Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
NBIS Construction & Transport Insurance Services, v. Liebherr-America, Inc.
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit had to apply Florida tort law to a dispute concerning the collapse of a crane boom. The plaintiff, NBIS Construction & Transport Insurance Services, Inc., an insurer of the crane's owner, sued the defendants, Liebherr-America, Inc., a distributor and servicer of the type of crane in question, for over $1.7 million in damages resulting from the collapse. The defendants argued that they were shielded from liability by Florida’s economic loss rule. The magistrate judge, after a five-day bench trial, rejected this argument. The court of appeals found Florida law unclear on this issue and certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court.The facts of the case involved a crane purchased by Sims Crane & Equipment Company from a non-party broker, which was manufactured by Liebherr Werk Ehingen GMbH. Two Sims crane operators received training from a Liebherr-America employee, which involved swapping out different configurations of the crane boom. However, the training was inadequate and did not provide sufficient information about the proper placement of specific pins which, if misadjusted, could cause the crane boom to collapse. When the crane boom did collapse during a construction project, causing a fatality and damage to the crane, NBIS filed a negligence suit against Liebherr-America.The key issue in the case was whether Florida’s economic loss rule, which generally limits recovery in tort cases to situations where there is damage to other property or personal injury, and not just economic loss, applied in this case. The defendants argued that the rule should apply because the plaintiff’s negligence claims were akin to failure to warn theories found in products liability law, which fall within the scope of the rule. The plaintiff argued that the rule should not apply because this was not a product liability case asserting a product defect, but rather a case alleging negligent services provided by the defendants. Because the court found Florida law unclear on this issue, it certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court. View "NBIS Construction & Transport Insurance Services, v. Liebherr-America, Inc." on Justia Law
Pennington v. Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Inc.
The case revolves around injury suffered by a swimmer, Dr. Jennifer Pennington, who collided with the corner of a swimming-pool wall at a health and fitness center owned and operated by Memorial Hospital of South Bend, doing business as Beacon Health and Fitness. The design and construction of the swimming pool was carried out by Spear Corporation and Panzica Building Corporation. The Penningtons filed a suit against Beacon, Spear, and Panzica, alleging negligent design, failure to warn, negligent maintenance and operation, negligent construction, and deprivation of companionship due to the injury. The trial court granted summary judgment to Panzica and Spear on all counts and to Beacon on some counts, but denied summary judgment to Beacon on the count of negligent maintenance and operation and failure to provide adequate warnings and instructions. The Indiana Supreme Court held that Beacon was not entitled to summary judgment on any count, except as to the single issue of the level of the water within Count III. The court affirmed summary judgment for Spear and Panzica, stating that the Penningtons failed to provide admissible evidence regarding Spear or Panzica's breach of their professional duty of care. However, the court found that there were issues of fact regarding Beacon's role in the pool’s design and its maintenance and operation that required a trial. View "Pennington v. Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Inc." on Justia Law
Delaware v. Monsanto Company
According to allegations in the complaint, for over forty years, Monsanto was the only U.S. manufacturer of polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”). The federal government and states spent enormous sums cleaning up PCB environmental contamination. The State of Delaware alleged Monsanto knew that the PCBs it produced and sold to industry and to consumers would eventually be released into the environment and would cause lasting damage to public health and the State’s lands and waters. The State brought this action to hold Monsanto responsible for its cleanup costs, asserting claims for public nuisance, trespass, and unjust enrichment. A Delaware superior court dismissed the complaint, reasoning that even though the State alleged Monsanto knew for decades PCBs that were toxic and would contaminate the environment for generations, the State: (1) could not assert a public nuisance claim or trespass claim because Monsanto manufactured PCB products, which entered the environment after sale to third parties; (2) State did not have standing to bring a trespass claim because it held public lands in trust rather than outright and therefore did not have the exclusive possession of land needed to assert a trespass claim; (3) the superior court held it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the unjust enrichment claim as a standalone claim; and (4) the State could not use an unjust enrichment claim to recover future cleanup costs. The Delaware Supreme Court found the State pled sufficiently that even though Monsanto did not control the PCBs after sale it substantially participated in creating the public nuisance and causing the trespass by actively misleading the public and continuing to supply PCBs to industry and consumers knowing that PCBs were hazardous, would escape into the environment after sale to third parties, and would lead to widespread and lasting contamination of Delaware’s lands and waters. Further, the Supreme Court found the State alleged that it owned some land directly and therefore had exclusive possession of that land needed to assert a trespass claim. The Court affirmed in all other respects, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Delaware v. Monsanto Company" on Justia Law
