Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff-Appellant Cindy Roe suffered serious injuries after her Jeep Grand Cherokee unexpectedly backed over her. After the accident, she filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the manufacturer of her vehicle, FCA US (“FCA”), alleging that the shifter assembly in her vehicle had been defectively designed in that it could be perched into a “false-park” position where the vehicle appears to be in park, but was actually in an unstable position that could slip into reverse. Roe further alleged this defect caused her injuries. FCA moved to exclude Roe’s experts as unreliable on the issue of causation, among other objections. FCA additionally moved for summary judgement because Roe could not create a material issue of fact on the essential element of causation without her experts’ testimony. The district court agreed with FCA, excluded the experts, and granted summary judgment for FCA. Notably, the district court found that the experts’ theory on causation was unreliable because they failed to demonstrate that the shifter could remain in false park for sufficient time for Roe to move behind the vehicle and then slip into reverse without manual assistance. Roe appealed, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in excluding the expert testimony. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Roe v. FCA US" on Justia Law

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While working his construction job, Plaintiff was severely injured when a crane cable snapped and dropped its payload onto him. Plaintiff sued Viant Crane Service, LLC and Viant Crane, LLC (together “Viant”), arguing that their crane was defective. The district court granted summary judgment to Viant.   On appeal, Plaintiff argues that an A2B doesn’t simply fall off a crane without some sort of defect. Viant, on the other hand, argues that there are alternative explanations for the A2B falling off—chiefly, employees mishandling the crane.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The court explained that because Plaintiff doesn’t have any direct evidence that the crane was defective, he relies on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, “the thing speaks for itself.” The court wrote that applying that rule, the district court held that res ipsa loquitur doesn’t apply to Plaintiff’s claim because the crane was outside of Viant’s control for several days, creating a possibility of mishandling by employees. Plaintiff argues that the district court’s evidentiary burden was too strict and that the court should follow Daleiden v. Carborundum Co., 438 F.2d 1017 (8th Cir. 1971). The court wrote that, in contrast to Daleiden, Plaintiff’s evidence fails to reasonably eliminate other plausible causes of the A2B malfunctioning, such as mismanagement by those handling the tank. View "Shane Boda v. Viant Crane Service, LLC" on Justia Law

