Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
Monsanto Co. v. Kilgore
The Supreme Court denied a petition for a writ of certiorari or, in the alternative, a writ of prohibition, writ of mandamus or other supervisory writ, holding that the circuit court did not misinterpret the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure in the underlying discovery matter.Respondents filed a complaint against Monsanto Company alleging claims for design defect, failure to warn, negligence, breach of implied warranties, violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and loss of consortium. After Respondents served Monsanto with a deposition notice Monsanto moved for a protective order arguing that the deposition was not permitted. The circuit court denied Monsanto's motion for protective order. Monsanto then brought this petition. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that Monsanto was seeking to control the circuit court's exercise of its discretion in this discovery matter and that mandamus will not lie for this purpose. View "Monsanto Co. v. Kilgore" on Justia Law
Ford Motor Warranty Cases
Plaintiffs filed claims against the Ford Motor Company (FMC) for alleged defects in vehicles the company manufactured. FMC filed a motion to compel arbitration of plaintiffs’ claims based on the arbitration provision in the sale contracts. Plaintiffs opposed FMC’s motion, including on the grounds that FMC had waived its right to compel arbitration through its litigation conduct. The trial court denied FMC’s motion on its merits. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that it agreed with the trial court that FMC could not compel arbitration based on Plaintiffs’ agreements with the dealers that sold them the vehicles. Equitable estoppel does not apply because, contrary to FMC’s arguments, Plaintiffs’ claims against it in no way rely on the agreements. FMC was not a third-party beneficiary of those agreements, as there is no basis to conclude Plaintiffs and their dealers entered into them with the intention of benefitting FMC. And FMC is not entitled to enforce the agreements as an undisclosed principal because there is no nexus between Plaintiffs’ claims, any alleged agency between FMC and the dealers, and the agreements. View "Ford Motor Warranty Cases" on Justia Law
Merck & Co., Inc. v. Bayer AG
In 2014, Merck and Bayer entered a Stock and Asset Purchase Agreement (SAPA) whereby Merck sold, and Bayer purchased, Merck’s consumer care business and consumer care product lines, including the Claritin, Coppertone, Dr. Scholl’s, and Lotrimin foot powder product lines. The transaction closed in October 2014. Bayer paid Merck more than $14 billion. After the transaction closed, both companies were the subject of lawsuits alleging injuries arising from consumers’ use of talc-based products that Merck used in foot powder product lines sold to Bayer; asbestos allegedly contained in talcum powder has caused fatal cancers.The Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed Merck’s suit in which it argued that Bayer breached the SAPA by refusing to assume liability for the claims. Both companies, as sophisticated participants in the pharmaceutical industry, understood that consumer products businesses face potential liability for torts associated with the sale of such consumer products. The SAPA clearly and unambiguously provides that Merck indefinitely retained substantive liability for the product liability claims related to products sold before the transaction closed. Merck attempted to argue that its liability for the product liability claims ceased in 2021; the court found that interpretation contrary to the SAPA's clear and unambiguous terms. Bayer’s interpretation of the SAPA is the only reasonable one. View "Merck & Co., Inc. v. Bayer AG" on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts, Delaware Court of Chancery, Drugs & Biotech, Products Liability
MATT YAMASHITA V. LG CHEM, LTD., ET AL
Plaintiff brought this products-liability suit against LG Chem, Ltd. (“LGC”) and LG Chem America, Inc. (“LGCA”), claiming that they negligently manufactured and distributed a battery that he used to power an electronic cigarette until the battery, and electronic cigarette both exploded in his mouth. Plaintiff sued LGC and LGCA in Hawaii state court, bringing various state-law claims related to the design, manufacture, labeling, advertising, and distribution of the subject battery. LGC and LGCA were timely removed from Hawaii state court to the District Court for the District of Hawaii and then moved to dismiss Yamashita’s complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. Yamashita opposed the motions and moved for jurisdictional discovery. The district court denied Yamashita’s motion for jurisdictional discovery. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court held that Ford modified, but did not abolish, the requirement that a claim must arise out of or relate to a forum contact in order for a court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction. The panel explained that while LGC and LGCA’s Hawaii contacts clearly showed that they purposefully availed themselves of Hawaii law, they can only be subject to specific personal jurisdiction if Plaintiff’s injuries arose out of or related to those contacts. The panel held that Plaintiff had not shown that his injuries arose out of any contacts because he had not shown but-for causation. The panel concluded that the district court’s denial of jurisdictional discovery was not an abuse of discretion. View "MATT YAMASHITA V. LG CHEM, LTD., ET AL" on Justia Law
