Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Perry v. Kia Motors America, Inc.
Plaintiff Kamiya Perry appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendant Kia Motors America, Inc. (Kia) after a jury found in favor of Kia in her automobile defect trial. On appeal, she argued: (1) the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to instruct the jury that Kia had concealed evidence (certain engineering documents) during discovery; (2) the trial court erred by excluding the testimony of Kia’s paralegal who verified discovery requests relevant to the engineering documents; and (3) she was not given a fair trial because the jurors were required to deliberate in a small room, which, in the midst of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, incentivized the jury to complete their deliberations quickly. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Perry v. Kia Motors America, Inc." on Justia Law
Nicholas Brunts v. Walmart, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Walmart in the Circuit Court for St. Louis County, Missouri. Plaintiff alleged Walmart engaged in misleading and deceptive marketing practices by selling cough suppressants with dextromethorphan hydrobromide (“DXM”) and a “non-drowsy” label. Walmart removed the case to the Eastern District of Missouri, and Plaintiff moved to have the case remanded to state court. The district court remanded, finding Walmart had not met the Class Action Fairness Act’s jurisdictional requirement of showing the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. The Eighth Circuit reversed, finding that Walmart has shown the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. The court concluded that Walmart’s declaration was sufficient to support a finding that sales exceeded $5 million. The total amount of sales can be a measure of the amount in controversy. The court explained that the declaration was sufficient, particularly when it is very plausible that a company the size of Walmart would have sold more than $5 million in cough suppressants in the state of Missouri over a period of five years. View "Nicholas Brunts v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law
MacNaughton v. Young Living Essential Oils, LC
The National Advertising Division (“NAD”), a self-regulatory organization, concluded that Defendant Young Living Essential Oils, LC’s (“Young Living”) claims that its oils are “therapeutic-grade” and impart physical and/or mental health benefits are “unsupported,” and recommended that Young Living stop making these claims. Plaintiff had already spent money on Young Living’s products, including lavender oil advertised to “promote [a] feeling of calm and fight occasional nervous tension” and peppermint oil that allegedly “helps to maintain energy levels.” Feeling misled by claims that the products would have effects like “promoting feelings of relaxation & tranquility,” Plaintiff sued, on behalf of herself and other similarly situated individuals, asserting claims under common law and various state statutes that she believes protect consumers like her against companies like Young Living. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s suit, finding that Young Living’s claims that its products would do things like “help to maintain energy levels” was run-of-the-mill puffery that companies use when trying to persuade potential customers to part with their dollars. The Second Circuit vacated in part and affirmed in part. The court vacated the district court’s ruling insofar as it dismissed the New York General Business Law claims for being based on statements of non-actionable puffery and the unjust enrichment claim for not satisfying the Rule 9(b) requirement. The court affirmed the ruling as to the dismissal of the breach of warranty claims. The court found that Plaintiff’s stated the circumstances constituting fraud with sufficient particularity to satisfy Rule 9(b) and certainly with enough particularity to give fair notice of her claim and enable the preparation of a defense. View "MacNaughton v. Young Living Essential Oils, LC" on Justia Law
Onglyza Product Cases
In 2008, as part of the defendants’ application for approval of Onglyza and Kombiglyze XR, two diabetes drugs with saxagliptin as the active ingredient, the FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee required that defendant AstraZeneca perform a cardiovascular outcomes study. “SAVOR” was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study that consisted of 16,492 patients with type 2 diabetes who were at high risk of cardiovascular disease. The study concluded that saxagliptin did not increase or decrease the risk of these occurrences but noted a higher risk of hospitalization. Following SAVOR, the FDA required warning labels for medications containing saxagliptin, referring to the potential increased risk of heart failure. Researchers conducted additional studies and did not find an association between saxagliptin and an increased risk of hospitalization for heart failure.Patients who took drugs with saxagliptin filed approximately 250 related cases. Most of these cases were filed in federal court and consolidated into federal multidistrict litigation. A Judicial Council coordination proceeding (JCCP) was established for the California state court cases. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court upheld the exclusion of the plaintiffs’ general causation expert, who opined that saxagliptin can cause heart failure. View "Onglyza Product Cases" on Justia Law
Madrigal v. Hyundai Motor America
Plaintiffs Oscar and Audrey Madrigal sued defendant Hyundai Motor America (Hyundai) under California’s automobile lemon law. Early in the case, Hyundai made two offers to compromise under Code of Civil Procedure section 998, both of which were rejected. After a jury was sworn in, plaintiffs settled with Hyundai for a principal amount that was less than Hyundai’s second section 998 offer. The parties elected to leave the issue of costs and attorney fees for the trial court to decide upon motion. Under the settlement agreement, once the issue of costs and attorney fees was resolved and payment was made by Hyundai, plaintiffs would dismiss their complaint with prejudice. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether section 998’s cost-shifting penalty provisions apply when an offer to compromise is rejected and the case ends in settlement. Under the facts of this case, the Court held that it did and therefore reversed the order of the trial court. View "Madrigal v. Hyundai Motor America" on Justia Law
Judith Shears v. Ethicon, Inc.
