Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court concluding that Defendant, as a hospital, was not a product seller for purposes of imposing strict liability under the Connecticut Product Liability Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-572m et seq., under the circumstances of this case, holding that the trial court did not err.Plaintiff brought this complaint alleging injuries arising from Defendant's violations of, among other things, the product liability act, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq., and common law. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that Defendant was not a product seller for purposes of imposing strict liability under the product liability act and that Plaintiff's CUTPA and common law claims were time barred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Defendant provided general information regarding various medical procedures on its website and did not significantly participate in placing the medical device at issue into the stream of commerce Defendant was not a product seller for purposes of imposing strict liability under the product liability act; and (2) the statutes of limitations governing Plaintiff's remaining claims were not tolled. View "Normandy v. American Medical Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of South Carolina law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Sarah Hartsock was killed in an automobile crash on Interstate 26 in Calhoun County, South Carolina. Her personal representative, Theodore Hartsock, Jr., brought a survival and wrongful death action asserting claims under South Carolina law for negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. Hartsock alleged that the vehicle in which Mrs. Hartsock was riding was struck head-on by another vehicle. That vehicle had crossed the median after suffering a blowout of an allegedly defective tire that Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America Ltd. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company [collectively "Goodyear"] designed, manufactured, and marketed. The federal court had subject-matter jurisdiction based upon complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and damages alleged to be greater than $75,000. During pretrial discovery a dispute arose between the parties over certain Goodyear material relating to the design and chemical composition of the allegedly defective tire. Goodyear objected to producing this material, asserting that it constituted trade secrets. The district court eventually found, and Hartsock did not dispute, that the material did, in fact, constitute trade secrets. However, the court ordered Goodyear to produce the material subject to a confidentiality order. In doing so, the court applied federal discovery standards, rejecting Goodyear's contention that South Carolina trade secret law applied. The federal appellate court asked the South Carolina Supreme Court whether South Carolina recognized an evidentiary privilege for trade secrets. The South Carolina Court responded yes, but that it was a qualified privilege. View "Hartsock v. Goodyear" on Justia Law

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Fred Duran filed a putative class action complaint against Obesity Research Institute, LLC (ORI) and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart) (collectively, defendants). Duran alleged defendants falsely claimed that ORI's products, Lipozene and MetaboUp, had weight loss benefits. The court approved a claims-made settlement providing that class members submitting a claim without proof of purchase would receive $15, and those submitting receipt(s) would receive one refund of double the unit price paid. The settlement also provided that ORI would cease making certain assertions in product advertising. Defendants also agreed to not oppose a motion seeking $100,000 in attorney fees to class counsel. Objectors, class members DeMarie Fernandez, Alfonso Mendoza, and Brian Horowitz appealed, contending the settlement was the product of collusion. Objectors claimed the class did not receive sufficient notice of settlement, and the settlement was unreasonable and inadequate. They also contended the attorney fee award was excessive. The Court of Appeal reviewed the case and concluded that the trial court's judgment had to be reversed because the class notice failed in its fundamental purpose, to apprise class members of the terms of the proposed settlement. "The erroneous notice injected a fatal flaw into the entire settlement process and undermines the court's analysis of the settlement's fairness." View "Duran v. Obesity Research Institute" on Justia Law

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This action under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and the False Advertising Law (FAL) arose from Philip Morris USA, Inc.'s use of terms such as "Lights" and "Lowered Tar and Nicotine" in advertising Marlboro Lights, to indicate they were less harmful to one's health than Marlboro Reds and other full-flavored cigarettes. The trial court determined Marlboro Lights were as dangerous than any other cigarettes, Philip Morris knew that, and its advertising was likely to deceive consumers. The court, however, denied plaintiffs' prayer for restitution on the ground they received value from Marlboro Lights apart from the deceptive advertising, and the evidence they submitted in an effort to show the difference between what they paid for Marlboro Lights and the value they actually received was incompetent and inadmissible. On appeal, plaintiffs contended the court erred as a matter of law by determining the only measure of restitution in a UCL products action was the measure set forth in "In re Vioxx Class of Cases," 180 Cal.App.4th 116 (2009)). Plaintiffs asserted value was immaterial, and they were not required to show any loss attributable to the deceptive advertising, because as an alternative measure the court had discretion to order Philip Morris to make a full refund of consumer expenditures, or its profits thereon, exclusively for the purpose of deterrence. Plaintiffs also contended the court abused its discretion by denying injunctive relief on the ground of mootness. A federal court opinion affirmed in relevant part in "United States v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." (566 F.3d 1095 (2009)), and federal legislation have already enjoined tobacco companies' use of the objectionable descriptors, plaintiffs asserted the matter was not moot because Philip Morris continued to market the cigarettes, called Marlboro Gold, in light-colored packs, which ostensibly signified they were less dangerous than Marlboro Reds or other cigarettes sold in dark-colored packs. Additionally, plaintiffs argued the court erred by denying them declaratory relief, awarding Philip Morris costs as the prevailing party under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032, and denying them sanctions under Code of Civil Procedure section 2033.420 for Philip Morris's failure to make admissions. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that all of plaintiffs' points were meritless and affirmed the judgment. View "In re Tobacco Cases II" on Justia Law