Elson v. Black
Fourteen women (“Plaintiffs”) from seven states brought the present putative class action against Ashley Black and her companies (“Defendants”), alleging false and deceptive marketing practices. They take issue with various representations in Defendants’ ads about a product called the FasciaBlaster, a two-foot stick with hard prongs that is registered with the Food and Drug Administration as a massager. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims in their entirety. Plaintiffs appealed the order striking the class allegations and the dismissal of individual claims. The Fifth Circuit found that the district court correctly struck Plaintiffs’ class allegations and properly dismissed all but two of their claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to the district court. The court explained that it agreed with the district court that Plaintiffs’ allegations suffer from a combination of defects, including a failure to plead adequately what representations were actually made when those representations were made, who made the representations, and where those representations occurred. However, the court reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ breach of express warranty under, respectively, California Consumer Code Sections 2313 & 10210, and Florida Statutes Sections 672.313 & 680.21. The court wrote that the district court did not apply the law of a specific jurisdiction when conducting its analysis. Plaintiffs on appeal cite various Fifth Circuit cases in addition to Texas and California state law precedents. Defendants proffer Fifth Circuit, California, and Florida precedents. Neither party, however, briefed what law should be applied to each claim. View "Elson v. Black" on Justia Law
Tadych v. Noble Ridge Constr., Inc.
Gregory and Sue Tadych filed suit after the one-year limitation period to bring a construction defect suit expired. The trial court entered summary judgment, dismissing the suit and upholding the contractual limitation. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Washington Supreme Court found the contractual limitation here was substantively unconscionable and, therefore, void and unenforceable. "The one-year limitation provision provides a substantially shorter limitations period than plaintiffs are otherwise entitled to under RCW 4.16.310 and benefits the contractor at the expense of the rights of the homeowner." Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for trial. View "Tadych v. Noble Ridge Constr., Inc." on Justia Law
Dhital v. Nissan North America, Inc.
Plaintiffs sued Nissan, alleging the transmission in a 2013 Nissan Sentra they purchased was defective, bringing statutory claims under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code 1790) and a common law fraud claim alleging that Nissan, by fraudulently concealing the defects, induced them to purchase the car. The trial court dismissed the fraudulent inducement claim as barred by the “economic loss rule.” The court also struck the plaintiffs’ request for punitive damages.The court of appeal reversed. Under California law, the economic loss rule does not bar the fraudulent inducement claim. The fraudulent inducement exception to the economic loss rule applies; fraudulent inducement is a viable tort claim under California law. The plaintiffs adequately pleaded that the transmissions installed in numerous Nissan vehicles (including the one they purchased) were defective; Nissan knew of the defects and the hazards they posed; Nissan had exclusive knowledge of the defects but intentionally concealed and failed to disclose that information; Nissan intended to deceive plaintiffs by concealing known transmission problems; plaintiffs would not have purchased the car if they had known of the defects; and plaintiffs suffered damages in the form of money paid to purchase the car. View "Dhital v. Nissan North America, Inc." on Justia Law
Norman International, Inc. v. Admiral Insurance Company
The issue this appeal presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s review centered on an exclusionary clause in a commercial general liability insurance policy issued by Admiral Insurance Company (Admiral) to Richfield Window Coverings, LLC (Richfield). Richfield sold window coverage products, including blinds, to national retailers like Home Depot and provided retailers with machines to cut the blinds to meet the specifications of the retailers’ customers. Colleen Lorito, an employee of a Home Depot located in Nassau County, was injured while operating the blind cutting machine. She and her husband filed a civil action against Richfield, asserting claims for product liability, breach of warranty, and loss of spousal services. Admiral denied any obligation to defend or indemnify, asserting the claims were not covered under the policy based on the Designated New York Counties Exclusion of the insurance policy. Richfield filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to compel Admiral to defend it in the Lorito case and, if necessary, indemnify it against any monetary damages awarded to the plaintiffs. The Law Division granted summary judgment in favor of Admiral. The Appellate Division reversed, finding that “Richfield’s limited activities and operations have no causal relationship to the causes of action or allegations.” The Supreme Court found that the policy’s broad and unambiguous language made clear that a causal relationship was not required in order for the exclusionary clause to apply; rather, any claim “in any way connected with” the insured’s operations or activities in a county identified in the exclusionary clause was not covered under the policy. Richfield’s operations in an excluded county were alleged to be connected with the injuries for which recovery was sought, so the exclusion applied. Admiral had no duty to defend a claim that it is not contractually obligated to indemnify. View "Norman International, Inc. v. Admiral Insurance Company " on Justia Law
Nemirovsky v. Daikin North America, LLC
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court judge's directed verdict in favor of DACA Delaware Dissolution Trust (DACA Trust) and Stebbins Duffy, a manufacturer's representative of Daikin Industries' products, on Ofer Nemirovsky's claims for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability and vacated the judgment entered against Daikin North America, LLC (Daikin NA), holding that the court erred in part.The trial judge declined to apply the "component parts doctrine" to the nondefective component distributed by Daikin NA because the component was not itself a "standalone" product and was designed specifically for use in the integrated product. The judge then granted directed verdict for Defendants on Nemirovsky's claims for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability against the original sellers of the HVAC system. The Supreme Judicial Court (1) vacated the judgment entered against Daikin NA, holding that the component parts doctrine precluded liability; and (2) affirmed the judge's directed verdict for Defendants on Nemirovsky's claims for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability against the original sellers of the HVAC system, holding that the claims were time barred. View "Nemirovsky v. Daikin North America, LLC" on Justia Law
Allianz Global Risks v. ACE Property & Casualty Ins. Co.
Daimler-Benz AG acquired Freightliner Corporation (Freightliner) from Consolidated Freightways (now Con-Way) in 1981. As part of the transaction, it liquidated Freightliner’s assets and liabilities into a subsidiary, Daimler Trucks North America LLC (Daimler). Between 1952 and 1982, Freightliner and then Daimler had engaged in business activities, primarily the manufacture of trucks, that subsequently led to several environmental remediation proceedings, including claims related to the Portland Harbor Superfund cleanup, and to some 1,500 asbestos personal injury claims. Plaintiffs Allianz Global Risk US Insurance and Allianz Underwriters Insurance Company (Allianz) insured Freightliner in 1981 and Daimler from 1981 to 1986 through a general commercial liability insurance policy. Daimler also purchased from Allianz another policy to provide coverage for future claims that might be made against Freightliner based on its past operations that were “incurred but not yet reported.” By the time it filed the operative complaint in this action in 2014, Allianz had spent more than $24 million defending and paying environmental and asbestos claims against Daimler and the now-dissolved Freightliner arising from Freightliner’s business operations between 1952 and 1982. In this litigation, Allianz sought contribution for the payments it has made and will make in the future based on those environmental and asbestos claims from insurance companies that insured Freightliner -- either directly or through its parent, Con-Way -- from 1976 to 1982. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals' holding that Daimler did not assume the contingent liabilities of Freightliner (including the liabilities at issue here) and affirmed the jury verdict on that issue. On Allianz's appeal, the Supreme Court agreed that the trial court erred in submitting to the jury the question of whether, because of side agreements between Con-Way/Freightliner and the insurers, those insurers had a "duty to defend or indemnify Freightliner" -- that question was to be decided by the trial court as a matter of law based on the relevant policies. As to the "London pollution exclusion", the Supreme Court agreed with Allianz that it was error for the trial court not to provide a legal interpretation of a key provision in the policy as part of the jury instructions. The Court also concluded that the jury instructions regarding the London pollution exclusion should be similar to those regarding the Domestic exclusion. The decision of the Court of Appeals was reversed. The limited judgments of the trial court were affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Allianz Global Risks v. ACE Property & Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Contracts, Insurance Law, Oregon Supreme Court, Products Liability