Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

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Since 2010, the Northern District of Ohio has been the home of multidistrict litigation involving a DePuy medical device used in hip-replacement surgeries that, at its peak, contained more than 8,500 cases. In 2013, the defendants entered into a broad settlement agreement with U.S. resident plaintiffs. Foreign plaintiffs brought the 12 suits at issue. In 2012, they filed “short-form” complaints, each alleging that a plaintiff had been implanted with the DePuy device during hip surgery in Spain. The complaints did not identify the basis for subject-matter jurisdiction; the civil cover sheets listed diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332. The complaints alleged that the plaintiffs were Spanish residents and either Spanish or British citizens. The defendants never disputed diversity jurisdiction. In 2015, the defendants followed through on earlier notices by filing motions to dismiss based on forum non-conveniens. The court granted the motions, finding that Spain provided the better forum. The Sixth Circuit vacated. “After eight years the parties now concede that the district court lacked diversity jurisdiction all along.” If foreign citizens are on both sides of a dispute but a state citizen is on only one side, the fact pattern does not fit section 1332(a)(3) because citizens of different states do not fall on both sides. Section 1332(a)(2) does not apply because it requires “complete” diversity— only state citizens are on one side of the dispute and only foreign citizens are on the other. View "Boal v. DePuy Orthopaedics" on Justia Law

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Green Plains, owner and operator of an ethanol production facility, filed suit against PEI for negligence and products liability, alleging defective design and failure to adequately instruct and warn users. The district court granted summary judgment to PEI. The Eighth Circuit held that reasonable minds could differ about whether the regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) was defective, and thus Green Plains submitted sufficient evidence of a defective design to survive summary judgment. Furthermore, reasonable minds could disagree as to whether PEI could foresee that a company would view the "suggested" maintenance as mandatory, or would ignore it due to the effort required. Therefore, under Minnesota law, the court held that PEI was not entitled to summary judgment on proximate cause. Finally, the court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on the failure-to-warn claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Green Plains Otter Tail, LLC v. Pro-Environmental, Inc." on Justia Law

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Gabriel Montoya bought a 2003 Ford Excursion in April 2003. A jury found that as of November 30, 2005, he knew it was a lemon. The statute of limitations for breaches of the implied warranty of merchantability was four years. Montoya didn’t sue Ford for another seven-and-one-half years, waiting until June 2013. Yet he was able to obtain a judgment against Ford of almost $59,000 for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. This was roughly an $8,000 return over what he had originally paid for the vehicle 10 years earlier. This was possible because there were two periods during which the statute of limitations was tolled while separate national class actions were pending against Ford, both of which were applied to Montoya’s case. The Court of Appeal determined a second class action filed in this case did not toll Montoya's claim. "The four-year statute of limitations therefore expired no later than 2010. He sued in 2013. His claim for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability was therefore untimely presented." View "Montoya v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's fingers were severely injured by a machine that uses a hydraulic clamp to crimp metal tubes, he filed suit against Addition, the machine designer's successor. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Addition, holding that plaintiff failed to provide facts showing that the machine was inherently dangerous or improperly guarded at the time it entered the stream of commerce. Therefore, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish a material issue of fact as to his strict liability claims. In regard to his products liability claims, the court held that plaintiff failed to offer evidence that the danger of a tube forming machine to the user's hand was anything but "open, obvious, and apparent." Therefore, the defect was not latent under Missouri case law, and thus not a material issue of fact regarding his negligence claim. View "Farkas v. Addition Manufacturing Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered in the negative a question certified from the federal district court and held that Ind. Code 34-20-3-1(b) is a statute of repose that cannot be extended by a manufacturer's post-delivery repair, refurbishment, or reconstruction of a disputed product. Plaintiff was injured while working on a machine owned by his employer, who purchased the machine from Defendant eleven years before Plaintiff's injury. Plaintiff filed a product-liability suit against Defendant in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana based on the court's diversity jurisdiction. Both parties agreed that strict application of the Indiana Products Liability Act's ten-year statute of repose would bar Plaintiff's suit but acknowledged a judicially-created exception to the statute of repose according to which rebuilding or reconditioning a product might create a "new product" restarting the statutory clock. The Supreme Court accepted the federal district court's certified question and answered it in the negative, holding that the Act's statute of repose contains no exception for a product's repair, refurbishment, or reconstruction. View "Estabrook v. Mazak Corp" on Justia Law

