Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff and her spouse filed suit alleging that the Shower to Shower cosmetic powder and Johnson's Baby Powder plaintiff used for two decades were contaminated with asbestos and a substantial factor in causing her mesothelioma. The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of JJCI, holding that JJCI's expert's declaration -- that JJCI's talcum powder and the talc from its source mines did not contain asbestos -- shifted the burden to plaintiff to produce evidence of threshold exposure to asbestos from JJCI's products. The court also held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate the existence of a triable issue of fact as to the presence of asbestos in the JJCI talc products plaintiff used. In this case, plaintiff failed to present expert testimony to counter JJCI's expert's opinion, and failed to offer verified admissions or interrogatory answers by JJCI. View "Gibbons v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc." on Justia Law

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Kaiser had surgery to implant the Prolift Anterior Pelvic Floor Repair System, a transvaginal mesh medical device that supports the pelvic muscles. A few years later, Kaiser began experiencing severe pelvic pain, bladder spasms, and pain during intercourse. Her physician attributed these conditions to contractions in the mesh. Kaiser had surgery to remove the device, but her surgeon could not completely extract it and informed her that the complications she was experiencing were likely permanent. Kaiser sued Ethicon, Prolift’s manufacturer, under the Indiana Products Liability Act. A jury found Ethicon liable for defectively designing the Prolift device and failing to adequately warn about its complications and awarded $10 million in compensatory damages; the judge reduced a punitive award to $10 million. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Ethicon’s claim of federal preemption. The requirements of the FDA’s premarket-notification process do not directly conflict with Indiana law. A reasonable jury could conclude that Prolift was unreasonably dangerous and could credit the physician’s assertion that additional warnings about complications would have led him to choose a different treatment plan. The court rejected challenges to the damages and to jury instructions. Seventh Circuit precedent interprets the Indiana Product Liability Act to require a plaintiff in a design-defect case to produce evidence of a reasonable alternative design for the product but the Indiana Supreme Court disagreed in 2010. The state supreme court’s decision controls on a matter of state law. View "Kaiser v. Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law

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Gentek Building Products, Inc. appealed after a jury awarded Richard and Angela Palmer damages of $10,791, plus interest. Gentek also appealed an order awarding attorney fees of $80,379 to the Palmers, and taxation of costs and disbursements. In 2003, the Palmers purchased and installed “Driftwood” steel siding from Gentek on their home in Williston. Gentek provided a lifetime limited warranty for the siding. In September 2011, the paint began to peel on the siding installed on the south side of the home. In January 2012, the Palmers submitted a warranty claim to Gentek. Gentek offered the Palmers the option of either a cash settlement or replacement with a substitute siding under the warranty, since Gentek had discontinued producing the type of siding originally installed. While the Palmers opted to have their siding replaced with a substitute, Gentek had difficulty finding a contractor willing to perform the warranty work due to the oil boom in the area. Thousands of others also experienced delaminated pain on their siding and filed warranty claims with Gentek, resulting in a class action lawsuit filed in federal district court in Ohio. The federal district court entered a final order and judgment approving a class action settlement. In 2014, the Palmers filed this suit against Gentek, alleging breach of warranty by failing to replace the defective siding. Gentek defended by arguing the Palmers were bound by the federal court's final class action settlement. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the North Dakota district court did not err in holding the Palmers were not bound by the federal district court’s final order and judgment approving a class action settlement. