Cash’s employer, asserting four product-liability claims. The district court granted REI summary judgment, because it “did not design the hammermill system at issue, and instead assisted LR with locating primarily used components that LR requested based on the design of LR’s existing system, REI is not legally responsible for any alleged defect in the system as a whole.”The Sixth Circuit reversed. A key requirement of the contract-specification defense is that the customer provided the manufacturer with detailed plans or specifications directing how the product should be built. The district court erred in holding that no genuine dispute of material fact exists as to whether REI followed LR’s design specifications. There was evidence to suggest that REI contemplated incorporating a dust-collection bin in the design, one that had not been requested. View "Cash-Darling v. Recycling Equipment, Inc." on Justia Law
River’s Side at Washington Sq. Homeowners Assn. v. Superior Court
Plaintiff River’s Side at Washington Square Homeowners Association was established to manage a development consisting of 25 residential units and common areas. It sued Defendants River’s Side LLC et al. for construction defects in the residential units. Defendants demurred to six of the seven causes of action asserted against them, arguing a homeowners association lacked standing to sue on behalf of its members for defects in residential units that it did not own and had no obligation to repair. Plaintiff alleged it had standing to bring this action on behalf of its members pursuant to Civil Code section 945, Civil Code section 5980, and Code of Civil Procedure section 382. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing under Civil Code sections 945 and 5980, and that Code of Civil Procedure section 382 was inapplicable. Because the order sustaining the demurrer left one cause of action remaining, it was not immediately appealable, and Plaintiff thus challenged the order by petition for writ of mandate. The Court of Appeal concluded Plaintiff had standing to bring claims for damages to the common areas pursuant to Civil Code sections 945 and 5980, and that it at least nominally alleged such damages. The Court further concluded Plaintiff might have standing to bring claims for damages to the residential units that sound in contract or fraud if it could meet the requirements for bringing a representative action pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 382. The Court also determined Plaintiff should have been granted leave to amend to cure any standing defect. The Court thus granted the petition for mandamus relief and directed the trial court to reversed its order granting the demurrer. View "River's Side at Washington Sq. Homeowners Assn. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
MATT YAMASHITA V. LG CHEM, LTD., ET AL
Plaintiff brought this products-liability suit against LG Chem, Ltd. (“LGC”) and LG Chem America, Inc. (“LGCA”), claiming that they negligently manufactured and distributed a battery that he used to power an electronic cigarette until the battery, and electronic cigarette both exploded in his mouth. Plaintiff sued LGC and LGCA in Hawaii state court, bringing various state-law claims related to the design, manufacture, labeling, advertising, and distribution of the subject battery. LGC and LGCA were timely removed from Hawaii state court to the District Court for the District of Hawaii and then moved to dismiss Yamashita’s complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. Yamashita opposed the motions and moved for jurisdictional discovery. The district court denied Yamashita’s motion for jurisdictional discovery. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court held that Ford modified, but did not abolish, the requirement that a claim must arise out of or relate to a forum contact in order for a court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction. The panel explained that while LGC and LGCA’s Hawaii contacts clearly showed that they purposefully availed themselves of Hawaii law, they can only be subject to specific personal jurisdiction if Plaintiff’s injuries arose out of or related to those contacts. The panel held that Plaintiff had not shown that his injuries arose out of any contacts because he had not shown but-for causation. The panel concluded that the district court’s denial of jurisdictional discovery was not an abuse of discretion. View "MATT YAMASHITA V. LG CHEM, LTD., ET AL" on Justia Law
Keralink International, Inc. v. Geri-Care Pharmaceuticals Corporation
Plaintiff KeraLink is a non-profit corporation with its headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland, and operated a network of eye banks in many states. KeraLink purchased from third-party vendors medical equipment and supplies, including “surgical packs” containing “eyewash” used to irrigate the eye tissue. KeraLink purchased the custom-designed surgical packs at issue here from defendant Stradis Healthcare, LLC (Stradis), which has its headquarters in Georgia. At issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in awarding summary judgment to Plaintiff on its claim against two suppliers of contaminated eyewash used to remove donated eye tissue for future transplant. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that under the facts presented here, neither supplier was entitled to invoke the sealed container defense, an affirmative defense reserved for only certain types of sellers. Additionally, the economic loss rule barring liability for solely economic losses in a tort claim was inapplicable because KeraLink also sought damages for injury to property, namely, the recovered eye tissue rendered unusable by the contaminated eyewash. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion under Maryland law in awarding the plaintiff prejudgment interest. View "Keralink International, Inc. v. Geri-Care Pharmaceuticals Corporation" on Justia Law
Kpiele-Poda v. Patterson-UTI Energy, et al.
