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Plaintiff Josh Willner was injured while climbing a rock wall owned by his employer, Ivy League Day Camp. Willner sued the camp and the manufacturers of the wall and parts contained in the wall, Vertical Reality, Inc. (Vertical Reality), and ASCO Numatics (Numatics), respectively, alleging strict products liability claims and negligence. Throughout trial, evidence was submitted regarding Numatics’ conduct both before and after the incident. Prior to summation, the court dismissed the design defect and failure to warn claims, allowing Willner to proceed only on his strict liability claim of manufacturing defect against Numatics. Vertical Reality’s counsel underscored Numatics’ alleged malfeasance. Numatics objected and moved for a mistrial. The trial court denied the motion, but instructed the jury to disregard counsel’s comments concerning Numatics’ conduct. Numatics thereafter requested an instruction to the jury regarding the applicability of Numatics’ conduct in the context of Willner’s manufacturing defect claim. The judge denied that proposal and instead provided an instruction that substantially mirrored Model Jury Charges (Civil), 5.40B, “Manufacturing Defect” (2009). The jury found: Vertical Reality’s rock wall was designed defectively; Vertical Reality provided inadequate warnings; and Numatics’ product was manufactured defectively, all proximate causes of Willner’s fall. The jury awarded Willner monetary damages, allocating seventy and thirty percent liability to Vertical Reality and Numatics, respectively. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's jury instruction under a different standard of review than was used by the Appellate Division: the judge’s actions were harmless error. The Court reversed the imposition of sanctions, holding it would have been unfair to impose sanctions "in a case where the only means for a party to avoid sanctions would be to pay an amount greater than the jury’s verdict against that party, without advance notice of that consequence." View "Willner v. Vertical Reality, Inc." on Justia Law

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Accutane was a prescription medication developed by defendants and approved by the FDA to treat recalcitrant nodular acne. Accutane’s alleged role as a cause of gastrointestinal disease ultimately resulted in a series of lawsuits against defendants. The case before the New Jersey Supreme Court here involved over two thousand plaintiffs who alleged they developed Crohn’s disease as a result of taking Accutane. In the years since many earlier Accutane cases were decided, epidemiological studies were published, all of which concluded that Accutane was not causally associated with the development of Crohn’s disease. Defendants filed a motion seeking a hearing on the association between Accutane and Crohn’s disease. The issue presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s consideration reduced to the admissibility of scientific evidence under the New Jersey Rules of Evidence. Plaintiffs claimed that a causal connection existed between Accutane and Crohn’s disease. The Supreme Court discerned little distinction between “Daubert’s” principles regarding expert testimony and New Jersey’s, and Daubert’s factors for assessing the reliability of expert testimony “will aid New Jersey trial courts in their role as the gatekeeper of scientific expert testimony in civil cases.” The Court reconciled the standard under N.J.R.E. 702, and relatedly N.J.R.E. 703, with the federal Daubert standard to incorporate its factors for civil cases. Here, the trial court properly excluded plaintiffs’ experts’ testimony. Moreover, the Court reaffirmed that the abuse of discretion standard must be applied by an appellate court assessing whether a trial court has properly admitted or excluded expert scientific testimony in a civil case. In this matter, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its evidential ruling and, therefore, the Appellate Division erred in reversing the trial court’s exclusion of the testimony of plaintiffs’ experts. View "In re: Accutane Litigation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed the underlying action against BNSF after he was injured when the backrest of his locomotive seat broke, and alleged that the seat did not comply with the federal standards in the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA). BNSF settled a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) claim with plaintiff. BNSF then filed suit against Seats to recover the costs of settlement. The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that the district court erred in determining that the LIA preempted BNSF's claims for products liability and breach of contract. Because the district court did not address defendant's other grounds for dismissal of the two claims, the court remanded for further proceedings on those alternative arguments. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. Seats, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a negligence and product liability action against defendants, in which plaintiff alleged that she developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos contained in talcum powder products. At issue was the trial court's order granting plaintiff's motion to tax costs. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court abused its discretion in denying all costs requested by Colgate. In this case, Colgate was entitled to its allowable costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032 and 1033.5 and plaintiff conceded that certain items were allowable. In regard to the remaining items, the trial court did not consider plaintiff's challenges to specific costs or assess which costs were reasonable and reasonably necessary. The court also held that the trial court erred in failing to determine whether Colgate made its section 998 offer in good faith. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Alfaro v. Colgate-Palmolive Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jeffery Oppedahl and his family filed suit against Mobile Drill after Jeffery was injured in an accident involving a truck-mounted drill auger that left him a quadriplegic. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Mobile Drill on plaintiffs' negligent entrustment claim involving the auger and the related consortium claims. The court held that the refurbishment exception did not apply here and that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' negligence and strict liability claims based on the running of the Iowa statute of repose. Even if the exception applied, plaintiffs' claim would still be barred where the existing case law in which courts have adopted a refurbishment exception to statutes of repose requires that the refurbishment be completed by the party being held accountable for the harm. In this case, it was IDOT, not Mobile Drill, that conducted the auger refurbishment. The court also held that the Iowa Supreme Court likely would not apply negligent entrustment against a product manufacturer when the claim relates to the sale of the product. Assuming that negligent entrustment applied, plaintiffs' claim failed where there was insufficient evidence to support a claim that Mobile Drill had knowledge that IDOT would use the auger in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical harm or that it was foreseeable to Mobile Drill that IDOT would use the auger in an unsafe way. View "Oppedahl v. Mobile Drill International Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Manitowoc Cranes after her husband, John, was injured in a crane accident that rendered him physically and mentally incapacitated. The jury ruled for plaintiff, finding that Manitowoc failed to warn Model 16000 Series crane operators that, if the crane tips over, large weights stacked on the rear of the crane can slide forward and strike the operator's cab. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's final judgment against Manitowoc for $2.8 million in actual economic damages and $600,000 in non-economic damages. The court held that Manitowoc was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the failure-to-warn claim where Manitowoc's warning was inadequate, and the inadequate warning proximately caused John's injuries. In this case, Manitowoc's misuse allegations did not convince the court that John's alleged misuse proximately caused his injuries, and the jury had an adequate basis for finding that an alternative warning could have communicated valuable additional information about the falling counterweight danger, allowing John to avoid injury. Finally, the court rejected Manitowoc's expert and evidentiary challenges. View "Williams v. Manitowoc Cranes, LLC" on Justia Law

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Numerous plaintiffs filed a wrongful death action under section 6-5-410, Ala. Code 1975, against Continental Motors, Inc. ("CMI"), and RAM Aircraft, LP ("RAM"), among others, on behalf of the heirs of Mark Goldstein, Marjorie Gonzalez, and Luis Angel Lopez Barillas (collectively, "the decedents"). On March 10, 2010, the decedents died in an airplane crash in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The crash was allegedly a result of a defective starter-adapter assembly that had been manufactured by CMI and/or the failure of the airplane's engine, which had been refurbished by RAM. Mark and Marjorie were citizens and residents of Honduras; Luis was a citizen and resident of Guatemala. The administration of each of the decedents' estates was conducted in their respective countries of citizenship and residence. CMI and RAM filed motions for a summary judgment arguing that none of the plaintiffs was a personal representative of the decedents and, thus, that plaintiffs lacked the authority to pursue the wrongful-death claims. The circuit court denied CMI's and RAM's summary-judgment motions. CMI and RAM separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to set aside its orders denying their summary judgment motions and to enter an order granting their summary judgment motions, thereby dismissing the plaintiffs' wrongful death action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Alabama Court granted CMI's and RAM's petitions in part and denied them in part. The Court concluded CMI and RAM failed to demonstrate the administrator-plaintiffs were without authority to pursue a wrongful-death claim on behalf of Mark's heirs. Therefore, in this regard, the Supreme Court denied CMI's and RAM's petitions for a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court also concluded CMI and RAM demonstrated that none of the plaintiffs were personal representatives of Marjorie's or Luis's estate and, thus, lacked authority to pursue a wrongful-death claim on behalf of Marjorie's or Luis's heirs. Accordingly, the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the wrongful-death claims brought on behalf of Marjorie's and Luis's heirs, and CMI and RAM were entitled to have their summary-judgment