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded that the court erred in its award of attorney fees and in not ruling on Gentek’s objection to costs and disbursements. The order awarding attorney fees and taxation of costs and disbursements was reversed, however, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Palmer, et al. v. Gentek Building Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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Francisca Gomez died as the result of a horrific industrial accident while she was cleaning a seed sorting machine as part of her employment with the Crookham Company (“Crookham”). Her family (the Gomezes) received worker’s compensation benefits and also brought a wrongful death action. The Gomezes appealed the district court's decision to grant Crookham’s motion for summary judgment on all claims relating to Mrs. Gomez’s death. The district court held that Mrs. Gomez was working within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, that all of the Gomezes’ claims were barred by the exclusive remedy rule of Idaho worker’s compensation law, that the exception to the exclusive remedy rule provided by Idaho Code section 72-209(3) did not apply, and that the Gomezes’ product liability claims failed as a matter of law because Crookham was not a “manufacturer.” In affirming in part and reversing in part, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the trial court erred when it failed to consider whether Crookham committed an act of unprovoked physical aggression upon Mrs. Gomez by consciously disregarding knowledge that an injury would result. As such, the matter was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Gomez v. Crookham" on Justia Law

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A wine bottle shattered in Rolfe Godfrey's hand while he was working as a bartender, injuring him. He filed a products liability suit against the winery, St. Michelle Wine Estates, Ltd. and the bottle manufacturer, Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc. (collectively, Ste. Michelle). The case was assigned to Pierce County, Washington Superior Court Judge Garold Johnson, who set the initial case schedule, including discovery deadlines. The case was later reassigned to Judge Katherine Stolz, who, upon a stipulated and jointly proposed order, extended the parties' deadlines to disclose their witnesses. This case turned on the nature of that stipulated order. Two months later, and before Judge Stolz made any other rulings in the case, Godfrey filed an affidavit of prejudice and a motion for Judge Stolz's recusal under former RCW 4.12.040 and .050. Judge Stolz denied the motion, concluding that the earlier stipulated order to extend witness disclosure deadlines involved discretion and, thus, the affidavit of prejudice was not timely. Judge Stolz presided over the bench trial. Ste. Michelle prevailed, and Godfrey appealed. The Washington Supreme Court concluded that under Washington law, a party does not lose the right to remove a judge when the judge takes certain categories of actions, including arranging the calendar. The Court held that a stipulated order extending discovery deadlines that did not delay the trial or otherwise affect the court's schedule was an order arranging the calendar under the former RCW 4.12.050. Accordingly, the affidavit of prejudice was timely, and the case should have been reassigned to a different judge. View "Godfrey v. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In 2013, the Joneses sought to recover damages suffered when John contracted lung cancer, resulting from his exposure to “asbestos from one or more” of numerous companies while he was involved in the construction industry and while he repaired the brakes on motor vehicles he owned. Owens and Abex were among the named defendants. The Joneses asserted that the defendants knew that asbestos was dangerous but conspired to misrepresent its dangers and to falsely represent that exposure to asbestos and asbestos-containing products was safe or nontoxic. Abex and Owens argued that the civil conspiracy claims were based on the same facts as those advanced unsuccessfully by other plaintiffs in numerous earlier cases, particularly the Illinois Supreme Court’s 1999 McClure decision. The circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Instead of undertaking a meaningful evaluation of the applicability of the legal principles governing civil conspiracy as articulated in the cited precedent, and with no real assessment of whether and to what extent any factual differences between those cases and this one might justify a different result, the appellate court summarily distinguished the prior decisions on the sole grounds that the civil conspiracy claims advanced against Owens and Abex in those cases were decided in the context of motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, while here they were resolved on motions for summary judgment. View "Jones v. Pneumo Abex LLC" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured when a neck brace allegedly caused or failed to protect him from serious bodily injury, he filed suit against the makers and sellers of the neck brace. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders granting defendants' motions to dismiss. The district court correctly noted that, even though entry of default was proper where a party fails to respond in a timely manner, a court must not enter default without first determining whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action. In this case, all but one of the allegations in the amended complaint constitute mere legal conclusions and recitations of the elements of the causes of action. The court agreed with the district court that where, as here, there are so few facts alleged in the complaint, the court need not address each individual claim to make a sufficiency determination on a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Accordingly, because the amended complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that was plausible on its face, the district court did not err in granting defendants' motion to dismiss. View "Glick v. Western Power Sports, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claims based on lack of RICO standing in a putative class action brought against pharmaceutical companies. