Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Products Liability
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss the product liability claim against it, holding that the trial court did not err in concluding that personal jurisdiction was not authorized under Connecticut's applicable long-arm statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. 33-929(f).Section 33-929(f) subjects foreign corporations to suit brought by a resident of the state on a cause of action "arising out of" the corporation's distribution of goods with the reasonable expectation that the goods are intended to be used, and are so used, in Connecticut. At issue was whether Defendant's contacts with Connecticut were sufficiently "related to" the litigation to satisfy Connecticut's long-arm statute and specific personal jurisdiction under the due process clause. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, concluding that the "arise out of or relate to" requirement was not met in this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish that their claim against Defendant arose from or related to Defendant's forum contacts. View "Adams v. Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co." on Justia Law

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A transportation company, Wasatch Transportation, Inc., needed three buses to comply with a state contract. Compliance required "particularly durable buses" because the routes would exceed 350 miles in inclement weather with substantial changes in elevation. Wasatch bought Synergy buses from the manufacturer, Forest River, Inc., based on assurances from a Forest River sales personnel that the buses were “[q]uality buses” that Forest River “would take really good care of” and would “be amazing when they were done.” For each bus, Forest River provided a warranty packet containing three limitations: (1) the warranty covered only repair costs; (2) the warranty was exclusive, taking the place of other possible warranties; and (3) the warranty provided the buyer’s only remedy for defects under any legal theory. After the purchase, the buses developed mechanical problems. Even after the bus was repaired, it continued to break down. Another bus broke down soon after the purchase and was usable only a third of the next year. Given the breakdowns, Wasatch allegedly had to buy another bus to comply with the state contract; but the state cancelled the contract anyway. Wasatch thereafter sued Forest River for: breach of an express warranty; breach of an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose; and fraud. The district court granted summary judgment to Forest River, reasoning that its warranty packet prevented any relief. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined there were genuine issues of material fact to preclude the district court's grant of summary judgment. That judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Wasatch Transportation v. Forest River" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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Amiodarone was developed in the 1960s for the treatment of angina and was released in other countries. Amiodarone is associated with side effects, including pulmonary fibrosis, blindness, thyroid cancer, and death. In the 1970s, U.S. physicians began obtaining amiodarone from other countries for use in patients with life-threatening ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia who did not respond to other drugs. In 1985, the FDA approved Wyeth’s formulation of amiodarone, Cordarone, as a drug of last resort for patients suffering from recurring life-threatening ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. The FDA’s “special needs” approval issued without randomized clinical trials. In 1989, the FDA described Wyeth’s promotional activities as promoting an unapproved use of the drug. In 1992, the FDA objected to promotional labeling pieces for Cordarone. Other manufacturers developed generic amiodarone, which has been available since 1998.Consolidated lawsuits alleged that plaintiffs suffered unnecessary, serious side effects when they took amiodarone, as prescribed by their doctors, for off-label use to treat atrial fibrillation, a more common, less serious, condition than ventricular fibrillation. The FDA never approved amiodarone for the treatment of atrial fibrillation, even on a special-needs basis. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuits. The claims are preempted as attempts to privately enforce the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 301, regulations governing medication guides and labeling and have no independent basis in state law. The court also rejected fraud claims under California’s unfair competition law and Consumers Legal Remedy Act. View "Amiodarone Cases" on Justia Law

