Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
Hyundai Motor America et al. v. Hutton et al.
The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review arose from a single-car accident involving a 2005 Santa Fe Hyundai, which had been rented by Joyce Hutton, and driven by Derek Bell on U.S. Highway 61. It was reported to the police officer that the car drifted into the median, and Bell lost control. Both Bell and Hutton were injured. Hutton filed suit against Hyundai Motor America, Hyundai Motor Company, and Bell, and Bell filed a cross-claim against Hyundai. Hutton settled her injury claims against Bell prior to trial. Bell and Hutton proceeded against Hyundai. At trial, both alleged the car was defectively designed. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged the Hyundai was defectively designed due to an exposed, unprotected component of the anti-lock braking system (ABS). Plaintiffs claimed that an unseen and never-discovered object of unknown elements and composition struck a component part, dislodging an ABS tone ring temporarily, which caused the vehicle’s computer to send erratic braking signals. The erratic signals in turn caused the ABS computer to assume that the front right wheel was not turning, which in turn caused braking to occur on the front left side. The alleged one-sided braking caused Bell to lose control before the vehicle overturned multiple times. Hyundai countered that a phantom object was never seen, found, or identified by Bell, Hutton, the state trooper who investigated the accident, eyewitnesses to the accident, Plaintiffs’ witnesses (experts or otherwise), or anyone else. Further, Hyundai argued that, assuming arguendo that Plaintiffs’ multiple-chain-reaction theory were possible, the trajectory of any object would have occurred within fifty milliseconds - a scientific, physical impossibility. After a two-week trial, the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiffs: $193,000 for Hutton and $2 million for Bell. Hyundai appealed, claiming a number of errors by the trial court. The Supreme Court the trial court committed reversible error, therefore the verdict was reversed, and judgment rendered in favor of Hyundai. View "Hyundai Motor America et al. v. Hutton et al." on Justia Law
Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. v. Fitch
Two cases consolidated for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review presented common questions of the validity of a cause of action brought by the Mississippi Attorney General under the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act, Mississippi Code Section 75-24-5. The first was whether the Act covered the State’s claim, and the second was whether that claim was preempted by federal law. In 2014, the State commenced an action against Johnson & Johnson for what it alleged to have been unlawful, unfair, and deceptive business practices related to its cosmetic talcum powder products. Specifically, the State alleged that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn of the risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talc. The Chancery Court denied the summary judgment motion made by Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. Johnson & Johnson then filed an interlocutory appeal of the chancellor’s decision, which the Supreme Court granted. The Court concluded the Act did not exclude the State's talc labeling claim. Further, because of the lack of any specific requirement by the Food and Drug Administration, the State’s claim was not barred by the principles of express or implied preemption. Therefore, the judgment of the Chancery Court was affirmed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. v. Fitch" on Justia Law
Hinton v. Sportsman’s Guide, Inc.
In 2012, Timothy Hinton was deer hunting when he fell from his tree stand. He was using a fall-arrest system (FAS), but the tree strap snapped, and Timothy plunged eighteen feet, eventually dying from his injuries. In 2013, Timothy’s parents, Marsha and Thomas Hinton, filed a wrongful-death suit based on Mississippi products-liability law. The defendant manufacturer, C&S Global Imports, Inc., defaulted and was not a source of recovery. So the litigation turned its focus to the manufacturer’s insurer, Pekin Insurance Company. After the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Mississippi had personal jurisdiction over the Illinois-based insurer, Pekin successfully moved for summary judgment based on the clear tree-stand exclusion in C&S Global’s policy. Retailer Sportsman’s Guide, which sold Timothy the tree stand and FAS in 2009, also moved for and was granted summary judgment, giving rise to this appeal. As grounds for its decision, the trial court relied on the innocent-seller provision in the Mississippi Products Liability Act (MPLA), and found no evidence of active negligence by Sportsman's Guide. The Hintons argued in response: (1) Sportsman’s Guide waived its innocent-seller immunity affirmative defense; (2) a dispute of material fact existed over whether Sportsman's Guide was an innocent seller; or (3) alternatively, Mississippi’s innocent-seller provision should not control: instead the trial court should have followed Minnesota’s approach - the state where Sportsman’s Guide is located (under Minnesota’s law, innocent sellers may be liable when manufacturers are judgment proof, like C&S Global was here). Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hinton v. Sportsman's Guide, Inc." on Justia Law
Hinton v. Pekin Insurance Company