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the companies refused to change the warning label of their drug Actos or otherwise inform the public after they learned that the drug increased a patient’s risk of developing bladder cancer. The panel held that patients and health insurance companies who reimbursed patients adequately alleged the required element of proximate cause where they alleged that, but for defendant's omitted mention of a drug's known safety risk, they would not have paid for the drug. The panel agreed with the First and Third Circuits that plaintiffs' damages were not too far removed from defendants' alleged omissions and misrepresentations to satisfy RICO's proximate cause requirement. In this case, plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a direct relationship, and the Holmes factors weighed in favor of permitting their RICO claims to proceed. The panel explained that, although prescribing physicians served as intermediaries between defendants' fraudulent omission of Actos's risk of causing bladder cancer and plaintiffs' payments for the drug, prescribing physicians did not constitute an intervening cause to cut off the chain of proximate causation. The panel also held that plaintiffs have adequately alleged the reliance necessary to satisfy RICO's proximate cause requirement. View "Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 Health Care Fund v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellee Paula Knecht, individually and as executrix of the estate of her late husband, Larry Knecht filed suit against 18 defendants alleging defendants failed to warn Mr. Knecht of the dangers of asbestos. During his lifetime, Mr. Knecht developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos. While the case was awaiting trial, Mr. Knecht passed away. When the trial date arrived, there was only one remaining defendant appellant Ford Motor Company. A jury held Ford liable for Mr. Knecht's illness and awarded damages. Negligence was apportioned between the parties, Ford was assigned a 20% share of the total negligence. The trial judge then applied 20% to the $40,625,000 damages award and arrived at a compensatory damages award against Ford of $8,125,000. The jury also awarded plaintiff $1,000,000 in punitive damages. After the jury returned its verdict, Ford filed two motions: (1) a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law under Superior Court Rule 50(b) or, in the alternative, a new trial; and (2) a motion for a new trial, or, in the alternative, remittitur. The trial judge denied both motions. On appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, Ford argued: (1) the Superior Court erred by not granting Ford judgment as a matter of law on the ground that plaintiff failed to prove that Mr. Knecht’s injury was caused by Ford’s failure to warn of the dangers of asbestos; (2) the Superior Court erred by not granting a new trial on the ground that the jury rendered an irreconcilably inconsistent verdict; and (3) the Superior Court erred by not granting a new trial or remittitur on the ground that the compensatory damages verdict is excessive. The Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court’s rulings against Ford on the first two claims were correct. However, the Court concurred the third contention had merit, reversed judgment and remanded to the Superior Court for further consideration of Ford’s motion for a new trial, or, in the alternative, remittitur. View "Ford Motor Company v. Knecht, et al." on Justia Law

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After he developed mesothelioma, Berg sued Colgate-Palmolive, whose predecessor, Mennen, manufactured shaving talc he had used in 1959 to 1961 or 1962. During that period he used a total of four to six containers of the talc. Colgate’s expert opined that Mennen Shave Talc was “free of asbestos” and, even if some of the raw talc sourced to make the product was contaminated with asbestos, there was no legitimate scientific basis on which to conclude that any particular container of shave talc was contaminated. Berg’s expert opined that, “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, . . . repeated use of Mennen Shave Talc products such as those tested and reported here in a manner consistent with the intended use would cause respirable asbestos fibers to become airborne and inhalable,” creating “airborne asbestos concentrations . . . hundreds if not thousands of times greater than background or ambient levels.” The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment for Colgate. Berg failed to create a triable issue of material fact of whether the Mennen product Berg used contained asbestos. Berg’s expert identified no evidence and set forth no demonstrably scientifically accepted or logical rationale by which he could determine what percentage of the cans of Mennen talc sold in the relevant period contained talc from lots contaminated with asbestos. View "Berg v. Colgate-Palmolive Co." on Justia Law