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In 2012, Bryan Harrell was driving his pickup truck at more than 50 miles per hour when he rear-ended the 1999 Jeep in which four-year-old Remington Walden was a rear-seat passenger, with his aunt behind the wheel. The impact left Harrell and Remington’s aunt unhurt, but fractured Remington’s femur. The impact also caused the Jeep’s rear-mounted gas tank to rupture and catch fire. Remington burned to death trying to escape; he lived for up to a minute as he burned, and witnesses heard him screaming. Remington’s parents (“Appellees”) sued both Chrysler and Harrell for wrongful death. At trial, in March and April of 2015, Appellees challenged the Jeep’s vehicle design, arguing that Chrysler should not have used a rear-mounted fuel tank. When questioning Chrysler Chief Operating Officer Mark Chernoby at trial, Appellees’ counsel asked about the CEO’s salary, bonus, and benefits; Marchionne himself was never questioned about his income and benefits. The trial court overruled Chrysler’s repeated relevance and wealth-of-a-party objections to this line of questioning. Appellees’ counsel referenced Marchionne’s compensation testimony again in closing, arguing, “what [Chrysler’s counsel] said Remi’s life was worth, Marchionne made 43 times as much in one year.” The jury determined that Chrysler acted with a reckless or wanton disregard for human life and failed to warn of the hazard that killed Remington. In affirming the trial court, the Court of Appeal discussed admission of CEO compensation, holding “evidence of a witness’s relationship to a party is always admissible” and that the CEO’s compensation “made the existence of [the CEO’s] bias in favor of Chrysler more probable.” The Georgia Supreme Court held not that compensation evidence is always admissible to show the bias of an employee witness, or that it is never admissible, but that such evidence is subject to the Rule 403 analysis weighing the evidence’s unfair prejudice against its probative value. Because Chrysler did not raise a Rule 403 objection to the compensation evidence at issue in this appeal, the Supreme Court considered the question not under the ordinary abuse-of-discretion standard, but as a question of plain error. The Court concluded that under the particular circumstances of this case, it could not say that the prejudicial effect of the evidence so far outweighed its probative value that its admission was clear and obvious reversible error. Accordingly, although the Supreme Court disagreed with the rationale of the Court of Appeals, it ultimately affirmed its judgment. View "Chrysler Group, LLC v. Walden" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to determine whether the Court of Appeals in the preceding case, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company v. Koch, 793 SE2d 564 (2016), properly articulated the legal standard for when a plaintiff’s duty to preserve evidence begins and properly applied that standard to the facts of this case. Like a defendant’s duty, a plaintiff’s duty to preserve relevant evidence in her control arises when that party actually anticipates or reasonably should anticipate litigation. Because the Court of Appeals appropriately identified and applied this standard, as did the trial court, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. v. Koch" on Justia Law

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Joas underwent knee replacement at a Wisconsin hospital and received a Zimmer NexGen Flex implant. Within a few years, he began experiencing pain in his new knee. X-rays confirmed that the implant had loosened and required a surgical fix. Joas brought multiple claims against Zimmer. His case was transferred to a multidistrict litigation, where it was treated as a bellwether case. Applying Wisconsin law, the presiding judge granted Zimmer summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, declining to reinstate a single claim based on a theory of inadequate warning. The court predicted that the Wisconsin Supreme Court would follow the majority of states and adopt the “learned intermediary” doctrine, which holds that the manufacturer of a medical device has no duty to warn the patient as long as it provides adequate warnings to the physician. In addition, Joas has not identified any danger that Zimmer should have warned him about. Joas has no evidence to support causation. Joas did not select the NexGen Flex implant, so the information would not have caused him to change his behavior. His doctor selected the product, making his decision based on his own past experience, not on any marketing materials or information provided by Zimmer. View "Joas v. Zimmer, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment against three tobacco companies in favor of plaintiff for compensatory and punitive damages. This case was one of thousands of Engle progeny suits initiated by smokers in Florida against tobacco companies and remained pending for several years while awaiting resolution of other appeals. With the benefit of those decisions, the court carefully reviewed the record and considered the parties' written and oral arguments, affirming the judgment awarded to plaintiff on her claims of negligence, strict liability, fraudulent concealment, and civil conspiracy. The court held that the district court's instructional error was harmless; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the companies' motion for mistrial after plaintiff's medical incident; the court rejected the companies' challenges to the punitive damages award; and the court rejected challenges to the district court's comparative fault findings and federal preemption and due process limits on the Engle jury's findings. View "Burkhart v. R.J.Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit amended the opinion filed on August 22, 2017, and affirmed the denial of an application for disability insurance benefits. The panel held that the ALJ's residual functional capacity determination was supported by substantial evidence. The panel held that a Social Security claimant who wishes to challenge the factual basis of a vocational expert's estimate of the number of available jobs in the regional and national economies must raise this challenge before administrative proceedings have concluded in order to preserve the challenge on appeal in federal district court. In this case, claimant forfeited his challenge to the vocational expert's job numbers. View "Shaibi v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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After sustaining serious internal injuries in a personal watercraft (PWC) accident, plaintiff filed suit against the manufacturers of the PWC (Yamaha). On appeal, plaintiff argued that the district court erred in requiring expert testimony on her claims and in failing to conduct an appropriate Daubert analysis before excluding her expert's testimony. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded the expert's inadequate warning opinion and the district court properly concluded that the PWC's warnings were adequate as a matter of law. In this case, plaintiff based her claims of strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranties on theories of warning and design defects. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Yamaha on all claims because the record was devoid of admissible evidence on either theory of defect. View "Hickerson v. Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against ZOLL, alleging that claims for strict products liability, negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent marketing and promotion, breach of express warranty, negligent misrepresentation, and negligent infliction of emotional distress all related to the operation (or failure to operate) of the deceased's LifeVest. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. However, in light of developing and binding precedent in this circuit, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the remaining claims. The court held that these claims were cognizable Florida common law causes of action and were not preempted by federal law. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Godelia v. ZOLL Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated products liability cases involving a transvaginal mesh prescription device called Obtryx, the jury returned verdicts for plaintiffs, awarding over $4 million to each. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in consolidating the four cases where common questions of fact and law formed a substantial part of each suit and the district court bent over backwards to ensure that distinct questions of fact and law could be appropriately developed at trial and distinguished by the jury. The court rejected BSC's evidentiary challenges; BSC was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law where it failed to establish that there was insufficient evidence to defeat the jury awards; and the district court's instruction to the jury regarding punitive damages was a correct statement of West Virginia law at the time of the trial. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgments. View "Campbell v. Boston Scientific Corp." on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs were injured when oil from an airplane's air cycle machine leaked into the cabin and caused the cockpit to fill with smoke and fumes, they filed suit against several defendants. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Fairchild Controls, holding that plaintiffs' design defect theory failed where the limited expert testimony about the air-foil bearing technology did not prove that a safer design was feasible. The court also held that the failure to warn claim failed because plaintiffs were knowledgeable users, and a warning would have been superfluous. View "Davidson v. Fairchild Controls Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing several products liability claims brought against Jones Stephens Corporation by Apex Oil. Applying Arkansas law to this dispute, the court held that the district court properly dismissed the strict liability claim where Apex did not present sufficient evidence that Jones Stephens's product was unreasonably dangerous; the district court properly dismissed the negligence and negligent failure to warn claims where Apex did not present evidence showing a causal connection between voids created by the manufacturing process and a structural failure of the parts; and the district court properly dismissed Apex's claim that Jones Stephens acted deceptively and unconscionably by advertising a "Leak proof seal" on the label of the plastic coupling nut where there was insufficient evidence that Apex's water damage was a result of the alleged deceptive trade practice. View "Apex Oil Company, Inc. v. Jones Stephens Corp." on Justia Law