Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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While working his construction job, Plaintiff was severely injured when a crane cable snapped and dropped its payload onto him. Plaintiff sued Viant Crane Service, LLC and Viant Crane, LLC (together “Viant”), arguing that their crane was defective. The district court granted summary judgment to Viant.   On appeal, Plaintiff argues that an A2B doesn’t simply fall off a crane without some sort of defect. Viant, on the other hand, argues that there are alternative explanations for the A2B falling off—chiefly, employees mishandling the crane.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The court explained that because Plaintiff doesn’t have any direct evidence that the crane was defective, he relies on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, “the thing speaks for itself.” The court wrote that applying that rule, the district court held that res ipsa loquitur doesn’t apply to Plaintiff’s claim because the crane was outside of Viant’s control for several days, creating a possibility of mishandling by employees. Plaintiff argues that the district court’s evidentiary burden was too strict and that the court should follow Daleiden v. Carborundum Co., 438 F.2d 1017 (8th Cir. 1971). The court wrote that, in contrast to Daleiden, Plaintiff’s evidence fails to reasonably eliminate other plausible causes of the A2B malfunctioning, such as mismanagement by those handling the tank. View "Shane Boda v. Viant Crane Service, LLC" on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff was injured by a machine that Skylift, Inc., manufactured and sold, he sued Skylift claiming that the machine was defective and unreasonably dangerous and that Skylift negligently designed it. The district court rejected these claims and granted summary judgment to Skylift.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling granting summary judgment to Skylift. The court held that the product was not unreasonably dangerous, i.e., "dangerous to an extent beyond that which" was actually contemplated by the machine's users. The court explained that Plaintiff does little to confront this glaring deficiency in his claim, focusing instead on the feasibility of adding certain features to the machine that he says would have prevented the accident.   Further, the court explained that Arkansas recognizes that a plaintiff may assert both strict liability and negligence claims in a product-liability action. Here, Plaintiff does not convincingly argue that the machine fell short of contemporary industry standards; in fact, Plaintiff’s expert may well have admitted they satisfied those standards. In sum, the court found nothing that calls into question the lower court’s determinations that the machine was not unreasonably dangerous under Arkansas law or that Skylift did not negligently design it. View "Jonathan Edwards v. Skylift, Inc." on Justia Law

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To treat her endometriosis, Paulsen received Lupron injections in 2004 from her physician in Georgia. Shortly afterward she began experiencing health problems, including severe bone and joint pain, memory loss, and fevers. In April 2010, Paulsen filed a personal injury suit. Paulsen voluntarily dismissed her claims in 2014. In 2015, Paulsen filed a second lawsuit asserting product liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and misrepresentation. After several amended complaints and the addition of a defendant, two claims remained: a strict liability failure-to-warn claim against AbbVie and Abbott; and a negligent misrepresentation claim against Abbott. Limited discovery was permitted.The district court subsequently applied Illinois procedural law and Georgia substantive law, reasoning that Paulsen’s injury occurred in Georgia, and Illinois lacked a stronger relationship to the action, then granted the defendants summary judgment. The court ruled that Paulsen’s strict liability failure-to-warn claim was time-barred by Georgia’s 10-year statute of repose. Georgia does not recognize a stand-alone misrepresentation claim in product liability cases. Even if this cause of action did exist, the court reasoned, Paulsen’s misrepresentation claim would fail because “the undisputed evidence show[ed] that Abbott did not make any representations regarding Lupron.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court noted extensive evidence that Paulsen’s claims accrued before April 2008 and are barred by the Illinois two-year statute of limitations for personal injuries. View "Terry Paulsen v. Abbott Laboratories" 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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Monsanto Company and BASF Corporation began developing dicamba-tolerant seed and sued each other over intellectual property. When the USDA deregulated Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant soybean seed that year, Monsanto began to sell it. BASF’s lower-volatility dicamba herbicide was approved in 2017. Bader Farms, Inc. sued Monsanto and BASF for negligent design and failure to warn, alleging its peach orchards were damaged by dicamba drift. The jury awarded compensatory damages and punitive damages based on Monsanto’s acts.   The district court denied Defendants’ motions for a new trial and judgment as a matter of law but reduced punitive damages to $60 million. The district court’s judgment also held Monsanto and BASF jointly and severally liable for the punitive damages.   Defendants appealed, arguing that Bader failed to prove causation, the measure of actual damages is the value of the land rather than lost profits, Bader’s lost profits estimate was speculative, and the punitive damages award was unwarranted under Missouri law and excessive under the United States Constitution.   The Eighth Circuit held that Bader established causation by showing Defendants' conduct was both the cause in fact and the proximate cause of Bader's injury. Further, the district court properly refused to find intervening cause as a matter of law or to give an affirmative converse on the issue. However, the evidence established different degrees of culpability between BASF and Monsanto, and the district court should have instructed the jury to separately assess punitive damages against each of them; therefore, the court remanded with directions to hold a new trial only on the issue of punitive damages. View "Bader Farms, Inc. v. BASF Corporation" on Justia Law

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McNeal was exposed to asbestos from several sources. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017. The jury found his asbestos exposure included the use of Old Spice talcum powder on a daily basis, 1958-1980, except for one year while he was in Vietnam. Talc is a naturally occurring mineral with cosmetic uses. Asbestos, a known carcinogen when inhaled, is also a naturally occurring mineral. When talc is mined, it sometimes contains asbestos.A jury awarded McNeal punitive damages. The defendant, the supplier of the talc in Old Spice that contained asbestos fiber, did not contest the finding it was negligent and otherwise responsible for McNeal's harm but argued that the evidence was insufficient to establish that any officer, director, or managing agent acted with the malice, oppression or fraud necessary for an award of punitive damages. The court of appeal agreed and reversed the award of punitive damages. The evidence does not show that defendant’s executives knew there were “probable dangerous consequences” from trace levels of asbestos in its talc, and deliberately did nothing to avoid them. It was not known until 1994 that the contamination of talc with trace amounts of asbestos could cause mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. View "McNeal v. Whittaker, Clark & Daniels" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a lifelong smoker, sued Philip Morris USA, Inc., seeking damages for the injuries she sustained as a result of smoking Philip Morris’s cigarettes, specifically her development of peripheral vascular disease (“PVD”), a debilitating disease that eventually required the amputation of both of her legs, among other injuries. A jury returned verdicts against Philip Morris for Brown’s claims for strict liability, negligence, fraudulent concealment, and conspiracy to fraudulently conceal, and awarded Brown $8,287,448 in compensatory damages and $9 million in punitive damages.Philip Morris appealed the District Court’s denial of its renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on the fraud claims, arguing that Plaintiff presented insufficient evidence to show that she relied to her detriment on statements made by Philip Morris that concealed material information about the health effects or addictive nature of smoking, or that such reliance was a legal cause of her smoking-related disease.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Plaintiff’s jury verdicts for her negligence and strict liability claims, but reversed and remanded on Plaintiff's fraud claims based on the reasoning in Prentice v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. SC20-291, 2022 WL 805951 (Fla. 2022). Engle-progeny plaintiffs bringing a fraudulent concealment or conspiracy to fraudulently conceal claim must prove reliance on one or more specific statements by an Engle defendant. Plaintiff relied on evidence of Philip Morris’s disinformation campaign, which is no longer sufficient under Prentice. View "Donna Brown v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." 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