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IImerys sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in response to mounting asbestos and talc personal injury claims. Many of the claimants who will suffer harm from asbestos exposure traceable to the debtor will not manifest those injuries until long after the reorganization process has concluded. Cases involving asbestos liability, therefore, use trusts designed to compensate present and future asbestos claimants, coupled with an injunction against future asbestos liability to allow the debtor to emerge from bankruptcy without the uncertainty of future asbestos liabilities while ensuring claimants would not be prejudiced just because they had not yet manifested injuries at the time of the bankruptcy, 11 U.S.C. 524(g), The provision requires the appointment of a legal representative (FCR) to protect the rights of future claimants. The FCR participates in the negotiation of the reorganization plan and objects to terms that unfairly disadvantage future claimants.A group of insurance companies appealed the appointment of an FCR in the Ilmerys bankruptcy, arguing that the FCR had a conflict of interest because the FCR’s law firm also represented two of the insurance companies in a separate asbestos-related coverage dispute. The Third Circuit affirmed the appointment. The Bankruptcy Court did not abuse its discretion in appointing the FCR. it gave due consideration to the purported conflict and correctly determined that the interests of both the insurance companies and the future claimants were adequately protected. View "In re: Imerys Talc America, Inc" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff received MemoryGel Silicone Gel Breast Implants made by Mentor Worldwide, LLC. After one of her implants ruptured, she sued Mentor pro se, alleging negligence and negligence per se, strict liability failure to warn, and strict liability manufacturing defect. The district court dismissed her complaint without prejudice and later dismissed her amended complaint with prejudice as preempted and foreclosed by Florida law.   Plaintiff appealed the district court’s dismissal of the manufacturing defect claims in Counts I and III of her initial complaint. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and held that Plaintiff’s manufacturing defect claims are sufficiently pleaded to survive a motion to dismiss.   The court explained that construing her pro se pleadings liberally, Plaintiff’s manufacturing defect claims are sufficiently pleaded to survive Mentor’s motion to dismiss. She plausibly alleged that Mentor violated a duty it owed to her, not the government. Specifically, she alleged that the implants’ manufacturing process differed from the specifications agreed to by the FDA and that Mentor used materials that differed from those approved by the FDA, violating both state law and the device-specific regulatory controls the FDA approved under 21 C.F.R. Section 820.30. These allegations are enough to state a plausible claim against Mentor under Rule 12(b)(6), and the district court erred by holding otherwise. View "Lalitha E. Jacob, MD v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC" on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff was injured by a machine that Skylift, Inc., manufactured and sold, he sued Skylift claiming that the machine was defective and unreasonably dangerous and that Skylift negligently designed it. The district court rejected these claims and granted summary judgment to Skylift.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling granting summary judgment to Skylift. The court held that the product was not unreasonably dangerous, i.e., "dangerous to an extent beyond that which" was actually contemplated by the machine's users. The court explained that Plaintiff does little to confront this glaring deficiency in his claim, focusing instead on the feasibility of adding certain features to the machine that he says would have prevented the accident.   Further, the court explained that Arkansas recognizes that a plaintiff may assert both strict liability and negligence claims in a product-liability action. Here, Plaintiff does not convincingly argue that the machine fell short of contemporary industry standards; in fact, Plaintiff’s expert may well have admitted they satisfied those standards. In sum, the court found nothing that calls into question the lower court’s determinations that the machine was not unreasonably dangerous under Arkansas law or that Skylift did not negligently design it. View "Jonathan Edwards v. Skylift, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rankins, a DHL employee, was seriously injured at work when a cable within a winch system snapped. Rankins received workers’ compensation benefits. The winch system was designed and installed by SSK. Rankins brought products-liability claims in state court against SSK. DHL lost the physical pieces of the winch system after the suit was removed to federal court. SSK brought a third-party suit against DHL seeking damages for the spoliation of evidence and seeking contribution under the Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act. DHL settled with Rankins by waiving its workers’ compensation lien ($455,229.17) and paying an additional $87,500. DHL then argued that its good-faith contribution settlement with Rankins entitled it under state law to a full dismissal of all third-party claims stemming from Rankins’s injury. The district court rejected SSK’s argument that the settlement did not compensate SSK for its own spoliation-related difficulties and dismissed SSK’s third-party complaint.The court found that, under FRCP 54(b), there was no just cause for delaying SSK’s appeal of the dismissal of the spoliation claim. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The spoliation and product liability claims are not factually and legally separable to the extent required by Rule 54(b), so there is no final judgment. View "Systems Solutions of Kentucky LLC, v. DHL Express (USA), Inc." on Justia Law

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To treat her endometriosis, Paulsen received Lupron injections in 2004 from her physician in Georgia. Shortly afterward she began experiencing health problems, including severe bone and joint pain, memory loss, and fevers. In April 2010, Paulsen filed a personal injury suit. Paulsen voluntarily dismissed her claims in 2014. In 2015, Paulsen filed a second lawsuit asserting product liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and misrepresentation. After several amended complaints and the addition of a defendant, two claims remained: a strict liability failure-to-warn claim against AbbVie and Abbott; and a negligent misrepresentation claim against Abbott. Limited discovery was permitted.The district court subsequently applied Illinois procedural law and Georgia substantive law, reasoning that Paulsen’s injury occurred in Georgia, and Illinois lacked a stronger relationship to the action, then granted the defendants summary judgment. The court ruled that Paulsen’s strict liability failure-to-warn claim was time-barred by Georgia’s 10-year statute of repose. Georgia does not recognize a stand-alone misrepresentation claim in product liability cases. Even if this cause of action did exist, the court reasoned, Paulsen’s misrepresentation claim would fail because “the undisputed evidence show[ed] that Abbott did not make any representations regarding Lupron.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court noted extensive evidence that Paulsen’s claims accrued before April 2008 and are barred by the Illinois two-year statute of limitations for personal injuries. View "Terry Paulsen v. Abbott Laboratories" on Justia Law

