Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Little v. Kia Motors America, Inc.
Plaintiff Regina Little asserted claims on her own behalf and on behalf of other New Jersey owners and lessees of 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 Kia Sephia vehicles distributed by defendant Kia Motors America, Inc., alleging that those vehicles had a defective brake system. The central question in this appeal was whether the trial court properly permitted plaintiff’s theory of damages based on the cost of brake repairs to be asserted classwide, supported only by aggregate proofs. The jury determined that defendant had breached its express and implied warranties and that the class had sustained damages. The jury found that the class members had suffered $0 in damages due to diminution in value but that each class member had sustained $750 in damages “[f]or repair expenses reasonably incurred as a result of the defendant’s breach of warranty.” The trial court granted defendant’s motion to decertify the class as to the quantum of damages each individual owner suffered. The parties cross-appealed. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s post-trial determinations, reinstated the jury’s award for out-of-pocket repair costs based on plaintiff’s aggregate proofs, and remanded for an award of attorneys’ fees. The appellate court held that, notwithstanding the jury’s rejection of plaintiff’s diminution-in-value theory, the trial court should have ordered a new trial on both theories of damages, which it found were not “fairly separable from each another.” Although aggregate proof of damages can be appropriate in some settings, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered such proof improper as presented in this case. The trial court erred when it initially allowed plaintiff to prove class-members’ out-of-pocket costs for brake repairs based on an estimate untethered to the experience of plaintiff’s class. The trial court properly ordered individualized proof of damages on plaintiff’s brake-repair claim based on the actual costs incurred by the class members. Thus, the trial court’s grant of defendant’s motions for a new trial and for partial decertification of the class were a proper exercise of its discretion. View "Little v. Kia Motors America, Inc." on Justia Law
Smith v. Toyota Motor Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against Toyota in strict products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty for injuries she sustained in a single-vehicle roll over accident. Plaintiff alleged that her 1997 Toyota 4Runner was unreasonably prone to roll over and that its seatbelt system failed to restrain her during the accident. Given plaintiff's concession that there was no evidence relating to the design of the seatbelt and that her claims instead centered on FMVSS 209, the Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err in determining that she had abandoned her claim for strict liability. The court declined to reach plaintiff's evidentiary arguments because she failed to preserve them. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Smith v. Toyota Motor Corp." on Justia Law
Mize v. Mentor Worldwide LLC
Plaintiffs filed suit against Mentor, alleging causes of action for negligence and negligence per se based on Mentor's negligent failure to warn and negligent manufacturing of breast implants, strict products liability for failure to warn, and strict products liability for manufacturing defects. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment and entered an order overruling the demurrer to the third amended complaint. The court held that the tort claims in this case survive preemption because they are premised on conduct that both violates the Medical Device Amendments (MDA) to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act and would give rise to a recovery under state law even in the absence of the MDA. The court also held that plaintiffs pleaded the requisite causal connection between their injuries and Mentor's tortious acts to survive a demurrer. Finally, the trial court erroneously sustained Mentor's demurrer to the loss of consortium claim because it was derivative of the other claims. View "Mize v. Mentor Worldwide LLC" on Justia Law
Estes v. Eaton Corp.
Estes worked as an electrician in two Bay Area naval shipyards and was exposed to asbestos-containing products manufactured or supplied to the Navy by approximately 50 companies. Later, he developed asbestos-related mesothelioma. In Estes’ personal injury lawsuit, a jury returned a defense verdict for an electrical component manufacturer, Eaton. The trial court granted Estes a new trial. The court of appeal reversed that order; the explanation of reasons for granting a new trial was not sufficient under Code of Civil Procedure section 657. The court overturned the verdict because “plaintiff presented sufficient evidence that he worked with arc chutes manufactured and supplied by [Eaton’s predecessor]; the arc chutes contained asbestos; asbestos fibers from the arc chutes were released during plaintiff’s work with them; and the levels of fibers released posed a hazard to plaintiff, and may have been a substantial factor in causing injury to him” whereas “[t]he evidence submitted by Eaton was not sufficient to rebut this evidence submitted by plaintiff.” This reasoning is little more than a conclusion that the plaintiff introduced sufficient evidence to prove that the arc chutes released hazardous levels of asbestos during Estes’s encounter with them in the workplace. The explanation is too vague to enable meaningful review. The court also rejected Estes’s substantial evidence challenge to the verdict exonerating Eaton of liability. View "Estes v. Eaton Corp." on Justia Law
Hale v. Metrex Research Corp.
Claiming that she suffered injuries when her dentist soaked her dentures in CaviCide disinfecting solution, which is manufactured by Metrex, plaintiff filed suit against Metrex, the dentist, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and others. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings to Metrex on plaintiff's claim that Metrex failed to warn and label its product adequately. The court held that plaintiff's failure to warn claim failed as a matter of law because she admitted in her complaint that CaviCide's label warned against the specific use that allegedly caused her injuries. In this case, plaintiff conceded that the use of CaviCide to disinfect dentures or any surface or instrument that contacts mucous membranes is prohibited by the CaviCide label. Furthermore, plaintiff maintained that her injures were caused by the dentist's failure to follow manufacturer's instructions clearly printed on the label for the proper use of the product. View "Hale v. Metrex Research Corp." on Justia Law
Verrazono v. Gehl Co.