In 2018, Mwande Serge Kpiele-Poda ("Employee") was injured at a wellsite while repairing a conveyor that activated and crushed his legs. While Employee's Workers' Compensation claim was still pending, he filed a petition asserting negligence and products liability against his employers, two wellsite operators, and the manufacturers and distributors of the conveyor. Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. was named in the body of the petition but omitted from the caption. After the statute of limitations period expired, Employee amended his petition to add Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. as a defendant in the petition's caption. A second amended petition added other parties. Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. moved to dismiss arguing the claim was time-barred because the amended petition did not relate back to the first petition. Employee's employers also moved to dismiss arguing the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act and Oklahoma precedent precluded employees from simultaneously maintaining an action before the Workers' Compensation Commission and in the district court. The district court granted each dismissal motion and certified each order as appealable. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained and consolidated Employee's separate appeals, holding: (1) the district court erred when it dismissed Employee's action against Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. as time-barred; and (2) the district court properly dismissed Employee's intentional tort action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Kpiele-Poda v. Patterson-UTI Energy, et al." on Justia Law
In re Subpoena Issued to Dethmers Manufacturing Co. v. Mittapalli
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court refusing to quash subpoenas that required production of documents and testimony for use in a Louisiana products liability lawsuit, holding that the subpoenas imposed undue burdens on Dethmers Manufacturing Company, an Iowa firm.The plaintiff in the products liability used Iowa's interstate discovery procedures to serve subpoenas on Dethmers, who was not a party to the Louisiana suit. The subpoenas required Dethmers to produce twenty-two categories of documents and testimony that were "extraordinarily broad." After Dethmers unsuccessfully moved to quash the subpoenas Dethmers brought this appeal. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of an order quashing the subpoenas, holding that the subpoenas were overly burdensome on their face and should be quashed. View "In re Subpoena Issued to Dethmers Manufacturing Co. v. Mittapalli" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Iowa Supreme Court, Products Liability
Williams v. FCA US LLC
Plaintiffs-buyers Melissa and Geoffrey Williams sued defendant FCA US LLC (manufacturer) for violation of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (popularly known as the lemon law), seeking restitution for a defective truck that was manufactured and warranted by manufacturer. Buyers sought restitution from manufacturer after trading in the defective truck for another vehicle at an unrelated dealership. The parties disputed whether manufacturer was entitled to a credit for the trade-in value of the truck in calculating “the actual price paid or payable by the buyer” under the restitution provision. Instead of resolving the question of statutory interpretation presented, the trial court transmitted the question to the jury and told the parties the jury would decide, based on the parties’ closing arguments, what should be included in “the actual price paid.” The jury found manufacturer breached its express written warranty to buyers when it (or its authorized repair facility) failed to repair the defects in buyers’ truck “to match the written warranty after a reasonable number of opportunities to do so.” The jury further found manufacturer willfully failed to promptly replace or repurchase the defective truck and awarded buyers damages and a civil penalty. The trial court subsequently denied buyers’ motion for a new trial, in which buyers argued the damages were inadequate as a matter of law because the jury’s calculation of “the actual price paid or payable” impermissibly deducted the $29,500 credit buyers previously received when they traded in the defective truck for a new vehicle. Buyers appealed, raising the issue of whether the jury impermissibly deducted the trade-in credit when it calculated “the actual price paid or payable by the buyer,” as provided in the restitution provision. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the jury inappropriately and prejudicially deducted the $29,500 trade-in value of the defective vehicle from the buyers’ statutory restitution award, and thus the damages awarded were inadequate as a matter of law. View "Williams v. FCA US LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Consumer Law, Products Liability
Anderson v. Raymond Corp.
While working as a standup forklift operator, Anderson hit a bump and fell onto the floor. The forklift continued moving and ran over her leg; the resulting injuries necessitated its amputation. Anderson sued the forklift’s manufacturer, Raymond, alleging that the forklift was negligently designed. The parties disputed the admissibility of the testimony of Dr. Meyer, one of Anderson’s experts. Meyer believed that Raymond could have made several changes to its design that would have prevented Anderson’s accident. Meyer’s primary suggestion was a door to enclose the operating compartment, which would prevent operators from falling into the forklift’s path. Like other standup forklift manufacturers, Raymond offers doors as an option but does not fit doors to its forklifts as standard, claiming that a door could impede the operator’s ability to make a quick exit if the forklift runs off a loading dock or begins to tip over. The district court concluded that Meyer’s opinion about a door was inadmissible because it did not satisfy Federal Rule of Evidence 702 or the “Daubert” test but admitted Meyer’s opinions on other potential design improvements.The Seventh Circuit reversed a judgment in Raymond's favor. The exclusion of Meyer’s opinion was substantially prejudicial to Anderson’s case. Meyer has a “full range of practical experience," academic, and technical training and his methodology rested on accepted scientific principles, Raymond’s critiques go to the weight his opinion should be given rather than its admissibility. View "Anderson v. Raymond Corp." on Justia Law