Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Brown, et al. v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation, et al.
The United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire certified two questions of law for the New Hampshire Supreme Court's consideration. Plaintiffs, individuals who presently or formerly lived in the Merrimack area, brought tort claims, including negligence, nuisance, trespass, and negligent failure to warn, alleging that defendants’ manufacturing process at its facility in the Town of Merrimack used chemicals that included perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). They alleged PFOA was a toxic chemical that was released into the air from the Merrimack facility and has contaminated the air, ground, and water in Merrimack and nearby towns. As a result, plaintiffs alleged the wells and other drinking water sources in those places were contaminated, exposing them to PFOA, placing them at risk of developing health problems, including testicular cancer, kidney cancer, immunotoxicity, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy induced hypertension. The first question from the federal circuit court asked whether New Hampshire recognized “a claim for the costs of medical monitoring as a remedy or as a cause of action” in plaintiffs' context. Depending on the answer to the first question, the second question asked, “what are the requirements and elements of a remedy or cause of action for medical monitoring” under New Hampshire law. Because the Supreme Court answered the first question in the negative, it did not address the second question. View "Brown, et al. v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation, et al." on Justia Law
Cash-Darling v. Recycling Equipment, Inc.
Cash died when a hammermill shredder exploded at his workplace. The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) determined that the explosion was primarily caused by the accumulation of combustible aluminum dust produced by the shredding process. The personal representative of his estate sued REI, the company that assembled and sold the shredder to LR, Cash’s employer, asserting four product-liability claims. The district court granted REI summary judgment, because it “did not design the hammermill system at issue, and instead assisted LR with locating primarily used components that LR requested based on the design of LR’s existing system, REI is not legally responsible for any alleged defect in the system as a whole.”The Sixth Circuit reversed. A key requirement of the contract-specification defense is that the customer provided the manufacturer with detailed plans or specifications directing how the product should be built. The district court erred in holding that no genuine dispute of material fact exists as to whether REI followed LR’s design specifications. There was evidence to suggest that REI contemplated incorporating a dust-collection bin in the design, one that had not been requested. View "Cash-Darling v. Recycling Equipment, Inc." on Justia Law
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
Kpiele-Poda v. Patterson-UTI Energy, et al.
In 2018, Mwande Serge Kpiele-Poda ("Employee") was injured at a wellsite while repairing a conveyor that activated and crushed his legs. While Employee's Workers' Compensation claim was still pending, he filed a petition asserting negligence and products liability against his employers, two wellsite operators, and the manufacturers and distributors of the conveyor. Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. was named in the body of the petition but omitted from the caption. After the statute of limitations period expired, Employee amended his petition to add Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. as a defendant in the petition's caption. A second amended petition added other parties. Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. moved to dismiss arguing the claim was time-barred because the amended petition did not relate back to the first petition. Employee's employers also moved to dismiss arguing the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act and Oklahoma precedent precluded employees from simultaneously maintaining an action before the Workers' Compensation Commission and in the district court. The district court granted each dismissal motion and certified each order as appealable. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained and consolidated Employee's separate appeals, holding: (1) the district court erred when it dismissed Employee's action against Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. as time-barred; and (2) the district court properly dismissed Employee's intentional tort action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Kpiele-Poda v. Patterson-UTI Energy, et al." on Justia Law
Anderson v. Raymond Corp.
While working as a standup forklift operator, Anderson hit a bump and fell onto the floor. The forklift continued moving and ran over her leg; the resulting injuries necessitated its amputation. Anderson sued the forklift’s manufacturer, Raymond, alleging that the forklift was negligently designed. The parties disputed the admissibility of the testimony of Dr. Meyer, one of Anderson’s experts. Meyer believed that Raymond could have made several changes to its design that would have prevented Anderson’s accident. Meyer’s primary suggestion was a door to enclose the operating compartment, which would prevent operators from falling into the forklift’s path. Like other standup forklift manufacturers, Raymond offers doors as an option but does not fit doors to its forklifts as standard, claiming that a door could impede the operator’s ability to make a quick exit if the forklift runs off a loading dock or begins to tip over. The district court concluded that Meyer’s opinion about a door was inadmissible because it did not satisfy Federal Rule of Evidence 702 or the “Daubert” test but admitted Meyer’s opinions on other potential design improvements.The Seventh Circuit reversed a judgment in Raymond's favor. The exclusion of Meyer’s opinion was substantially prejudicial to Anderson’s case. Meyer has a “full range of practical experience," academic, and technical training and his methodology rested on accepted scientific principles, Raymond’s critiques go to the weight his opinion should be given rather than its admissibility. View "Anderson v. Raymond Corp." on Justia Law
In re: LTL Management LLC
“Old Consumer,” a wholly owned subsidiary of J&J, sold healthcare products such as Band-Aid, Tylenol, Aveeno, and Listerine, and produced Johnson’s Baby Powder for over a century. The Powder’s base was talc. Concerns that the talc contained asbestos resulted in lawsuits alleging that it has caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. With mounting payouts and litigation costs, Old Consumer, through a series of intercompany transactions, split into LTL, holding Old Consumer’s liabilities relating to talc litigation and a funding support agreement from LTL’s corporate parents, and “New Consumer,” holding virtually all the productive business assets previously held by Old Consumer. J&J’s goal was to isolate the talc liabilities in a new subsidiary that could file for Chapter 11 without subjecting Old Consumer’s entire operating enterprise to bankruptcy proceedings.Talc claimants moved to dismiss LTL’s subsequent bankruptcy case as not filed in good faith. The Bankruptcy Court denied those motions and extended the automatic stay of actions against LTL to hundreds of non-debtors, including J&J and New Consumer. In consolidated appeals, the Third Circuit dismissed the petition. Good intentions— such as to protect the J&J brand or comprehensively resolve litigation—do not suffice. The Bankruptcy Code’s safe harbor is intended for debtors in financial distress. LTL was not. Ignoring a parent company’s safety net shielding all foreseen liability would create a legal blind spot. View "In re: LTL Management LLC" on Justia Law
Preciado v. Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.
