Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Crouch v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc.
Crouch was piloting his Piper Lance II single-engine airplane with Hudson as passenger. After losing engine power at an altitude of 5000 feet, and finding it impossible to reach an airport, Crouch made a forced landing in a field near Bardstown. The plane’s engine was manufactured in 1978 and overhauled in 2005, with installation of a rebuilt magneto that allegedly detached, causing the crash. Both occupants survived but suffered serious permanent injuries, including paraplegia. The district court dismissed, on summary judgment, their allegations that the aircraft engine manufacturer was liable for negligently failing to warn airplane owners and operators, and failing to notify regulatory authorities, of defects in the engine and its components, finding that the allegations failed to make out a claim in avoidance of the applicable period of repose under the General Aviation Revitalization Act, 49 U.S.C. 40101. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs did not show or even allege that a revised overhaul manual contained a substantive alteration that caused harm and the evidence did not support a theory that defendants withheld information. View "Crouch v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law
Fulgenzi v. PLIVA, Inc.
Fulgenzi was prescribed the generic drug metoclopramide (FDA approved in 1980), sold originally under the brand name Reglan, a drug approved for short-term treatment of patients suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease. In her suit, claiming failure to adequately warn of risks, she alleged that taking the drug caused her to develop tardive dyskinesia, an often-irreversible neurological disorder that causes involuntary movements, especially of the lower face. In 2009, the Supreme Court held that with respect to branded drug manufacturers, state failure-to-warn suits were not preempted by the federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act , 21 U.S.C. 301. In 2011 the Court held that such suits could not go forward against generic drug manufacturers, as it is impossible to comply simultaneously with their state duty to adequately warn and their federal duty of sameness (federal law requires generic drug labels to be the same as their branded counterpart). The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed, noting that after the branded-drug manufacturer of metoclopramide strengthened warnings on its label, the generic manufacturer failed to update its label as required by federal law, rendering compliance with both federal and state duties no longer impossible. View "Fulgenzi v. PLIVA, Inc." on Justia Law
Marsh v. Genetech Inc.
Genentech manufactured and sold the psoriasis medication Raptiva, approved by the FDA in 2003. Raptiva works by suppressing T-cells ; because T-cells help fight infections, suppression has the potential to cause potentially life-threatening side effects. Following reports of adverse health effects, including a rare brain infection, Genentech voluntarily removed Raptiva from the market in 2009. Marsh began using Raptiva in 2004 and subsequently suffered viral meningitis and a collapsed lung. She sued in 2011, alleging strict products liability under design-defect and failure-to-warn theories, negligence, breach of warranty, and fraud. She claimed that, before and after FDA approval, Genentech knew of dangerous side effects that it concealed and did not include in the drug’s label. The district court dismissed, holding that Genentech was immune from suit because neither statutory exception to immunity for drug manufacturers applied. Marsh argued that immunity does not apply because failure to submit updated information rendered Raptiva noncompliant with FDA approval when it left Genentech’s control and that her claim was not preempted because it was premised on non-compliance rather than fraud or bribery. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Allegations underlying Marsh’s argument that immunity does not apply are essentially the type of claim that is preempted.View "Marsh v. Genetech Inc." on Justia Law
Glazer v. Whirlpool Corp.
The named plaintiffs are Ohio residents who purchased front-loading washing machines manufactured by defendant. Within months after their purchases, the plaintiffs noticed the smell of mold or mildew emanating from the machines and from laundry washed in the machines. One plaintiff found mold growing on the sides of the detergent dispenser, another saw mold growing on the rubber door seal, despite allowing the machine doors to stand open. They filed suit, alleging tortious breach of warranty, negligent design, and negligent failure to warn. The district court certified a class comprised of Ohio residents who purchased one of the specified machines in Ohio primarily for personal, family, or household purposes and not for resale (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b)(3)). The Sixth Circuit affirmed class certification, with proof of damages reserved for individual determination. Plaintiffs’ proof established numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequate representation. Common questions predominate over individual ones and class action is a superior method to adjudicate the claims.View "Glazer v. Whirlpool Corp." on Justia Law
Newell Rubbermaid, Inc. v. Raymond Corp.
While working for plaintiff, Hashman was standing in the open compartment, driving a forklift manufactured by Raymond when she either fell or stepped from the open side of the compartment. Her foot was trapped. She suffered severe injuries resulting in partial amputation. After settling Hashman's workers' compensation claim, plaintiff sought subrogation from Raymond, claiming that a design defect, failure to include a rear guard door on the forklift, caused the injuries. The district court granted summary judgment for Raymond, finding that plaintiff could not sustain a design defect claim without expert testimony and that the methods of its proposed expert were not sufficiently reliable to support the proffered opinions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. There were at least four problems with the expert's methodology: anecdotal evidence, improper extrapolation, failure to consider other possible causes, and lack of testing. Although plaintiff could argue a "consumer expectations" theory without expert testimony, there was insufficient evidence to support the claim. View "Newell Rubbermaid, Inc. v. Raymond Corp." on Justia Law
Moeller v. Garlock Sealing Techs., LLC
Plaintiff, a pipefitter, worked with asbestos-containing gaskets made by defendant from 1962 until 1970. From 1962 until 1975, he also sustained significant exposure to asbestos insulation. He died in 2008, of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung. Before his death, plaintiff sued under theories including strict liability and negligence. Defendant does not dispute that asbestos-containing products likely caused the mesothelioma, but argues that the mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos insulation, and that its own gaskets were not a substantial factor. A jury awarded plaintiff $516,094. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Given that plaintiff failed to quantify the exposure to asbestos from defendant's gaskets and concedes that plaintiff sustained massive exposure to asbestos from non-defendant sources, there was insufficient evidence to infer that defendant's gaskets probably, as opposed to possibly, were a substantial cause of plaintiff's mesothelioma. View "Moeller v. Garlock Sealing Techs., LLC" on Justia Law
Morris v. Wyeth, Inc.
Plaintiffs developed tardive dyskinesia as a result of use of generic metoclopramide, a drug prescribed for treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease. They filed individual suits against manufacturers, alleging failure include adequate information on product labels concerning the risks of taking the drug long-term. They also named as parties manufacturers of the name-brand form of metoclopramide, alleging fraud and tortious misrepresentation. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' tort claims against the generic defendants on preemption grounds, finding conflict with federal regulation of generic drugs. The court also dismissed claims against name-brand defendants for failure to allege that they had ingested Reglan, a threshold requirement for a products-liability action under Kentucky law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that name-brand manufacturers have no duty to individuals who have never taken the drug they manufacture. View "Morris v. Wyeth, Inc." on Justia Law