Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Lopez v. Hillshire Brands Co.
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
Rowe v. Bell Gossett Company
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
Corvias Military Living, LLC v. Ventamatic, Ltd.
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
Forest Laboratories, LLC v. Feheley, Sr.
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
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Drugs & Biotech, Health Law, Products Liability, Supreme Court of Alabama
Merfeld v. Dometic Corp.
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
Weber v. Allergan, Inc.
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
Posted in: Drugs & Biotech, Personal Injury, Products Liability, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Taylor v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC
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
Posted in: Drugs & Biotech, Personal Injury, Products Liability, US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
King v. Volvo Excavators AB
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
Kedrowskib v. Lycoming Engines
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
Burningham v. Wright Medical Technology, Inc.
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