Plaintiffs Rodrigo Rodriguez Preciado, Norma Janeth Banda Arreola, Alejandro Rodriguez Banda, and Haydee Antonieta Zumaeta appealed a trial court order quashing service of summons filed by defendant Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC). This litigation arose from a February 22, 2020 bus accident that occurred on Interstate 15 in San Diego County, resulting in the death of Cynthia Karely Rodriguez Banda (Cynthia) and injury to Zumaeta. Approximately one year later, Zumaeta, along with Cynthia’s parents and brother (as survivors), filed a lawsuit against several defendants. As specifically relevant here, the defendants also included FCCC, which manufactured the bus’s chassis. All of the causes of action asserted against FCCC were based on various theories of products liability. FCCC argued that Plaintiffs could not “meet their burden of establishing the requisite connection between FCCC, California, and this litigation to justify general or specific jurisdiction over FCCC.” Plaintiffs contended the trial court erred in concluding that they failed to establish that California had general or specific jurisdiction over FCCC in this action. The Court of Appeal concluded Plaintiffs’ arguments lacked merit, and accordingly it affirmed the order granting FCCC’s motion to quash and dismissing it from this action. View "Preciado v. Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp." on Justia Law
Michael Tucker v. General Motors LLC
General Motors (“GM”) installed Generation IV 5.3 Liter V8 Vortec 5300 LC9 engines (“Gen IV engine”) in seven different GMC and Chevrolet trucks and SUVs in model years 2010 to 2014 (the “affected vehicles”). In 2016, representatives from various States filed a putative class action alleging that the affected vehicles contain a defect that causes excess oil consumption and other engine damage (the “oil consumption defect”). Plaintiffs appealed only the dismissal of their Missouri Merchandising Practice Act (MMPA) claim, stating that “the sole issue presented on appeal is whether the district court improperly applied the concept of puffery to their deceptive omissions claims under the MMPA.” The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the MMPA claims. The court concluded that advertising “puffery” does not affect an MMPA claim based on omission of a material fact, at least in this case, and the court agreed that Plaintiffs’ Class Action Complaint alleges sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state an omissions claim to relief that is plausible on its face. View "Michael Tucker v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law
Shawn Curran v. Axon Enterprise, Inc.
While participating in a TASER training session, Plaintiff, Virginia Beach Police Department Officer took a break in a designated safety area. Another participant, who was engaged in a role-playing exercise, fired his TASER. Unfortunately, he missed his intended target and hit Plainitff in the eye. Plaintiff sued R.N., who oversaw the session, for negligence and Axon Enterprise, Inc., the manufacturer of TASERs and sponsor of the training program, for vicarious liability. R.N. and Axon moved separately for summary judgment and the district court granted both motions. It determined that R.N. could only be liable for the conduct of the participant who fired the TASER if what Virginia law calls a “special relationship” existed between R.N. and Plaintiff. But it found that no such special relationship existed. And since it held that R.N. was not liable, the court also granted Axon’s motion as to Plaintiff’ vicarious liability claim. On appeal, Plaintiff insists that he has two valid negligence claims. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment on Plaintiff’s special relationship claim. As it noted, Virginia has not previously recognized a special relationship in the trainer and adult trainee context. The court saw no reversible error in the court’s interpretation of Virginia law on this issue or in its application of Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. But the court agreed with Plaintiff that Virginia law permits his general negligence claim against Nelson. Thus, the court vacated the order dismissing the case and remand for proceedings on Plaintiff’s general negligence claim. View "Shawn Curran v. Axon Enterprise, Inc." on Justia Law
Robert Leflar v. Target Corporation
Plaintiff bought a laptop with a manufacturer’s warranty from Target. He filed a class action on behalf of “all citizens of Arkansas who purchased one or more products from Target that cost over $15 and that were subject to a written warranty.” His theory was that Target violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s Pre-Sale Availability Rule by refusing to make the written warranties reasonably available, either by posting them in “close proximity to” products or placing signs nearby informing customers that they could access them upon request. Target filed a notice of removal based on the jurisdictional thresholds in the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. The district court the class action against Target Corporation to Arkansas state court. The Eighth Circuit vacated the remand order and return the case to the district court for further consideration. The court explained that the district court applied the wrong legal standard. The district court refused to acknowledge the possibility that Target’s sales figures for laptops, televisions and other accessories might have been enough to “plausibly allege” that the case is worth more than $5 million. The district court then compounded its error by focusing exclusively on the two declarations that accompanied Target’s notice of removal. The court wrote that the district court’s failure to consider Target’s lead compliance consultant’s declaration, Target’s central piece of evidence in opposing remand, “effectively denied” the company “the opportunity . . . to establish [its] claim of federal jurisdiction.” View "Robert Leflar v. Target Corporation" on Justia Law