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Appellants are individuals who bought or leased a vehicle with an emissions defeat device, and they filed individual suits that were consolidated before the same judge who presided over the multidistrict litigation and class action settlements. The jury awarded four of Appellants various amounts in compensatory damages and $25,000 each in punitive damages. The district court reduced the punitive damages award to exactly four times the amount of the compensatory damages suffered by each Plaintiff.   The Ninth Circuit vacated punitive damages awards to appellants (who are Plaintiffs who opted out of the class action) and remanded with instructions that the district court recalculate punitive damages. The panel held that the district court erred by holding that a punitive damages ratio calculation of four times the value of the compensatory damages award was the maximum punitive damages award permitted by the Constitution’s Due Process Clause. Because the panel concluded that the district court erred in applying the Gore factors, the panel next considered what award of punitive damages comported with due process for each party. The panel also concluded that it would be arbitrary and incorrect to set a different ratio between punitive damages and actual compensatory damages as to each of the Plaintiffs under the circumstances of this case. The panel, therefore, vacated the punitive damages awards to each appellant and remanded with instructions that the district court recalculate punitive damages in an amount equal to eight times the actual compensatory damages determination. View "TIMOTHY RILEY V. VOLKSWAGEN GROUP OF AMERICA, I" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff regularly used Roundup on his lawn for about 30 years until 2016. Around 2016, Plaintiff was diagnosed with malignant fibrous histiocytoma, which he believes was linked to the compound glyphosate, the main chemical ingredient in Roundup. Plaintiff filed suit against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup. In his four-count complaint, Plaintiff alleged strict liability for a design defect under Georgia law (Count I); strict liability for failure to warn under Georgia law Count II); negligence under Georgia law (Count III); and breach of implied warranties under Georgia law (Count IV).   On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit was tasked with deciding whether the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim was preempted under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Ac (FIFRA) because the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) had classified glyphosate as not likely to be carcinogenic to humans and approved the Roundup label. The Eleventh Circuit concluded it did and reversed the district court’s ruling. The court held that Plaintiff’s Georgia failure to warn claim is not preempted by the federal requirements under the FIFRA or the EPA actions pursuant to it. View "John D. Carson v. Monsanto Company" on Justia Law

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Gregory and Sue Tadych filed suit after the one-year limitation period to bring a construction defect suit expired. The trial court entered summary judgment, dismissing the suit and upholding the contractual limitation. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Washington Supreme Court found the contractual limitation here was substantively unconscionable and, therefore, void and unenforceable. "The one-year limitation provision provides a substantially shorter limitations period than plaintiffs are otherwise entitled to under RCW 4.16.310 and benefits the contractor at the expense of the rights of the homeowner." Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for trial. View "Tadych v. Noble Ridge Constr., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Nissan, alleging the transmission in a 2013 Nissan Sentra they purchased was defective, bringing statutory claims under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code 1790) and a common law fraud claim alleging that Nissan, by fraudulently concealing the defects, induced them to purchase the car. The trial court dismissed the fraudulent inducement claim as barred by the “economic loss rule.” The court also struck the plaintiffs’ request for punitive damages.The court of appeal reversed. Under California law, the economic loss rule does not bar the fraudulent inducement claim. The fraudulent inducement exception to the economic loss rule applies; fraudulent inducement is a viable tort claim under California law. The plaintiffs adequately pleaded that the transmissions installed in numerous Nissan vehicles (including the one they purchased) were defective; Nissan knew of the defects and the hazards they posed; Nissan had exclusive knowledge of the defects but intentionally concealed and failed to disclose that information; Nissan intended to deceive plaintiffs by concealing known transmission problems; plaintiffs would not have purchased the car if they had known of the defects; and plaintiffs suffered damages in the form of money paid to purchase the car. View "Dhital v. Nissan North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Chad Defries suffered injuries while riding a Yamaha dirt bike. He sued the U.S. distributor of that dirt bike, defendant-respondent Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. (Yamaha), among others, asserting that the accident was caused by a throttle assembly that fell off the handlebar as he was riding. The jury found in Yamaha’s favor, and the trial court later awarded Yamaha costs. On appeal, Defries contended, among other things, that the trial court erroneously denied his request to instruct the jury that Yamaha was liable for its dealer’s negligent assembly of the dirt bike, a ruling that limited Defries’s negligence cause of action to Yamaha’s own negligence. The Court of Appeal found that California law, however, placed “responsibility for defects, whether negligently or nonnegligently caused, on the manufacturer of the completed product . . . regardless of what part of the manufacturing process the manufacturer chooses to delegate to third parties.” The same principle applied to distributors. And as the distributor of a completed product, Yamaha “cannot delegate its duty . . . [and thus] cannot escape liability on the ground that the defect in [Defries’s bike] may have been caused by something one of its authorized dealers did or failed to do.” If the dealer negligently assembled the product, Yamaha was jointly liable for damages caused by that negligence. Because the requested instruction should have been given, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on the negligence cause of action, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Defries v. Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A." on Justia Law