River’s Side at Washington Sq. Homeowners Assn. v. Superior Court
Plaintiff River’s Side at Washington Square Homeowners Association was established to manage a development consisting of 25 residential units and common areas. It sued Defendants River’s Side LLC et al. for construction defects in the residential units. Defendants demurred to six of the seven causes of action asserted against them, arguing a homeowners association lacked standing to sue on behalf of its members for defects in residential units that it did not own and had no obligation to repair. Plaintiff alleged it had standing to bring this action on behalf of its members pursuant to Civil Code section 945, Civil Code section 5980, and Code of Civil Procedure section 382. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing under Civil Code sections 945 and 5980, and that Code of Civil Procedure section 382 was inapplicable. Because the order sustaining the demurrer left one cause of action remaining, it was not immediately appealable, and Plaintiff thus challenged the order by petition for writ of mandate. The Court of Appeal concluded Plaintiff had standing to bring claims for damages to the common areas pursuant to Civil Code sections 945 and 5980, and that it at least nominally alleged such damages. The Court further concluded Plaintiff might have standing to bring claims for damages to the residential units that sound in contract or fraud if it could meet the requirements for bringing a representative action pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 382. The Court also determined Plaintiff should have been granted leave to amend to cure any standing defect. The Court thus granted the petition for mandamus relief and directed the trial court to reversed its order granting the demurrer. View "River's Side at Washington Sq. Homeowners Assn. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Smith v. NIBCO, Inc.
Martha and Kevin Smith purchased and lived in a house that had a plumbing system composed of polyethylene ("PEX") tubing manufactured by NIBCO, Inc. The PEX tubing failed, which allowed water to leak into the house, allegedly causing damage. The Smiths subsequently commenced a lawsuit in against NIBCO, among others, asserting various theories of liability. Ultimately, the circuit court entered a summary judgment in favor of NIBCO and certified the judgment as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. App. P. The Smiths appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court found that the Smiths' claims against NIBCO, the judgment on which was certified as final under Rule 54(b), and the Smiths' claims against D.R. Horton and Dupree Plumbing that remained pending in the circuit court were so closely intertwined that separate adjudication of those claims would pose an unreasonable risk of inconsistent results. Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court exceeded its discretion in certifying the September 20, 2021, order granting NIBCO's summary-judgment motion as final. The Supreme Court therefore dismissed the appeal. View "Smith v. NIBCO, Inc." on Justia Law
Corvias Military Living, LLC v. Ventamatic, Ltd.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the court of appeals' judgment reversing the district court's judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' claim for, inter alia, product liability, holding that the Kansas Product Liability Act, Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-3301 et seq., does not subsume or extinguish any legally viable alternative cause of action seeking recovery for direct or consequential economic loss.After Plaintiffs built thousands of homes they installed bathroom ceiling fans constructed by Defendants. Several ceiling fans caught fire and damaged several homes. Plaintiffs removed and replaced the remaining fans and then brought this lawsuit asserting several claims, including claims for product liability. The district court concluded that the economic loss doctrine barred Plaintiffs from recovery. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the economic loss doctrine did not bar Plaintiffs from asserting a product liability claim because the property damage to the homes was not economic loss. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeals properly reversed the summary judgment with respect to any property damage; and (2) because it cannot be discerned whether some or all of the claims Plaintiffs claimed as removal and replacement damages were legally recoverable in an unjust enrichment cause of action, the case must be remanded. View "Corvias Military Living, LLC v. Ventamatic, Ltd." on Justia Law
Hartung Commercial Properties, Inc. v. Buffi’s Automotive Equipment and Supply Company, Inc.
