Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Griffin v. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates LTD.
The issue presented for review by the Idaho Supreme Court stemmed from an “unfortunate kitchen accident.” Mary Clare Griffin purchased a bottle of Italian wine, which broke in her hands as she attempted to open it, causing substantial injuries. Griffin and her son, a minor who witnessed the event, brought a product liability suit against Zignago Vetro S.P.A., the Italian manufacturer of the wine bottle; Marchesi Antinori SRL (Antinori), the Italian wine company that purchased the bottle from Zignago, filled it with wine, and exported it to the United States; Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Ltd. (Ste. Michelle), the United States importer; S & C Importers and Distributors, Inc. (S&C), the Idaho distributor who purchased the bottle from Ste. Michelle; and, Albertson’s LLC (Albertson’s), the retailer that sold the bottle to Griffin. Zignago successfully moved the district court to dismiss Griffin’s complaint based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. Griffin appealed the district court’s decision, asking the Supreme Court to apply the personal jurisdiction framework established by the United States Supreme Court in World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980). Zignago claimed the district court did not err by applying the stricter test that the United States Supreme Court offered in Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court of California, Solano Cnty., 480 U.S. 102 (1987) (plurality). Griffin also appealed several adverse discovery rulings. The Supreme Court held that the correct test when determining personal jurisdictional issues remains the “stream of commerce” test adopted by the United States Supreme Court in World-Wide Volkswagen. Applying that test to the case here, the Court reversed the district court’s decision to grant Zignago’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and remand the case for further proceedings. Furthermore, the Court affirmed the district court’s decision granting Antinori’s and Ste. Michelle’s motions for summary judgment and hold that it did not abuse its discretion in failing to grant Griffin’s motion to compel discovery against Antinori and Ste. Michelle. View "Griffin v. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates LTD." on Justia Law
Berg v. Pulte Home Corp.
The issue presented for the Court of Appeal’s review in this case arose from a residential construction defect lawsuit filed by several homeowners against Pulte Home Corporation. The homeowners sued Pulte for allegedly violating building standards set forth in Civil Code section 896, breach of contract, and breach of express warranty pertaining to 13 homes (the Berg litigation). St. Paul Mercury Insurance Company (St. Paul) defended Pulte in the Berg litigation as an additional insured under a general liability policy issued to St. Paul’s named insured and one of Pulte’s subcontractors, Groundbreakers Landscaping, Inc. Pertinent here, St. Paul later sued three of Pulte’s subcontractors -- Vaca Valley Roofing, Inc., Norman Masonry, Inc., and Colorific Painting, Inc. (collectively defendants) -- for equitable subrogation through a complaint in intervention in the Berg litigation. In essence, St. Paul sought to pursue Pulte’s breach of contract claims against defendants for their failure to defend Pulte in the Berg litigation. Standing in Pulte’s shoes, St. Paul asserted defendants were jointly and severally liable for the reimbursement of the money it expended in defending Pulte, St. Paul raised four arguments on appeal: (1) the trial court erred in granting defendants’ request for a jury trial; (2) the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury that defendants are jointly and severally liable for the mixed defense fees (i.e., attorney fees and costs incurred in defense of the entire Berg litigation, such as attending status conferences or mediations; in other words, tasks unrelated to the defense of a subcontractor’s specific scope of work); (3) the trial court erred in denying St. Paul’s motion for prejudgment interest; and (4) the trial court erred in denying St. Paul’s request for attorney fees in prosecuting the equitable subrogation action. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Berg v. Pulte Home Corp." on Justia Law
McMahon v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp.
After plaintiff suffered injuries to his right hand while using a RotoZip Model RZ20 hand-held spiral saw, he filed suit against Bosch, the manufacturer, and Lowe's, the retailer, alleging strict liability and negligence products liability theories. Plaintiff alleged that he was injured when the saw’s auxiliary handle spontaneously detached from the saw's body.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' joint motion to bar the opinions of plaintiff's expert regarding the saw's alleged design defects and the saw's failure to have an interlocking device safety measure. The court concluded that the expert's proposed opinion lacked relevance as it did not fit the facts of this case. The court explained that plaintiff did not meaningfully argue in his brief his claim that the saw was defective for not having an interlocking safety measure and thus waived his claim. Furthermore, even if the issue was not waived, the district court did not err in concluding the expert's testimony on alternative-design options was not reliable and should not be admitted.The court also affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' joint motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims of strict products liability, negligent design, negligent failure to warn, and negligent supply of a dangerous instrumentality. In this case, the district court concluded that the claims involved such complex or technical information that they required expert testimony. Therefore, the exclusion of plaintiff's expert was fatal to his claims. View "McMahon v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp." on Justia Law
Glover v. Bausch & Lomb, Inc.