Along with her husband, Plaintiff initiated a civil action against Ethicon, Inc. — the manufacturer and seller of the TVT mesh — and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson. Plaintiffs pursued numerous claims for relief, including a strict product liability claim alleging a design defect in the TVT, as well as a claim for negligent design thereof. Plaintiff’s husband joined in the lawsuit by suing for loss of consortium. Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in the Southern District of West Virginia as part of a multidistrict litigation captioned (the “MDL”). The Fourth Circuit availing itself of the privilege afforded by the State of West Virginia through the Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act requested that the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia exercise its discretion to resolve the following certified question of law:Whether Section 411 of the West Virginia Pattern Jury Instructions for Civil Cases, entitled “Design Defect — Necessity of an Alternative, Feasible Design,” correctly specifies Plaintiff’s burden of proof for a strict liability design defect claim pursued under West Virginia law. More specifically, whether a plaintiff alleging a West Virginia strict liability design defect claim is required to prove the existence of an alternative, feasible product design — existing at the time of the subject product’s manufacture — in order to establish that the product was not reasonably safe for its intended use. And if so, whether the alternative, feasible product design must eliminate the risk of the harm suffered by the plaintiff or whether a reduction of that risk is sufficient. View "Judith Shears v. Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law
Ford Motor Warranty Cases
Plaintiffs filed claims against the Ford Motor Company (FMC) for alleged defects in vehicles the company manufactured. FMC filed a motion to compel arbitration of plaintiffs’ claims based on the arbitration provision in the sale contracts. Plaintiffs opposed FMC’s motion, including on the grounds that FMC had waived its right to compel arbitration through its litigation conduct. The trial court denied FMC’s motion on its merits. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that it agreed with the trial court that FMC could not compel arbitration based on Plaintiffs’ agreements with the dealers that sold them the vehicles. Equitable estoppel does not apply because, contrary to FMC’s arguments, Plaintiffs’ claims against it in no way rely on the agreements. FMC was not a third-party beneficiary of those agreements, as there is no basis to conclude Plaintiffs and their dealers entered into them with the intention of benefitting FMC. And FMC is not entitled to enforce the agreements as an undisclosed principal because there is no nexus between Plaintiffs’ claims, any alleged agency between FMC and the dealers, and the agreements. View "Ford Motor Warranty Cases" on Justia Law
Merck & Co., Inc. v. Bayer AG
In 2014, Merck and Bayer entered a Stock and Asset Purchase Agreement (SAPA) whereby Merck sold, and Bayer purchased, Merck’s consumer care business and consumer care product lines, including the Claritin, Coppertone, Dr. Scholl’s, and Lotrimin foot powder product lines. The transaction closed in October 2014. Bayer paid Merck more than $14 billion. After the transaction closed, both companies were the subject of lawsuits alleging injuries arising from consumers’ use of talc-based products that Merck used in foot powder product lines sold to Bayer; asbestos allegedly contained in talcum powder has caused fatal cancers.The Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed Merck’s suit in which it argued that Bayer breached the SAPA by refusing to assume liability for the claims. Both companies, as sophisticated participants in the pharmaceutical industry, understood that consumer products businesses face potential liability for torts associated with the sale of such consumer products. The SAPA clearly and unambiguously provides that Merck indefinitely retained substantive liability for the product liability claims related to products sold before the transaction closed. Merck attempted to argue that its liability for the product liability claims ceased in 2021; the court found that interpretation contrary to the SAPA's clear and unambiguous terms. Bayer’s interpretation of the SAPA is the only reasonable one. View "Merck & Co., Inc. v. Bayer AG" on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts, Delaware Court of Chancery, Drugs & Biotech, Products Liability
Brown, et al. v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation, et al.
The United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire certified two questions of law for the New Hampshire Supreme Court's consideration. Plaintiffs, individuals who presently or formerly lived in the Merrimack area, brought tort claims, including negligence, nuisance, trespass, and negligent failure to warn, alleging that defendants’ manufacturing process at its facility in the Town of Merrimack used chemicals that included perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). They alleged PFOA was a toxic chemical that was released into the air from the Merrimack facility and has contaminated the air, ground, and water in Merrimack and nearby towns. As a result, plaintiffs alleged the wells and other drinking water sources in those places were contaminated, exposing them to PFOA, placing them at risk of developing health problems, including testicular cancer, kidney cancer, immunotoxicity, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy induced hypertension. The first question from the federal circuit court asked whether New Hampshire recognized “a claim for the costs of medical monitoring as a remedy or as a cause of action” in plaintiffs' context. Depending on the answer to the first question, the second question asked, “what are the requirements and elements of a remedy or cause of action for medical monitoring” under New Hampshire law. Because the Supreme Court answered the first question in the negative, it did not address the second question. View "Brown, et al. v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation, et al." on Justia Law
USA v. Sharp
Defendant appealed his sentence following his guilty-plea conviction of felon in possession of a firearm. He argued that the district court erred in enhancing his sentence under U.S.S.G. Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B), which applies only when a defendant’s firearm “had an altered or obliterated serial number,” because there is no evidence that his rifle ever had a serial number. The Fifth Circuit agreed and vacated Defendant’s sentence and remanded. The court explained that it agreed that Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B) does not apply when there is no evidence that the firearm ever had a serial number. The text of Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B) is clear that it only applies when the firearm “had an altered or obliterated serial number.” U.S.S.G. Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B). And in ordinary parlance, something cannot be “altered or obliterated” if it never existed in the first place. Consequently, to apply an upward enhancement under the provision, the government must present evidence showing that Defendant’s rifle once had a serial number. Because there was no such evidence, the court held that the district court erred in applying a four-level enhancement under Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B). View "USA v. Sharp" on Justia Law