Timothy Hinton died from injuries sustained in a fall from a tree stand. At the time of his fall, Timothy was wearing a fall-arrest system which included a full-body harness, tether and tree strap. Timothy had purchased the tree stand and fall-arrest system from The Sportsman’s Guide, Inc. (“TSG”), in 2009. C&S Global Imports, Inc. (“C&S”) had manufactured the items and marketed them to TSG. Pekin Insurance Company insured C&S at the time of Timothy’s injury and death. After filing their third amended complaint, the Hintons filed a motion for partial summary judgment against Pekin, claiming Pekin waived its defenses to coverage or should have been estopped from asserting any coverage defenses. Among other arguments, the Hintons maintained that Pekin failed to defend C&S, did not file a declaratory-judgment action and allowed a default judgment against C&S. The circuit court denied the Hintons’ motion. Pekin then moved for summary judgment, arguing the insurance policy excluded coverage for tree or deer stands and related equipment. The circuit court granted Pekin’s motion and entered a final judgment dismissing Pekin from the suit. The Hintons appealed both of the circuit court’s rulings. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the order denying partial summary judgment to the Hintons, the order granting summary judgment to Pekin and the final judgment dismissing Pekin from the suit. View "Hinton v. Pekin Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Johnson & Johnson, Inc. v. Fortenberry
This products liability lawsuit centered on Risperdal. Louise Taylor began suffering psychotic episodes when she was seventy-one years old, in early 1998. From March 1998 to January 2001, Psychiatrist Richard Rhoden prescribed Risperdal to Taylor for the treatment of her recurrent psychotic manifestations. In February 2001, Taylor developed tardive dyskinesia, a syndrome of potentially irreversible, involuntary, dyskinetic movements in patients treated with antipsychotic drugs. In 2002, Taylor filed a complaint against Ortho-McNeil Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer, seller, and distributer of Risperdal, and its parent company Johnson & Johnson (collectively “Janssen”), claiming that Risperdal caused her to develop tardive dyskinesia. Taylor also named her treating physician, Dr. Richard Rhoden, as a defendant in her complaint. Taylor settled her claims against Dr. Rhoden prior to trial. The case went to trial oin 2014. The jury, in a nine to three decision, found that Taylor was harmed by Risperdal due to: (1) Janssen’s “failure to provide adequate warnings/instructions” and (2) Janssen’s “negligent marketing/misrepresentation.” The jury awarded Taylor $650,000 in actual economic damages and $1.3 million in noneconomic damages, for a total damages award of $1,950,000. On review, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that, as a matter of law, the Risperdal in question contained an adequate warning; the Court reversed and rendered the statutory inadequate warning judgment. Furthermore, the Court held that various errors in the jury instructions required reversal of the plaintiff’s verdict that sounded in negligent misrepresentation, and the Court reversed and remanded the negligent misrepresentation claim. View "Johnson & Johnson, Inc. v. Fortenberry" on Justia Law
Mary Meeks v. Hologic, Inc.
After all defendants to the original complaint filed responsive pleadings in Mary Meeks’s medical malpractice suit, Meeks obtained leave of court and filed a first amended complaint, adding as a defendant the manufacturer of a medical device, Hologic, Inc. A doctor performed an outpatient diagnostic hysteroscopy and an endometrial ablation on Meeks at the Northwest Regional Medical Center in Clarksdale using a Novasure medical device manufactured and sold by Hologic to treat Meeks’s menorrhagia. Meeks did not serve the first amended complaint on Hologic but instead filed a second amended complaint without leave of court or permission from all defendants. Hologic filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Meeks’s claims against Hologic were federally preempted and that Meeks’s claims additionally were barred by the statute of limitations. Because Meeks failed to obtain leave of court or permission from the defendants to file the second complaint, and because the first was never served on Hologic, the Supreme Court found that the statute of limitations had expired against Hologic and that the trial court properly granted Hologic’s motion to dismiss. View "Mary Meeks v. Hologic, Inc." on Justia Law
Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Jackson
Deborah Jackson sued Illinois Central Railroad Company under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) for the wrongful death of her husband, Charles. Jackson alleged that her husband’s death from lung cancer was caused by his exposure to asbestos while working for the railroad. After the close of discovery, Illinois Central filed a motion for summary judgment and a motion to strike Jackson’s expert, Michael Ellenbecker. Later, Illinois Central moved to strike improper evidence from Jackson’s response to the motion for summary judgment. When Jackson attempted to supplement Ellenbecker’s designation at the summary-judgment hearing, Illinois Central moved ore tenus to strike the supplementation. The Circuit Court denied all of Illinois Central’s motions. Illinois Central appealed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that Jackson’s expert designation of Ellenbecker was improper summary-judgment evidence because it was not sworn to upon personal knowledge and constituted inadmissible hearsay. Because the supplemental response was unsworn and never was filed, it also was improper. And, because Jackson could not show a genuine issue of material fact without Ellenbecker’s testimony, the Court reversed the denial of summary judgment and rendered judgment in favor of Illinois Central. View "Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Jackson" on Justia Law