After plaintiff suffered post-operative injuries following implantation of artificial lenses during cataract surgery, she and her husband filed suit against Bausch & Lomb, the manufacturer of the lenses, as well as related entities. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss the negligence and failure-to-warn claims and denial of the motion for leave to amend the complaint to add a claim based on wrongful marketing.The Second Circuit reserved decision and certified two questions to the Supreme Court of Connecticut: 1) Whether a cause of action exists under the negligence or failure-to-warn provisions of the Connecticut Product Liability Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-572h, 52-572q, or elsewhere in Connecticut law, based on a manufacturer's alleged failure to report adverse events to a regulator like the FDA following approval of the device, or to comply with a regulator's post-approval requirements. 2) Whether the Connecticut Product Liability Act's exclusivity provision, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-572n, bars a claim under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a, et seq., based on allegations that a manufacturer deceptively and aggressively marketed and promoted a product despite knowing that it presented a substantial risk of injury. View "Glover v. Bausch & Lomb, Inc." on Justia Law
Cahill Construction Co., Inc. v. Superior Court
Richards sued 105 defendants, including Cahill, with claims arising out of Richards’s alleged asbestos exposure during his 30-year career as a pipefitter. The trial court granted trial preference based on a declaration from Richards’s physician that Richards, then 72 years old, was suffering from mesothelioma and had a life expectancy of fewer than six months. Richards produced voluminous responses to interrogatories, the transcript of Richards’s prior deposition in asbestos litigation involving Richards’s co-worker, and Richards’s employment records.Code of Civil Procedure section 2025.295 provides that in a civil action “for injury or illness that results in mesothelioma” if a licensed physician declares the plaintiff “suffers from mesothelioma . . . , raising substantial medical doubt of the survival of the [plaintiff] beyond six months,” deposition examination of the plaintiff is limited to seven hours of total testimony. The statute permits a court to grant up to an additional seven hours if more than 20 defendants appear at the deposition. Defendants deposed Richards for 14 hours. Cahill challenged the time limit.The court of appeal denied Cahill’s petition for mandamus relief. A court may not grant deposition time in excess of the 14-hour cap established in section 2025.295(b)(2) despite other Code of Civil Procedure provisions addressing a court’s right to control discovery. Section 2025.295’s limitation on deposition time does not violate Cahill’s due process rights. View "Cahill Construction Co., Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Lightfoot v. Georgia-Pacific Wood Products, LLC
After he was diagnosed with nasal cancer, plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging that they produced the lumber that his father used in his woodshop and are liable to him for damages because they failed to warn his father that wood dust causes cancer. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants, concluding that during the exposure period, defendants did not have a duty to warn plaintiff's father that wood dust causes cancer because that fact was not known at the time as part of the "state of the art," i.e., the level of knowledge reached.The Fourth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court properly determined from the record that the state of the art did not indicate that wood dust causes cancer until 1995, a few years after the exposure period at issue ended, and thus defendants had no duty to warn plaintiff's father of any risk of cancer during that period. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that the district court established an Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) litmus test to the exclusion of other relevant evidence. Rather, the district court appropriately identified and relied on the state of the art as represented by studies collected and evaluated by experts in the field. View "Lightfoot v. Georgia-Pacific Wood Products, LLC" on Justia Law
Coogan v. Genuine Parts Co.