motions granted in that respect and to have those claims dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Therefore, in this regard, the Supreme Court granted CMI's and RAM's petitions for a writ of mandamus and ordered the circuit court to grant CMI's and RAM's summary-judgment motions, and dismissed the wrongful-death claims asserted by the heirs of Marjorie and Luis. View "Ex parte Continental Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal involved questions about the insurance coverage available to defendant Honeywell International, Inc. (Honeywell) for thousands of bodily-injury claims premised on exposure to brake and clutch pads (friction products) containing asbestos. The New Jersey Supreme Court granted certification to address two issues: (1) whether the law of New Jersey or Michigan (the headquarters location of Honeywell’s predecessor when the disputed excess insurance policies were issued) should control in the allocation of insurance liability among insurers for nationwide products-liability claims; and (2) whether it was error not to require the policyholder, Honeywell, to contribute in the allocation of insurance liability based on the time after which the relevant coverage became unavailable in the marketplace (that is, since 1987). The Supreme Court determined New Jersey law on the allocation of liability among insurers applied in this matter, and the Court set forth the pertinent choice-of-law principles to resolve this dispute over insurance coverage for numerous products-liability claims. Concerning the second question, on these facts, the Court also affirmed the determination to follow the unavailability exception to the continuous-trigger method of allocation set forth in Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. United Ins. Co., 138 N.J. 437 (1994). View "Continental Insurance Company v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lipitor, a pharmaceutical drug, is prescribed to lower patients’ “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. Plaintiffs, more than 3,000 women, claim that they developed diabetes as a result of taking Lipitor. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the lawsuits for pretrial proceedings. The parties agreed on four bellwether cases. Plaintiffs enlisted general experts, to testify that there was a causal association between Lipitor and diabetes; specific experts, to testify that Lipitor proximately caused the onset of diabetes in the bellwether plaintiffs; and an expert biostatistician, who concluded that taking Lipitor led to a statistically significant increased risk of diabetes. Plaintiffs also sought to introduce internal Pfizer emails, information from Lipitor's labeling, a statement in Lipitor's FDA New Drug Application, and information from the Lipitor website. Citing Federal Rule of Evidence 702, the court excluded the opinions of the statistician; the general causation expert, except relating to a specific dosage; and the specific causation opinions. The rulings left the plaintiffs without their bellwether cases, limited to a subset of patients who had taken an 80 mg dose. The court issued show-cause orders asking whether any plaintiff could submit evidence that would enable her claim to survive summary judgment given prior rulings. Some plaintiffs submitted evidence showing only that they were not diabetic before taking Lipitor, that they were diagnosed with diabetes after taking Lipitor, and that they lacked certain risk factors that might make them especially likely to develop the disease. After the court rejected the evidence, the plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued that the cases ought to be returned to their transferor district courts for individual resolution on the issue of specific causation. The Fourth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. View "Plaintiffs Appealing Case Management Order 100 v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law

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Dalton’s doctor implanted Teva’s Intrauterine Device (IUD) in her uterus for long-term birth control. Dalton became dissatisfied with the IUD and asked her doctor to remove it. The doctor did so by grasping its strings with a forceps and pulling the IUD down. A piece broke off either before or during the removal and lodged in her uterus. Dalton’s doctor advised that removing the remaining portion of the IUD would require a hysterectomy. Dalton sued Teva, asserting “strict liability,” “strict products liability failure to warn,” and “manufacturer’s defect.” Dalton failed to timely disclose any expert witness and serve the expert witness report required by FRCP 26(a)(2). The district court granted Teva summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Claims under the Indiana Products Liability Act, which governs all consumer actions against a manufacturer for physical harm caused by a product, require proof that the injury was proximately caused by whatever defect or breach of duty underlies the claim. The Act requires expert testimony when an issue “is not within the understanding of a lay person.” Dalton did not establish how a lay juror faced with a broken IUD could identify the cause of the break—maybe the IUD was damaged after coming into the possession of the physician, maybe human error resulted in damage during implantation or removal. This case is far removed from situations in which a causation issue is so obvious that a plaintiff may forgo expert testimony. View "Dalton v. Teva North America" on Justia Law