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Stevenson was injured in the course of his employment while moving a portable ladder in order to clean a component of a Windmoeller printing press. The ladder was supplied with the machine and was necessary to reach an interior printing plate. The ladder caught on the cable attached to the machine, which caused Stevenson to twist and injure his shoulder and back; he required surgery.Stevenson’s product-liability suit argued that the design of the machine, including the placement of the cable near the access door used to service the machine’s interior components, was defective and foreseeably gave rise to his injury. Stevenson asked the court to appoint an engineering expert. Fed. R. Evid. 706 codifies the power of a trial judge to appoint an expert to function as a neutral expert serving the court rather than any party. The district court denied this motion, reasoning Stevenson was really asking for the appointment of an expert to support his case, rather than a neutral expert. Stevenson contends that the month that the court allowed him to respond to a subsequent summary judgment motion was insufficient to hire his own expert, allow related discovery, and file his response.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Windmoeller. Only an advocate expert could have filled the gap in Stevenson’s case. Stevenson could have asked for pre-authorization of the payment for such an expert from a court fund under Local Rule 83.40. View "Stevenson v. Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp." on Justia Law

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Monsanto Company and BASF Corporation began developing dicamba-tolerant seed and sued each other over intellectual property. When the USDA deregulated Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant soybean seed that year, Monsanto began to sell it. BASF’s lower-volatility dicamba herbicide was approved in 2017. Bader Farms, Inc. sued Monsanto and BASF for negligent design and failure to warn, alleging its peach orchards were damaged by dicamba drift. The jury awarded compensatory damages and punitive damages based on Monsanto’s acts.   The district court denied Defendants’ motions for a new trial and judgment as a matter of law but reduced punitive damages to $60 million. The district court’s judgment also held Monsanto and BASF jointly and severally liable for the punitive damages.   Defendants appealed, arguing that Bader failed to prove causation, the measure of actual damages is the value of the land rather than lost profits, Bader’s lost profits estimate was speculative, and the punitive damages award was unwarranted under Missouri law and excessive under the United States Constitution.   The Eighth Circuit held that Bader established causation by showing Defendants' conduct was both the cause in fact and the proximate cause of Bader's injury. Further, the district court properly refused to find intervening cause as a matter of law or to give an affirmative converse on the issue. However, the evidence established different degrees of culpability between BASF and Monsanto, and the district court should have instructed the jury to separately assess punitive damages against each of them; therefore, the court remanded with directions to hold a new trial only on the issue of punitive damages. View "Bader Farms, Inc. v. BASF Corporation" on Justia Law

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McNeal was exposed to asbestos from several sources. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017. The jury found his asbestos exposure included the use of Old Spice talcum powder on a daily basis, 1958-1980, except for one year while he was in Vietnam. Talc is a naturally occurring mineral with cosmetic uses. Asbestos, a known carcinogen when inhaled, is also a naturally occurring mineral. When talc is mined, it sometimes contains asbestos.A jury awarded McNeal punitive damages. The defendant, the supplier of the talc in Old Spice that contained asbestos fiber, did not contest the finding it was negligent and otherwise responsible for McNeal's harm but argued that the evidence was insufficient to establish that any officer, director, or managing agent acted with the malice, oppression or fraud necessary for an award of punitive damages. The court of appeal agreed and reversed the award of punitive damages. The evidence does not show that defendant’s executives knew there were “probable dangerous consequences” from trace levels of asbestos in its talc, and deliberately did nothing to avoid them. It was not known until 1994 that the contamination of talc with trace amounts of asbestos could cause mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. View "McNeal v. Whittaker, Clark & Daniels" on Justia Law