Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Blaes v. Johnson & Johnson
Plaintiff filed a products liability action against defendants after his wife died of ovarian cancer. Plaintiff claimed that his wife's death was caused by her regular and prolonged use of talcum-based products. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the complaint without prejudice; the district court did not abuse its discretion by reasoning that it would be more efficient to add this case to another multi-plaintiff case with the same issues because the case would likely be tried at an earlier date in state court, and the dismissal would not prejudice defendants because plaintiff's case would be consolidated with a previously scheduled trial; the district court specifically addressed plaintiff's proposed reason for dismissing the action and implicitly rejected defendants' argument that plaintiff was forum shopping; defendants did not cite any support for their contention that a motion to dismiss should be denied only because defendants would be deprived of a federal forum; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by considering the information presented in plaintiff's reply brief. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the district court to analyze whether costs and fees should be assessed and the amount, if any. . View "Blaes v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law
Parks v. Ariens Co.
Timothy Parks died from asphyxiation after the Gravely Promaster 152Z riding mower he was operating on his property fell off the edge of an embankment and rolled over on top of him. Plaintiff, Timothy's wife, filed suit alleging that the manufacturer of the 152Z, Ariens, was negligent for failing to equip the machine with a rollover protection system (ROPS). The district court granted summary judgment against plaintiff. The optional equipment doctrine holds that a manufacturer is, under certain circumstances, not negligent if a purchaser fails to buy optional safety equipment that would have prevented the accident. Although the Iowa Supreme Court has not yet considered the optional equipment doctrine, policy reasons and the popularity of the optional equipment doctrine lead the court to conclude that the Iowa court would adopt it. Therefore, in this case, the court concluded that Ariens fulfilled any duty it had to Timothy when it provided the ROPS as an optional feature for the 152Z mower and ensured that he had the information necessary to make an informed choice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Parks v. Ariens Co." on Justia Law
Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc.
After plaintiffs' 23-month-old son, Jacob, drowned in a pond after climbing out of his crib and leaving their home in the middle of the night, plaintiffs filed a products liability and negligence suit against Dorel. Dorel denied that the doorknob cover it designed and manufactured was defective or unreasonably dangerous when used properly. The jury unanimously found Dorel was not liable for Jacob’s death and rendered a general verdict in Dorel’s favor. The court concluded that the district court did not err in admitting evidence that mother failed to secure the chain lock the night of Jacob’s death and father knew before that night that Jacob could defeat the doorknob cover. Even if the court accepted plaintiffs' alleged evidentiary errors for the purpose of argument, plaintiffs failed to establish how those errors prejudicially influenced the outcome of the trial. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Stults v. International Flavors
Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against numerous makers and distributors of microwave popcorn and butter flavoring. Plaintiff consumed microwave popcorn every day for approximately twenty years and alleged that defendants' products caused plaintiff's lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans. This appeal concerns one of the defendants, IFF. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that they are entitled to a new trial because the stricken testimony of one defendant's experts was prejudicial. In this case, plaintiff failed to object to the district court's curative instruction and they forfeited any error absent a showing of plain error - which they have not demonstrated. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion for an evidentiary hearing; the district court did not plainly err by admitting the rest of defendant's expert's testimony or by giving a prompt and thorough curative instruction concerning the stricken testimony; the court rejected plaintiff's claim that another expert's improper testimony requires a new trial where plaintiff's disagreement with the why the expert ruled out diacetyl as a cause of plaintiff's illness is far from grounds for a new trial; and the court rejected plaintiff's claim that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's claim for judgment as a matter of law where issues related to the breach of implied warranty claim are uncontested, and it was unnecessary for the jury to proceed to the question of affirmative defenses because the jury found in IFF’s favor on the breach-of-implied-warranty claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Stults v. International Flavors" on Justia Law
O’Neal v. Remington Arms Co., LLC
Remington manufactured O’Neal’s Model 700 .243 caliber bolt-action rifle in 1971, using the “Walker trigger.” As early as 1979, Remington knew that the Walker trigger can cause the rifles to fire a round when the safety lever is released to the fire position, without the trigger being pulled, because of the manner in which components of the trigger mechanism interact. Remington estimated that at least 20,000 rifles would inadvertently fire merely by releasing the safety, but decided against a recall. O'Neal, deer hunting with friends, loaned his Remington Model 700 to Ritter. The hunters were traveling in a pickup truck when they spotted a deer. After the pickup stopped, Ritter began to exit the truck and moved the safety lever on the rifle to the fire position without pulling the trigger. The rifle discharged. The cartridge traveled through the pickup seat and hit O’Neal, who eventually died from the gunshot. The gun had had three owners; it had been loaned out several times. In a suit by O’Neal’s widow, the court granted Remington summary judgment on grounds that O'Neal could not show whether the alleged defect existed at the time of manufacture or resulted from subsequent modification. The Eighth Circuit reversed: South Dakota law permits a plaintiff to prove a product defect through circumstantial evidence. O'Neal presented sufficient circumstantial evidence to show the alleged defect was present at the time of manufacture and did not result from an alteration. View "O'Neal v. Remington Arms Co., LLC" on Justia Law