Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
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
In re Volkswagen "Clean Diesel" Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of claimants' motions to enforce a settlement agreement that the district court approved between Volkswagen and owners and lessees of diesel cars that had defeat devices, which altered emissions profiles of the cars.The panel held that the district court had the authority to review claimants' motions to enforce the settlement agreement. Furthermore, the district court did not err in reaching the merits of claimants' motions without resolving their status as third-party beneficiaries. The panel also held that the district court had the authority to, and did, approve the amendment to the settlement agreement. The panel stated that the Framework is now an enforceable part of the settlement agreement. Given the settlement agreement's express modification procedures, the district court did not abuse its discretion by construing the Framework as such a modification and approving it in response to claimants' motions. View "In re Volkswagen "Clean Diesel" Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation" on Justia Law
Red Oak Apartment Homes, LLC v. Strategis Floor & Decor, Inc.
Plaintiff Red Oak Apartment Homes, LLC, appealed a superior court decision dismissing its complaint against defendant Strategis Floor & Decor, Inc. (Strategis), and dismissing plaintiff’s claims against Strategis on grounds that the court lacked personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff contracted with New Hampshire-based Holmes Carpet Center, LLC to install plank-style flooring in approximately 195 of its apartment units. Holmes recommended vinyl plank flooring that it represented would withstand rental use for many years. The majority of the floors installed by Holmes consisted of Versaclic LVT vinyl plank flooring manufactured by Strategis. The flooring was sold with a fifty-year warranty for residential applications. Shortly after the flooring was installed, plaintiff’s residents and employees began noticing that the flooring was shifting and large gaps were appearing between the flooring planks, near walls, and in doorway thresholds. Holmes performed repair work on the flooring in two of the affected units. Plaintiff thereafter filed a complaint in New Hampshire against Holmes, alleging breach of contract and violations of the Consumer Protection Act. Plaintiff amended its complaint to add: (1) N.R.F. Distributors, Inc. (N.R.F.), a flooring distributor that sold the flooring at issue to Holmes and, although a foreign corporation, was registered to do business in New Hampshire and had a registered business address in Augusta, Maine; (2) eight other defendants, seven of whom were subcontractors hired by Holmes to perform the flooring installation at plaintiff’s properties; and (3) Strategis, a foreign corporation with a principal business address in Quebec, Canada, that marketed and sold the flooring to N.R.F. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred with the trial court that plaintiff failed to establish Strategis, through in-state contacts, purposefully availed itself of the protection of New Hampshire's laws. None of Strategis' actions, either separately or jointly, constituted purposeful availment sufficient for the court to exercise personal jurisdiction. Thus, the Court affirmed dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against Strategis. View "Red Oak Apartment Homes, LLC v. Strategis Floor & Decor, Inc." on Justia Law
Shih v. Starbucks Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against Starbucks after she spilled a cup of hot tea she purchased from a Starbucks store and suffered second degree burns, alleging causes of action for products liability and negligence.The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, holding that any alleged defect in the Starbucks cup did not cause plaintiff's injuries. The panel held that Starbucks met its burden of negating an element of plaintiff's products liability cause of action by showing the alleged defects in the cup of tea it served her were not a proximate cause of her injuries. In this case, plaintiff spilled her drink because, after she walked to the table with the two hot drinks in her hands, put her drink down, and removed the lid, she bent over the table, pushed out her chair, lost her balance, grabbed the table to avoid failing, and knocked her drink off the table. The court also held that Starbucks' alleged negligence by serving the allegedly defective cup was not a proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries. View "Shih v. Starbucks Corp." on Justia Law
Felisilda v. FCA US LLC
After encountering problems with their used 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan, plaintiffs Dina C. and Pastor O. Felisilda brought an action against Elk Grove Auto Group, Inc., doing business as Elk Grove Dodge Chrysler Jeep (Elk Grove Dodge) and the manufacturer, FCA US LLC (FCA) for violation of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Relying on the retail installment sales contract signed by the Felisildas, Elk Grove Dodge moved to compel arbitration. FCA filed a notice of nonopposition to the motion to compel. The trial court ordered the Felisildas to arbitrate their claim against both Elk Grove Dodge and FCA. In response, the Felisildas dismissed Elk Grove Dodge. The matter was submitted to arbitration, and the arbitrator found in favor of FCA. The trial court confirmed the arbitrator’s decision. The Felisildas appealed, contending: (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to compel them to arbitrate their claim against FCA for lack of notice that the motion to compel included FCA; and (2) the trial court lacked discretion to order the Felisildas to arbitrate their claim against FCA because FCA was a nonsignatory to the sales contract. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the Felisildas forfeited their claim regarding lack of notice by arguing against FCA’s participation in arbitration. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court correctly determined the Felisildas’ claim against FCA was encompassed by the arbitration provision in the sales contract. View "Felisilda v. FCA US LLC" on Justia Law
Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC
Plaintiff Angela Bolger bought a replacement laptop computer battery on the online shopping website operated by defendant Amazon.com, LLC. The listing for the battery identified the seller as “E-Life,” a fictitious name used on Amazon by Lenoge Technology (HK) Ltd. (Lenoge). Amazon charged Bolger for the purchase, retrieved the laptop battery from its location in an Amazon warehouse, prepared the battery for shipment in Amazon-branded packaging, and sent it to Bolger. Bolger alleged the battery exploded several months later, and she suffered severe burns as a result. Bolger sued Amazon and several other defendants, including Lenoge, alleging causes of action for strict products liability, negligent products liability, breach of implied warranty, breach of express warranty, and “negligence/negligent undertaking.” Lenoge was served but did not appear, so the trial court entered its default. Amazon then moved for summary judgment, arguing primarily that the doctrine of strict products liability, as well as any similar tort theory, did not apply to it because it did not distribute, manufacture, or sell the product in question. It claimed its website was an “online marketplace” and E-Life (Lenoge) was the product seller, not Amazon. The trial court agreed, granted Amazon’s motion, and entered judgment accordingly. Bolger appealed, arguing that Amazon was strictly liable for defective products offered on its website by third-party sellers like Lenoge. In the circumstances of this case, the Court of Appeal agreed and reversed: "Amazon placed itself between Lenoge and Bolger in the chain of distribution of the product at issue here. ... Under established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective. Strict liability here “affords maximum protection to the injured plaintiff and works no injustice to the defendants, for they can adjust the costs of such protection between them in the course of their continuing business relationship." View "Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC" on Justia Law
Booker v. C.R. Bard, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for plaintiff in an action alleging product-liability claims based on injuries she sustained from a medical device -- the G2 intravascular filter -- designed and manufactured by Bard. The jury found Bard liable for negligent failure to warn, awarding $1.6 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.The panel held that, because Bard's preemption defense presented a purely legal question, it would consider the merits of the district court's denial of its motion for summary judgment. The panel held that the preemption argument fails because Booker's claim rests on an asserted state-law duty to warn of the risks posed by the particular design of Bard's G2 Filter, and the FDA has not imposed any requirements related to the design of that device or how a device of that design should be labeled. In regard to the failure-to-warn claim, the panel held that Georgia courts had not adopted a categorical prohibition on basing a failure-to-warn claim on the absence of a comparative warning, and the district court correctly allowed the jury to decide the adequacy of the warning. Finally, the panel held that the evidence was adequate to support the jury's award of punitive damages. View "Booker v. C.R. Bard, Inc." on Justia Law