Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
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
Bader v. Johnson & Johnson
As a child, Schmitz applied J&J’s Baby Powder to her siblings and used it herself. She later applied the powder to her aging father and mother when she cared for them. Schmitz used Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet on a daily basis from the age of 13 until her late forties. The products created visible dust that she breathed in. Schmitz also used perfumed talc sold by Avon. Schmitz was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2018. She sued 10 defendants, including J&J, Colgate, and Avon, alleging that they knowingly concealed the presence of asbestos in their products and the health risks the products posed. The trial centered on whether the experts correctly identified various structures as asbestos, whether the talc products Schmitz used contained asbestos, and, if so, whether that use substantially contributed to her risk of developing mesothelioma.A jury returned a special verdict in Schmitz’s favor. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting certain expert testimony, gave an adverse inference instruction that was unjustified and prejudicial, erred in failing to grant a mistrial after references to talc causing ovarian cancer, failed to instruct the jury on a critical element of fraudulent concealment, and erred in entering judgment nunc pro tunc. The evidence was sufficient to support a verdict for fraudulent concealment. View "Bader v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Personal Injury, Products Liability
Mary Bayes v. Biomet, Inc.
Plaintiffs, husband and wife, sued Biomet, Inc. and associated entities (Biomet) after the wife’s M2a Magnum hip implant failed. The M2a Magnum is a large-diameter metal-on-metal hip implant produced by Biomet. The wife argued that the implant caused irreparable damage to her hip joint and surrounding tissues. A jury awarded the wife $20 million in damages. The jury awarded an additional $1 million in damages to her husband for his loss of consortium. Biomet appealed, arguing that (1) the jury’s verdict was inconsistent, (2) Plaintiffs failed to establish the required standard of care, (3) Plaintiffs failed to show a breach by Biomet, and (4) the damages award was excessive. The Eighth Circuit disagreed and affirmed the judgment of the district court. The court explained that the jury could have, in its discretion, believed or discounted the expert testimony in its entirety. Further, the jury could have determined whether Biomet’s testing procedures met industry standards. If credited by the jury, this testimony was a sufficient evidentiary basis to conclude that Biomet failed to meet a reasonable standard of care. Thus, the court did not overturn the jury’s determination because the jury had a sufficient evidentiary basis to find a design defect. Further, the court deferred to the jury’s judgment as to whether $20 million is the correct compensation for a lifetime of hip dislocations and seven revision surgeries. View "Mary Bayes v. Biomet, Inc." on Justia Law
Gregory Burdess v. Cottrell, Inc.
Plaintiff woke up in an Illinois motel room without any feeling in his arms; he was later diagnosed in Missouri with bilateral shoulder impingement syndrome. Four years later, Plaintiff and his wife filed an action against Cottrell, Inc., the manufacturer of the ratchet system that allegedly caused Plaintiff’s injury. In granting Cottrell’s motion for summary judgment, the district court found that Illinois’s two-year statute of limitations applied to Plaintiff’s cause of action instead of Missouri’s five-year statute of limitations, thus barring Plaintiff’s and his wife’s claims. Plaintiff and his wife appealed, arguing that the district court erred in not applying Missouri’s statute of limitations. At issue is when—or where in this context—the statute of limitations began to run on Plaintiff’s cause of action, which depends upon the proper interpretation and application of Missouri’s borrowing statute. The Eighth Circuit reversed, concluding that the matter is a fact question for the jury to decide. The court explained that it must determine whether the “evidence was such to place a reasonably prudent person on notice of a potentially actionable injury” in Illinois, where Plaintiff woke up to complete numbness in his arms. The court reasoned that on the three facts the district court contemplated the court cannot say as a matter of law that a reasonable person in Plaintiff’s position would have been on notice of a potentially actionable injury in Illinois. View "Gregory Burdess v. Cottrell, Inc." on Justia Law
Stringer, et al v. Remington Arms, et al
In June 2011, a fifteen-year-old shot his brother, an eleven-year-old, with a Remington Model 700 rifle equipped with an X-Mark Pro trigger. The boy and his parents (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) sued Remington, the retailer that sold the rifle, and Remington’s predecessors in interest (collectively, “Defendants”) in Mississippi state court. Plaintiffs emphasized that Remington had in April 2014 recalled all Model 700 rifles with X-Mark Pro triggers because the rifles “can and will spontaneously fire without pulling the trigger.” They brought state-law claims for product liability, failure to warn, negligence, and gross negligence. Defendants moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). In their response to that motion, Plaintiffs asked to file a federal-court complaint to allege additional facts related to the statute of limitations. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court’s subject-matter jurisdiction was based on diversity of citizenship. The court, therefore, applied “federal procedural and evidentiary rules and the substantive laws of the forum state.” Mississippi has a general three-year statute of limitations. For “non-latent injuries” like the one alleged here, the cause of action accrues on the date of the injury. But Plaintiffs, who filed suit in March 2018, argue that the statute of limitations was tolled by Defendants’ fraudulent concealment. The district court rejected that argument. The Fifth Circuit agreed, finding that Plaintiffs failed to meet Rule 9(b)’s requirements. View "Stringer, et al v. Remington Arms, et al" on Justia Law