Hartung Commercial Properties, Inc. ("Hartung"), appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Buffi's Automotive Equipment and Supply Company, Inc. ("Buffi's Automotive"). Wayne Hartung bought a piece of commercial property that had an auto-body collision, repair, and paint shop ("the body shop") on the premises. Wayne also formed Har-Mar Collisions, Inc. ("Har-Mar") to operate the body shop. Hartung subsequently entered into a lease with Har-Mar pursuant to which Har-Mar leased the body shop. Wayne had a custom-built paint booth installed in the body shop and hired Buffi's Automotive to make the paint booth operational once it was installed. On January 24, 2011, the body shop was completely destroyed by a fire. On July 8, 2011, Hartung sued Har-Mar, Buffi's Automotive, and several fictitiously named defendants in the circuit court asserting claims of negligence and wantonness related to their alleged roles in causing the fire that destroyed the body shop. Buffi's Automotive alleged that, sometime after the fire destroyed the body shop, Hartung ordered what remained of the body shop and all the equipment inside it to be demolished. Buffi's Automotive argued that Hartung allowed the body shop to be demolished even though it believed at that time that Buffi's Automotive had caused the fire; that Buffi's Automotive "was named as a defendant only after the evidence was destroyed"; and that Buffi's Automotive "should have been placed on notice of the claim and allowed to inspect the premises with its own experts prior to destruction of the evidence." The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court could not properly conclude that the sanction of dismissal, as opposed to some lesser sanction, was mandated in the present case. “[B]ased on the record before us at this time, we are simply not convinced that Buffi's Automotive met its burden in this case.” Accordingly, summary judgment was reversed. View "Hartung Commercial Properties, Inc. v. Buffi's Automotive Equipment and Supply Company, Inc." on Justia Law
Nationwide Mutual Insurance v. Eagle Window & Door
In 1999, homeowners Renaul and Karen Abel contracted with Gilliam Construction Company, Inc. for the construction of a house in an upscale Landrum subdivision. In constructing the house, Gilliam used windows manufactured by Eagle & Taylor Company d/b/a Eagle Window & Door, Inc. (Eagle & Taylor). Sometime after the home was completed, the Abels discovered damage from water intrusion around the windows. The Abels brought suit against Gilliam for the alleged defects and settled with Gilliam and its insurer, Nationwide Mutual, for $210,000. Nationwide and Gilliam (collectively Respondents) then initiated this contribution action seeking repayment of the settlement proceeds from several defendants, including Eagle, alleging it was liable for the obligations of Eagle & Taylor. The narrow question presented by this case on appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court was whether Eagle Window & Door, Inc. was subject to successor liability for the defective windows manufactured by a company who later sold its assets to Eagle in a bankruptcy sale. The Court determined answering that question required a revisit the Court's holding in Simmons v. Mark Lift Industries, Inc., 622 S.E.2d 213 (2005) and for clarification of the doctrine of successor liability in South Carolina. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's holding that Eagle is the "mere continuation" of the entity. The Supreme Court reversed because both the trial court and court of appeals incorrectly applied the test for successor liability. View "Nationwide Mutual Insurance v. Eagle Window & Door" on Justia Law
Acqua Vista Homeowners Assn. v. MWI, Inc.
Acqua Vista Homeowners Association ("the HOA") sued MWI, Inc. ("MWI"), a supplier of pipe used in the construction of the Acqua Vista condominium development. The operative third amended complaint contained a claim for a violation of Civil Code section 8951 et seq. ("the Act") standards in which the HOA alleged that "[d]efective cast iron pipe manufactured in China [was] used throughout the building." At a pretrial hearing, the HOA explained that it was not pursuing a claim premised on the doctrine of strict liability, only that it was alleging a single cause of action against MWI for violations of the Act's standards. During a jury trial, near the close of evidence, MWI filed a motion for a directed verdict on the ground that the HOA failed to present any evidence that MWI had caused a violation of the Act's standards as a result of MWI's negligence or breach of contract, as required. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the HOA was not required to prove that any violations of the Act's standards were caused by MWI's negligence or breach of contract. On appeal, MWI claimed that the trial court misinterpreted the Act and, as a result, erred in denying its motion for a directed verdict and motion for JNOV. After review, the Court of appeal agreed, reversed and remanded for entry of MWI’s directed verdict. View "Acqua Vista Homeowners Assn. v. MWI, Inc." on Justia Law
Fisher v. Shipyard Village
The underlying dispute in this case involved the repair of faulty windows and sliding glass doors in a condominium development, Shipyard Village Horizontal Property Regime (Shipyard Village), in Pawleys Island. Fifty co-owners of units in Buildings C & D of the development (Petitioners) appealed the court of appeals' decision to reverse the trial court's finding that the business judgment rule did not apply to the conduct of the Board of Directors of the Shipyard Village Council of Co-Owners, Inc., and the trial court's decision granting Petitioners partial summary judgment on the issue of breach of the Board's duty to investigate. Finding no reversible erro, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision. View "Fisher v. Shipyard Village" on Justia Law