Doy Coogan died of peritoneal mesothelioma after years of asbestos exposure through his automotive repair work and excavation business. A jury unanimously found Genuine Parts Company (GPC) and National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA) liable for Coogan’s wrongful death and entered an $81.5 million verdict for his family and estate. GPC and NAPA moved for a new trial or alternatively a remittitur of damages, which the trial court denied. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court in part and vacated the jury’s damages award. Though it rejected claims for a new trial premised on alleged misconduct by plaintiff’s counsel, it concluded that the trial court erred by excluding one of GPC and NAPA’s expert witnesses and that the jury’s award was excessive. Specifically, the Court of Appeals rejected the jury’s award of noneconomic damages in favor of its own “necessarily . . . subjective” determination that the amount of damages was “so excessive that it shock[ed] the court’s conscience.” The Washington Supreme Court granted review to address the appropriate standards for reviewing post-trial motions to set aside jury verdicts. "While appellate review serves an essential purpose in safeguarding the integrity of the jury process, it must remain limited." The Court concluded the Court of Appeals overstepped its limited role and inappropriately substituted its own judgment for that of the trial court and the jury. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals' judgment was reversed and the jury's verdict was reinstated in full. View "Coogan v. Genuine Parts Co." on Justia Law
Khosravan v. Chevron Corp.
Malekeh Khosravan appealed the denial of her motion to strike or tax costs with respect to the expert witness fees incurred by defendants Chevron Corporation, Chevron U.S.A. Inc., and Texaco Inc. (Chevron defendants) following the trial court’s granting of the Chevron defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Malekeh and her husband Gholam Khosravan brought claims for negligence, premises liability, loss of consortium, and related claims, alleging Khosravan contracted mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos while he was an Iranian citizen working for the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) at the Abadan refinery the Khosravans alleged was controlled by the predecessors to the Chevron defendants, Exxon Mobil Corporation, and ExxonMobil Oil Corporation (Exxon defendants). The trial court concluded the Chevron and Exxon defendants did not owe a duty of care to Khosravan, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed. The trial court awarded the Chevron defendants their expert witness fees as costs based on the Khosravans’ failure to accept the Chevron defendants’ statutory settlement offers made to Khosravan and Malekeh under Code of Civil Procedure section 998. On appeal, Malekeh contended the trial court erred in denying the motion to strike or tax costs because the settlement offers required the Khosravans to indemnify the Chevron defendants against possible future claims of nonparties, making the offers impossible to value; the Khosravans obtained a more favorable judgment than the offers in light of the indemnity provisions; and the offers were “token” settlement offers made in bad faith. The Court of Appeal concurred with this reasoning and reversed: "We recognize the desire by defendants to reach a settlement that protects them from all liability for the conduct alleged in the complaint, whether as to the plaintiffs or their heirs in a wrongful death action. But if defendants seek that protection through indemnification, they may well need to give up the benefit of section 998." View "Khosravan v. Chevron Corp." on Justia Law
McMillan v. Amazon.com
The Fifth Circuit certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Texas: May Amazon be held liable as a "seller" under Texas products-liability law for third-party products sold on Amazon's website and handled through Amazon's Fulfillment by Amazon program? The Supreme Court of Texas has now answered the question, holding that "potentially liable sellers are limited to those who relinquished title to the product at some point in the distribution chain." Because third-party sellers do not relinquish their title to their products, "Amazon is not a 'seller'" of those "products under Texas law." Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's conclusion that Amazon is a "seller" under Texas law with instructions to grant Amazon's motion for summary judgment in full on remand. View "McMillan v. Amazon.com" on Justia Law
Amazon.com v. McMillan
The Supreme Court answered in the negative a question posed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit regarding whether Amazon.com is a "seller" under Texas law when it does not hold title to third-party products sold on its website but controls the process of transaction and delivery, holding that Amazon is not a "seller" of third-party products under Texas law.At issue was whether third-party e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Alibaba are strictly liable for defective products manufactured and owned by third parties. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding (1) under the Legislature's definition of "seller" in Chapter 82 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, when the ultimate consumer obtains a defective product through an ordinary sale, the potentially liable sellers are limited to those who relinquished title to the product at some point in the distribution chain; and (2) because the product in this case was sold on Amazon's website by a third party and Amazon did not hold or relinquish title, Amazon was not a seller even though it controlled the process of the transaction and the delivery of the product. View "Amazon.com v. McMillan" on Justia Law