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This dispute arose from a 2013 oil well blowout on the HERCULES 265 drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. After the rig's charterer filed suit raising products liability claims against a refurbisher of the rig's blowout-prevention components, counterclaims and third-party claims ensued. The district court subsequently granted a series of summary judgments, based both on contractual indemnity and also on the merits of the liability claims. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to Hercules' duty to defend, hold harmless, and indemnify Axon; reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to Walter's duty to directly indemnify Axon; reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to Walter's duty to indemnify Hercules for Axon's claims; vacated the district court's order excluding Bellemare's testimony; vacated the district court's orders excluding the expert reports of Sones, Bourgoyne, Williams, Rusnak, Bellemare, and Adair, as well as the orders excluding the affidavits of Sones and Bourgoyne; reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the causation and "unreasonably dangerous condition" prongs of the Louisiana Products Liability Act; vacated the district court's final judgment and fee orders; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's v. Axon Pressure Products Inc." on Justia Law

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In this appeal by allowance, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review was whether the Fair Share Act, 42 Pa.C.S. 7102, required a factfinder to apportion liability on a percentage, as opposed to per capita, basis in strict liability asbestos actions. William Roverano was exposed to a variety of asbestos products from 1971 to 1981 in the course of his employment as a helper and a carpenter with PECO Energy Company. Additionally, he smoked cigarettes for approximately thirty years until 1997. In November 2013, Roverano was diagnosed with lung cancer in both lungs. In 2014, Roverano brought a strict liability lawsuit against thirty defendants, including John Crane, Inc. (Crane) and Brand Insulations, Inc. (Brand), asserting that exposure to their asbestos products caused his lung cancer. His wife, Jacqueline Roverano, filed a loss of consortium claim. Before trial, several defendants, including Crane and Brand, filed a motion in limine seeking a ruling that the Fair Share Act applied to asbestos cases. The Supreme Court concluded the Act’s plain language was consistent with per capita apportionment in asbestos cases, the Act does not specifically preempt Pennsylvania common law favoring per capita apportionment, and percentage apportionment in asbestos cases was impossible of execution. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court’s order, which vacated the trial court’s judgment and remanded this case for a new trial to apportion damages on a percentage basis. Additionally, the Supreme Court considered whether the Act required a factfinder to apportion liability to bankrupt entities that entered into a release with the plaintiff. To this, the Court concluded that upon appropriate requests and proofs, bankruptcy trusts that were either joined as third-party defendants or that have entered into a release with the plaintiff could be included on the verdict sheet for purposes of liability only. Accordingly, this case was remanded to the trial court to consider whether Appellees submitted sufficient requests and proofs to apportion liability to the settled bankruptcy trusts. View "Roverano. v. John Crane, Inc." on Justia Law

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Francisca Gomez died as the result of a horrific industrial accident that occurred 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 a district court’s grant of summary judgment to Crookham 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 fail as a matter of law because Crookham is not a “manufacturer.” The Idaho Supreme Court determined that given the totality of the evidence in this case, which included prior OSHA violations for similar safety issues, the district court erred by failing to consider whether Crookham consciously disregarded information suggesting a significant risk to its employees working at or under the picking tables, which were neither locked nor tagged out, as they existed on the date of the accident. On this basis, the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to Crookham was reversed and the matter remanded for the trial court to apply the proper standard for proving an act of unprovoked physical aggression, and to determine whether there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Crookham consciously disregarded knowledge of a serious risk to Mrs. Gomez. View "Gomez v. Crookham" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Vermeer in Missouri state court, alleging that he was injured while operating a Vermeer wood chipper. After Vermeer successfully removed to federal court, the district court denied plaintiff's motions to remand and for leave to amend, granting summary judgment to Vermeer. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not improperly remove the case where plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the only nondiverse party that was in the case at the time. Furthermore, even if the district court did not err, plaintiff could not get the relief he sought in light of Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 64 (1996). The court also held that plaintiff failed to sufficiently establish good cause and the district court was well within its discretion to deny the motion for leave to amend his complaint to add a claim of agency liability against Vermeer. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on the products liability and failure to warn claims. In this case, the record clearly established that Vermeer did not manufacture the winch attachment that injured plaintiff. View "Ellingsworth v. Vermeer Manufacturing Co." on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine the preclusive effect of a written compromise agreement. The agreement was executed by a tort victim in settlement of an action for damages resulting from occupational exposure to toxic materials. At issue was the effect of the compromise on a subsequent survival action brought by the La. C.C. art. 2315.1 beneficiaries of the tort victim, who contracted mesothelioma and died after entering into the compromise. Finding the intent of the parties to the compromise to be clear, unambiguous and unequivocal, and the elements of the res judicata plea satisfied, the Supreme Court concluded the compromise should have been accorded preclusive effect. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court judgment that declined to give res judicata effect to the compromise and sustained the exception of res judicata with respect to the survival action. View "Joseph v. Huntington Ingalls Inc. et al." on Justia Law