Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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Mary Clare Griffin purchased a bottle of Italian wine, which broke in her hands as she attempted to open it, causing substantial injuries. Griffin and her son, a minor who witnessed the event, brought a product liability suit against Zignago Vetro S.P.A. (Zignago), the Italian manufacturer of the wine bottle; Marchesi Antinori SRL (Antinori), the Italian wine company that purchased the bottle from Zignago, filled it with wine, and exported it to the United States; Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Ltd. (Ste. Michelle), the United States importer; S & C Importers and Distributors, Inc. (S&C), the Idaho distributor who purchased the bottle from Ste. Michelle; and, Albertson’s LLC (Albertson’s), the retailer that sold the bottle to Griffin. Zignago successfully moved the district court to dismiss Griffin’s complaint based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. Griffin appealed the district court’s decision, asking the Court of Appeal to apply the personal jurisdiction framework established by World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980). Griffin also appealed the district court’s order granting summary judgment to Antinori and Ste. Michelle on the grounds that Griffin failed to meet her burden to show a prima facie case for a product liability claim. Additionally, Griffin appealed several adverse discovery rulings. The Idaho Supreme Court found the correct test when determining personal jurisdictional issues remained the “stream of commerce” test adopted by the United States Supreme Court in World-Wide Volkswagen. Applying that test to the case here, the Court reversed the district court’s decision to grant Zignago’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court affirmed the district court’s decision granting Antinori’s and Ste. Michelle’s motions for summary judgment, finding it did not abuse its discretion in failing to grant Griffin’s motion to compel discovery against Antinori and Ste. Michelle. View "Griffin v. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates LTD." on Justia Law

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Numerous plaintiffs filed a wrongful death action under section 6-5-410, Ala. Code 1975, against Continental Motors, Inc. ("CMI"), and RAM Aircraft, LP ("RAM"), among others, on behalf of the heirs of Mark Goldstein, Marjorie Gonzalez, and Luis Angel Lopez Barillas (collectively, "the decedents"). On March 10, 2010, the decedents died in an airplane crash in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The crash was allegedly a result of a defective starter-adapter assembly that had been manufactured by CMI and/or the failure of the airplane's engine, which had been refurbished by RAM. Mark and Marjorie were citizens and residents of Honduras; Luis was a citizen and resident of Guatemala. The administration of each of the decedents' estates was conducted in their respective countries of citizenship and residence. CMI and RAM filed motions for a summary judgment arguing that none of the plaintiffs was a personal representative of the decedents and, thus, that plaintiffs lacked the authority to pursue the wrongful-death claims. The circuit court denied CMI's and RAM's summary-judgment motions. CMI and RAM separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to set aside its orders denying their summary judgment motions and to enter an order granting their summary judgment motions, thereby dismissing the plaintiffs' wrongful death action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Alabama Court granted CMI's and RAM's petitions in part and denied them in part. The Court concluded CMI and RAM failed to demonstrate the administrator-plaintiffs were without authority to pursue a wrongful-death claim on behalf of Mark's heirs. Therefore, in this regard, the Supreme Court denied CMI's and RAM's petitions for a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court also concluded CMI and RAM demonstrated that none of the plaintiffs were personal representatives of Marjorie's or Luis's estate and, thus, lacked authority to pursue a wrongful-death claim on behalf of Marjorie's or Luis's heirs. Accordingly, the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the wrongful-death claims brought on behalf of Marjorie's and Luis's heirs, and CMI and RAM were entitled to have their summary-judgment motions granted in that respect and to have those claims dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Therefore, in this regard, the Supreme Court granted CMI's and RAM's petitions for a writ of mandamus and ordered the circuit court to grant CMI's and RAM's summary-judgment motions, and dismissed the wrongful-death claims asserted by the heirs of Marjorie and Luis. View "Ex parte Continental Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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The American husband and German wife have lived together in Germany since 2002. They sought damages for complications that arose when a surgical stapler manufactured in Mexico by an American corporation, Ethicon, allegedly malfunctioned during a 2012 surgery that husband underwent in Germany. An Ohio district court dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens in favor of litigating in Germany. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Where a district court has considered all relevant public- and private-interest factors, and has reasonably balanced those factors, its decision deserves substantial deference. Private-interest factors include the relative ease of access to sources of proof; availability of compulsory process and the cost of obtaining witnesses; possibility of view of premises, id appropriate; and all other practical problems. Public-interest factors include administrative difficulties from court congestion; the local interest in the controversy’; the interest in having the trial in a forum that is at home with the law that governs the action; and the unfairness of burdening citizens in an unrelated forum with jury duty. The court here correctly concluded that Ethicon met its burden of showing that if the case remained in Ohio, the vexation it would endure and trouble to the court would be disproportionate to the plaintiffs’ minimal convenience. View "Hefferan v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2008, plaintiffs were driving a 2004 Jeep Cherokee in San Joaquin County, when the vehicle rolled over and the roof collapsed. Young sustained injuries, rendering her a permanent quadriplegic. Young’s daughter allegedly