Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
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Malekeh Khosravan appealed the denial of her motion to strike or tax costs with respect to the expert witness fees incurred by defendants Chevron Corporation, Chevron U.S.A. Inc., and Texaco Inc. (Chevron defendants) following the trial court’s granting of the Chevron defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Malekeh and her husband Gholam Khosravan brought claims for negligence, premises liability, loss of consortium, and related claims, alleging Khosravan contracted mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos while he was an Iranian citizen working for the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) at the Abadan refinery the Khosravans alleged was controlled by the predecessors to the Chevron defendants, Exxon Mobil Corporation, and ExxonMobil Oil Corporation (Exxon defendants). The trial court concluded the Chevron and Exxon defendants did not owe a duty of care to Khosravan, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed. The trial court awarded the Chevron defendants their expert witness fees as costs based on the Khosravans’ failure to accept the Chevron defendants’ statutory settlement offers made to Khosravan and Malekeh under Code of Civil Procedure section 998. On appeal, Malekeh contended the trial court erred in denying the motion to strike or tax costs because the settlement offers required the Khosravans to indemnify the Chevron defendants against possible future claims of nonparties, making the offers impossible to value; the Khosravans obtained a more favorable judgment than the offers in light of the indemnity provisions; and the offers were “token” settlement offers made in bad faith. The Court of Appeal concurred with this reasoning and reversed: "We recognize the desire by defendants to reach a settlement that protects them from all liability for the conduct alleged in the complaint, whether as to the plaintiffs or their heirs in a wrongful death action. But if defendants seek that protection through indemnification, they may well need to give up the benefit of section 998." View "Khosravan v. Chevron Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2013, a refinery unit (“Unit”) at the Sinclair Wyoming Refinery Co. (“Sinclair”) in Sinclair, Wyoming caught fire and exploded because its “FV-241” control valve fractured and released flammable hydrogen gas. A high temperature hydrogen attack (“HTHA”) weakened the valve and caused the fracture. FV-241 was made from carbon steel, which was more susceptible to HTHA than stainless steel. Sinclair had purchased the Unit in 2004. Sinclair moved the Unit from California to Wyoming and converted it from its previous use to a hydrotreater, a refinery unit that introduced hydrogen to remove impurities from the product stream. Sinclair contracted the design, engineering, and construction work to other companies. During the moving and conversion process, FV-241 was remanufactured and installed on the Unit. Sinclair brought a diversity action against seven companies involved in dismantling the Unit, converting it to a hydrotreater, rebuilding it in Wyoming, and remanufacturing and installing FV-241. Sinclair alleged various contract and tort claims. The district court granted several motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment that eliminated all of Sinclair’s claims. The court also entered summary judgment in favor of certain Defendants’ indemnity counterclaim. Although its analysis diverged from the district court's judgment in some respects, the Tenth Circuit affirmed orders dismissing or granting summary judgment on all of Sinclair's claims, and granting summary judgment on the indemnity counter claim. View "Sinclair Wyoming Refining v. A & B Builders" on Justia Law

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A city pipeline buried beneath a road leaked odorless natural gas which infiltrated a nearby home, causing an explosion. Residents alleged that the natural gas lacked its distinctive rotten egg smell, and that the odorant that was designed to provide the warning odor was defective because it faded. After reviewing Plaintiffs’ products-liability and assorted negligence claims against the odorant manufacturer, odorant distributor, and transmission pipeline, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded that these claims failed as a matter of law. The Court therefore affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment to the odorant manufacturer and transmission pipeline, and reversed the circuit court’s denial of the odorant distributor’s motion for summary judgment to render judgment in its favor. View "Elliott v. El Paso Corporation" on Justia Law

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Bill Head, who owns and operates the Silver Spur Truck Stop in Pharr, Texas, hired Petroleum Solutions, Inc. to manufacture and install an underground fuel system. After the discovery that a major diesel-fuel release leak had occurred, Head sued Petroleum Solutions for its resulting damages. Petroleum Solutions filed a third-party petition against Titeflex, Inc., the alleged manufacturer of a component part incorporated into the fuel system, claiming indemnity and contribution. Titeflex filed a counterclaim against Petroleum Solutions for statutory indemnity. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Head and in favor of Titeflex. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court (1) reversed as to Head’s claims against Petroleum Solutions, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by charging the jury with a spoliation instruction and striking Petroleum Solutions’ defenses, and the abuse of discretion was harmful; and (2) affirmed as to Titeflex’s indemnity claim, holding that Titeflex was entitled to statutory indemnity from Petroleum Solutions and that any error with respect to the indemnity claim was harmless. View "Petroleum Solutions, Inc. v. Head" on Justia Law

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This case involved long-running multidistrict litigation concerning contamination of groundwater by the organic compound MTBE, which was used as a gasoline additive by Exxon and others. The court concluded that the state law tort verdict against Exxon was not preempted by the federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7401; the jury's finding that the MTBE levels in Station Six Wells will peak at 10ppb in 2033 was not inconsistent with a conclusion that the City had been injured; the City's suit was ripe because the City demonstrated a present injury and the suit was not barred by the statute of limitations; the jury's verdict finding Exxon liable under state tort law theories was not precluded by the jury's concurrent conclusion that the City had not carried its burden, in the design-defect context, of demonstrating a feasible, cost-reasonable alternative to MTBE available to satisfy the standards of the now-repealed Reformulated Gasoline Program; Exxon's demand for a retrial because of an incident of juror misconduct was unavailing; the jury properly offset the gross damages award by amounts it reasonably attributed to cleanup of contaminants other than MTBE; and the City was not entitled to a jury determination of Exxon's liability for punitive damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in its entirety.View "In re: MTBE Products Liability Litig." on Justia Law