Verrazono was seriously injured when a rough terrain forklift he was operating tipped over. He sued the manufacturer. The jury returned a defense verdict, finding the forklift was not defective and the manufacturer was not negligent. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Verrazono’s claim that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the “consumer expectations” test for design defect and erred in giving a “dynamite instruction” when the jury became deadlocked. Verrazono presented no evidence as to the safety expectations of a “hypothetical reasonable” telehandler user under the circumstances that occurred. Rather, Verrazono’s engineering expert’s testimony bore on a risk-benefit analysis. This was not a case where evidence about the objective features of the product, alone, was sufficient for an evaluation of whether the forklift was defectively designed in the manner Verrazono claimed. Verrazono’s failure to set forth all material evidence forfeited his substantial evidence claims. View "Verrazono v. Gehl Co." on Justia Law
Bayer Corp. v. Leach
The Supreme Court remanded this case to the court of appeals to consider the viability of each of Plaintiffs' claims presented in the pleadings, holding that the court of appeals improperly failed to address the viability of each claim. Plaintiffs, thirty-six women, filed a product liability suit against Bayer Corporation and some related entities (collectively, Bayer), alleging that Bayer violated Indiana's Product Liability act and other state and federal laws in relation to a medical device that Bayer manufactured. Bayer moved for judgment on the pleadings under Indiana Rule of Trial Procedure 12(C). The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The court of appeals, however, addressed only the legal viability of one claim rather than all of Plaintiffs' claims. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the court of appeals to consider the viability of each of Plaintiffs' claims, holding that the court was required to address the viability of each claim presented under Rule 12(C). View "Bayer Corp. v. Leach" on Justia Law
Whelan v. Armstrong International, Inc.
Plaintiff Arthur Whelan filed suit against seven defendants, who allegedly manufactured or distributed products integrated with asbestos-containing components. Whelan claimed he was exposed to asbestos dust while working on those products, including their original asbestos-containing components or asbestos-containing replacement components. Defendants contended that Whelan could not establish that his exposure to asbestos was the result of any product they manufactured or distributed, disclaiming any liability for Whelan’s exposure to asbestos-containing replacement parts that they did not manufacture or distribute, even though the parts were incorporated into their products. Whelan countered that it made no difference whether he was exposed to defendants’ original asbestos-containing components or a third party’s asbestos-containing components -- defendants’ duty to warn and liability attached to both. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. The Appellate Division reversed, determining that defendants had a duty to warn about the dangers of the asbestos-containing replacement components necessary for the continued functioning of their products and that defendants could be held strictly liable for the failure to do so, provided Whelan suffered sufficient exposure to the replacement components to contribute to his disease. After Whelan appealed, the Appellate Division issued Hughes v. A.W. Chesterton Co., 435 N.J. Super. 326 (App. Div. 2014), which held that a defendant had a duty to warn, regardless of who manufactured the replacement components, because under the facts of that case, “it was reasonably foreseeable . . . that the gaskets and packing would be replaced regularly with gaskets and packing that contained asbestos.” The Appellate Division found that Whelan had “presented sufficient evidence detailing his exposure to asbestos,” either from defendants’ original or replacement components or from a third party’s replacement components, to withstand summary judgment. Thus, the Whelan panel reversed the summary judgment order and left the disputed issues of fact to be resolved by a jury. Finding no reversible error in the appellate panel's judgment, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed. View "Whelan v. Armstrong International, Inc." on Justia Law
Rios v. Bayer Corp.
Essure--permanent birth control for women--originally was manufactured and developed by Conceptus, a California corporation. Bayer bought Conceptus. Bayer marketed Essure as safer and more effective than other birth control. Two residents of Madison County, Illinois, filed personal injury complaints, alleging that Essure caused debilitating pain, heavy bleeding that necessitated medication, and autoimmune disorders. including 179 plaintiffs from at least 25 states. Months later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its “Bristol-Myers” decision. Bayer argued that, following Bristol-Myers, a court cannot exercise specific personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant as to the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs when the conduct giving rise to the claims did not occur in the forum state. The plaintiffs argued Illinois courts had specific personal jurisdiction over Bayer because it “created the Essure Accreditation Program and the marketing strategy for Essure in Illinois,” conducted clinical trials in Illinois, and used Illinois as a testing ground for its physician training program. The appellate court affirmed the denials of motions to dismiss: Bayer “conducted a part of its general business in Illinois, and [p]laintiffs’ claims arose out of" trials conducted, in part, in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The nonresident plaintiffs identified no jurisdictionally relevant links between their claims and Illinois. The nonresidents have not explained how Illinois could be a convenient location for this litigation; they were not implanted with their devices here and have identified no other activity that would connect their specific claims to Illinois. Many nonresident plaintiffs initiated duplicate actions in California, indicating that the interests of judicial economy are not furthered by permitting their claims to proceed in Illinois. A corporation’s continuous activity of some sort within a state is not enough to render the corporation subject to suits unrelated to that activity. View "Rios v. Bayer Corp." on Justia Law
Platt v. Winnebago Industries
Deborah and Dallas Platt purchased a 2016 Winnebago Era RV in 2016. This purchase was subject to Winnebago’s New Vehicle Limited Warranty, which required the Platts to bring the RV for repairs to an authorized dealer and then, if those repairs were insufficient, to Winnebago itself before they could bring an action against Winnebago. The RV suffered from a litany of defects and the Platts took it in for warranty repairs to Camping World of Golden, Colorado (Camping World), an authorized Winnebago dealership, on numerous occasions for numerous separate defects within the first seven and a half months of their ownership. When the Camping World repairs did not resolve the Platts’ issues with the RV, they scheduled an appointment for repairs with Winnebago in Forest City, Iowa, but they subsequently cancelled the appointment, claiming they had "lost faith" that Winnebago would repair their RV. The Platts sued Winnebago for breach of express and implied warranties under both the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and Colorado state law, and also for deceptive trade practices in violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). Winnebago filed a motion for summary judgment which the district court granted, dismissing all of the Platts’ claims. The Platts appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Platt v. Winnebago Industries" on Justia Law