suffered physical and emotional harm. They filed suit, claiming that the roof and restraint systems were defectively designed. The vehicle at issue was designed, manufactured, and distributed by DaimlerChrysler Corporation (DCC), a former indirect subsidiary of Daimler. Among others, the complaint named Daimler and DCC as defendants. Daimler is a German public stock company that designs and manufactures Mercedes-Benz vehicles in Germany and has its principal place of business in Stuttgart. Before 1998, DCC was known as Chrysler Corporation. After a 1998 agreement, Chrysler Corporation became an indirect subsidiary of Daimler and changed its name to DCC. DCC was a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Michigan. It ceased to be a subsidiary of Daimler in 2007, changing its name to Chrysler LLC. Daimler is not a successor-in-interest to DCC or Chrysler LLC. Plaintiffs served Daimler with the complaint in accordance with the Hague Convention. The trial court quashed service for lack of personal jurisdiction over Daimler AG. The court of appeal affirmed, relying on the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman. View "Young v. Daimler AG" on Justia Law

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In 1975, a pistol manufactured by MKEK malfunctioned, firing a bullet through Ohntrup’s hand while he loaded the gun. The court held the seller, Firearms Center and MKEK, which is wholly owned by the Republic of Turkey, jointly liable for $847,173.97 and required MKEK to indemnify Firearms Center. The Morgan law firm represented MKEK, but after appeal, sought to withdraw. The court permitted the individual lawyers to withdraw but required the firm to remain as counsel of record until MKEK hired substitute counsel. The Third Circuit affirmed, characterizing MKEK as an intractable litigant and stating that a communication gap would hamper post-judgment proceedings. The Ohntrups tried to collect their judgment; MKEK disregarded the Ohntrups’ discovery requests. The Ohntrups sought assistance from the State Department and pursued MKEK in Turkish courts, to no avail. In 2007, Ohntrup’s widow obtained a $16 million civil contempt judgment against MKEK that grows by $10,000 annually. Ohntrup’s judgments against MKEK are now worth about $25 million. In 2011, Ohntrup’s lawyers learned of a $16.2 million transaction in which a Minneapolis-based company. (Alliant), agreed to sell munitions manufacturing components to MKEK. Ohntrup obtained some discovery from Alliant, but the district court denied subsequent discovery requests. When Ohntrup renewed her post-judgment discovery efforts, Morgan was granted leave to withdraw. The Third Circuit affirmed the order granting leave to withdraw, but remanded the discovery order. The court erred when it relied upon the uncertainty surrounding the judgment creditor’s ability to attach the targeted property.View "Ohntrup v. Makina Ve Kimya Endustrisi Kur" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Russell, the sole occupant and pilot of an Agusta 109C helicopter, died after his helicopter crashed in Illinois. Russell, a resident of Georgia, was living in Illinois and working for an Illinois air ambulance service operating in the Chicago area. The helicopter was manufactured in Italy in 1989. The trial court dismissed claims against SNFA, a French company that manufactured a custom tail-rotor bearing for the helicopter, for lack of jurisdiction. The appellate court reversed and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, noting that Agusta and its American subsidiary, AAC, effectively operated as an American distributor for the tail-rotor bearings in the U.S. market and that SNFA custom manufactured the bearings at issue specifically for Agusta. By engaging a business entity located in Illinois, SNFA undoubtedly benefitted from Illinois’ system of laws, infrastructure, and business climate and has the requisite minimum contacts with Illinois for purposes of specific personal jurisdiction. The exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable; Illinois has an indisputable interest in resolving litigation stemming from a fatal Illinois helicopter accident.View "Russell v. SNFA" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit consolidated two cases involving transfer to courts in another country. One is an appeal from an order to transfer cases involving vehicular accidents allegedly caused by tires installed on vehicles in Latin America, from the Southern District of Indiana to the courts of Mexico. Its i a suit by Mexican citizens arising from the death of another Mexican citizen in an accident in Mexico. The second involves transfer, to Israel, of suits against manufacturers of blood products used by hemophiliacs, which turned out to be contaminated by HIV; it was brought by Israeli citizens infected by the products in Israel. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the transfers. Noting the existence of apparently dispositive precedent, the court referred to "ostrich-like tactic of pretending that potentially dispositive authority against a litigant's contention does not exist." View "Gonzalez-Servin v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Debbie and Max Walters appealed from a district court judgment that dismissed their petition for the issuance of a turnover order. In 1990, the Walters' thirteen-year-old son was killed on a hunting trip with his father when a Chinese-manufactured rifle the boy carried allegedly misfired. The Walters sued China and several entities allegedly controlled by China in the U.S. District Court on theories of products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty in connection with the manufacture of the rifle. The Walters eventually won a $10 million default judgment, and sought to enforce it by collecting China's assets in the possession of the respondent banks, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ltd., Bank of China, Ltd. and China Construction Bank Corporation. Citing the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA), the district court dismissed the petition with prejudice. Without filing a new petition, the Walters argued on appeal that the Banks lacked standing to assert foreign sovereign immunity on behalf of China, and that China waived any immunity by its conduct underlying the default judgment and by its failure to appear. Upon review of the submitted briefs and the applicable legal authority, the Second Circuit found Plaintiffs' arguments were without merit, and affirmed the district court's decision to dismiss their case. View "Walters v. Indus. & Commercial Bank of China, Ltd." on Justia Law