Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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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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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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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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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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In June 2011, Thomasenia Fowler, as administrator of her husband Willis Edenfield’s estate, initiated a wrongful death/product liability action against Union Carbide, a manufacturer and supplier of asbestos that Edenfield handled as a daily part of his 40-year job at an adhesive manufacturing plant (the Bloomfield Plant). In 1968, Union Carbide began placing a warning on its asbestos bags. In compliance with an emergency standard imposed by OSHA, the company changed the warning in 1972. The change notwithstanding, an in-house staff-member of Union Carbide notified the company that its warning inadequately addressed the lethal dangers of asbestos exposure, but Union Carbide declined to upgrade its label. Union Carbide presented evidence that it periodically provided information and various safety warnings about its asbestos products to Edenfield’s employers and requested that the information and warnings be made available to the employees. The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s review centered on whether a manufacturer or supplier that puts inadequate warnings on its asbestos products used in the workplace can fulfill its duty to warn by disseminating adequate information to the employer with the intention that such information will reach the workers using those products. The Court also considered whether, in charging on medical causation in this mesothelioma case, the trial court was required to give the frequency, regularity, and proximity language in Sholtis v. American Cyanamid Co., 238 N.J. Super. 8, 28-29 (App. Div. 1989), rather than the substantial factor test in the Model Civil Charge, as modified by the court. As to the duty to warn, the Court held that an asbestos manufacturer or supplier that places inadequate warnings on asbestos bags used in the workplace has breached its duty to the worker, regardless of whether it provides the employer with the correct information, which is reasonably intended to reach its employees. As to medical causation, the trial court’s modified Model Jury Charge on proximate cause sufficiently guided the jury. View "Fowler v. Akzo Nobel Chemicals, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ryan Lawhon alleged he was severely injured when an 18650 lithium-ion battery he bought from a San Diego vape shop suddenly exploded in his pants pocket. In addition to the vape shop and vape distributor, he sued LG Chem Ltd. (LG Chem), the South Korean manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for negligence and product liability. The trial court denied LG Chem’s motion to quash service of summons for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding the court’s exercise of specific jurisdiction over LG Chem comported with federal due process. LG Chem petitioned the California Court of Appeal for a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order denying the motion to quash. The Court issued the writ: LG Chem sold 18650 batteries as industrial component products to original equipment manufacturers and battery packers who sell to original equipment manufacturers. It did not design, manufacture, distribute, advertise or sell the batteries for sale to or use by individual consumers as standalone, replaceable batteries. It had no connection to the vape shop or the vape distributor responsible for selling the defective battery that injured Lawhon. Its activities in California consisted of sales of 18650 batteries to three California companies in the electric vehicle industry for use in electric vehicles. The question presented was whether Lawhon’s personal injury claims arose from or related to those sales, to which the Court concluded they did not. Thus, the Court granted the petition and directed the trial court to vacate its order denying the motion to quash, and to enter a new order granting the motion. View "LG Chem, Ltd. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Larry Lang appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Cabela's Wholesale, LLC ("Cabela's"), in his product-liability action against Cabela's based on the alleged failure of a hunting tree stand. On November 29, 2016, Lang was starting to climb down the ladder of a hunting tree stand. A telescoping mechanism in the ladder failed, and Lang fell to the ground and was severely injured. As a result, he had limited ability to walk, incurred significant medical bills, and incurred expenses to modify his home. The Alabama Supreme Court found that under the clear language of 6-5-521(b)-(d), Ala. Code 1975, commonly known as the innocent-seller act, Cabela's was not entitled to a summary judgment on Lang's claims against Cabela's as the seller of the tree stand. Cabela's was entitled to a summary judgment, however, on Lang's claims against Cabela's as the designer and manufacturer. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in part and reversed it in part. View "Lang v. Cabela's Wholesale, LLC." on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia certified questions of law to the Georgia Supreme Court, all involving OCGA § 40-8-76.1 (d), the “seatbelt statute.” The federal court asked whether the statute precluded a defendant in an action alleging defective restraint system design and/or negligent restraint system manufacture from producing evidence related to: (1) The existence of seatbelts in a vehicle as part of the vehicle’s passenger restraint system; or (2) Evidence related to the seatbelt’s design and compliance with applicable federal safety standards; or (3) An occupant’s nonuse of a seatbelt as part of their defense. The Supreme Court concluded OCGA § 40-8-76.1 (d) did not preclude a defendant in an action alleging defective restraint-system design or negligent restraint-system manufacture from producing evidence related to the existence of seatbelts in a vehicle as part of the vehicle’s passenger restraint system. Furthermore, the Court concluded the statute did not preclude such defendants from producing evidence related to the seatbelt’s design and compliance with applicable federal safety standards. Finally, the Court concluded OCGA § 40 -8-76.1 (d) precluded consideration of the failure of an occupant of a motor vehicle to wear a seatbelt for the purposes set forth in subsection (d), even as part of a defendant-manufacturer’s defense. View "Domingue, et al. v. Ford Motor Company" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff in this product liability case obtained a money judgment to compensate him for personal injuries he sustained in a car accident. The judgment debtor, the manufacturer of plaintiff’s car, appealed, and a division of the court of appeals reversed the judgment. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the division’s judgment on different grounds and remanded the matter for a new trial. On remand, plaintiff prevailed again, obtaining a new money judgment. The parties agreed that the nine percent interest rate applied from the date of the accident until the date of the appealed judgment (the first judgment). But the parties disagreed on the applicable interest rate between entry of that judgment and satisfaction of the final judgment (the second judgment). The Colorado Supreme Court held that whenever the judgment debtor appeals the judgment, the interest rate switches from nine percent to a market-based rate. "The outcome of the appeal is of no consequence; the filing of any appeal of the judgment by the judgment debtor triggers the shift in interest rate." Further, the Court held that the market-based postjudgment interest on the sum to be paid had to be calculated from the date of the appealed judgment. Thus, the market-based postjudgment interest rate applied from the date of the appealed judgment (the first judgment) through the date the final judgment (the second judgment) is satisfied. View "Ford Motor Company v. Walker" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was severely burned when the landing gear on a tanker-trailer detached from its tractor and sank into a gravel surface, causing the tanker-trailer to tip over and spill scalding water on him. Plaintiff brought a premises liability claim against the owner of the property and product liability claims against the owner of the tanker-trailer and three related companies. The district court dismissed his product liability claims on the pleadings and his premises liability claim on summary judgment.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not apply the proper standard for evaluating the plausibility of George’s pleadings under Federal R. of Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). Further, the court held that the district court erroneously concluded that Chapter 95 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code governed Plaintiff's premises liability claim. Thus the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "George v. SI Grp, et al" on Justia Law