Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Graham v. R.J Reynolds Tobacco
Federal tobacco laws do not preempt state tort claims based on the dangerousness of all the cigarettes manufactured by the tobacco companies. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the jury verdicts of negligence and strict liability in Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246 (Fla. 2006) (Engle III), and decertified the class to allow individual actions about the remaining issues. In this case, R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris challenged the jury verdict against them in one of the individual actions. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed its holding in Walker v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 734 F.3d 1278 (11th Cir. 2013), and concluded that giving full faith and credit to the Engle jury findings of negligence and strict liability does not deprive R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris of property without due process of law, and that federal law does not preempt the Engle jury findings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgments against R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. View "Graham v. R.J Reynolds Tobacco" on Justia Law
Bobo v. Tennessee Valley Authority
Barbara Bobo's husband, who worked for the TVA for more than 22 years, was diagnosed with asbestos-induced lung cancer and in 1997 died from a heart attack. Mrs. Bobo was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in 2011 and died from mesothelioma in 2013. Before her death, Mrs. Bobo filed suit claiming that the TVA's negligence resulted in her being exposed to "take-home" asbestos when she washed her husband's work clothes over the years. The district court entered judgment against the TVA. The court concluded that, assuming that the district court erred in considering the state court deposition testimony of Mr. Bobo to support its finding that he had been exposed to asbestos while employed by TVA, the error was harmless because there was plenty of other evidence proving the same fact; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony of plaintiff's expert; under Alabama law, TVA owed a duty to Mrs. Bobo to prevent take-home asbestos exposure and TVA violated that duty; the court rejected TVA's argument that the district court applied the wrong exposure standard, concluding that which standard applies does not matter because the evidence of exposure was enough to satisfy either tests at issue; and TVA is not shielded from liability under the discretionary function exception. The court affirmed as to these issues. The court vacated the award of damages, remanding to the district court for it to recalculate the damages award in order to exclude from it any amounts that were written off by Mrs. Bobo's providers and to correct any other errors that may appear to the court when the parties have a chance to focus exclusively on the medical expenses component of the damages award. View "Bobo v. Tennessee Valley Authority" on Justia Law
Christiansen v. Wright Medical Technology Inc.
This case concerned the first of over 500 cases regarding the Wright Medical Conserve "metal-on-metal" hip replacement device designed and manufactured by defendant. Plaintiff filed a products liability suit alleging, among other things, that defendant was liable for design defect based on strict liability and negligence. On appeal, defendant challenged the entry of a $2,100,000 judgment. The court rejected defendant's argument that the district court erred in ordering the jury to continue deliberations after the jury had already begun to deliver its verdict. In this case, upon recognizing the inconsistency in the jury verdict, the district court immediately halted publication of the verdict and instructed the jury that an error had been made; the district court acted in a neutral and non-biased manner in acknowledging and addressing the inconsistent verdict; and the district court also recharged the jury. The court also rejected defendant's argument that the district court erred in its instructions on Utah's products liability law with regard to the unavoidably unsafe product defense in Comment k of Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. The court explained that any categorical bar to liability for an unavoidably unsafe product was not available to defendant and thus the district court did not err in failing to give such an instruction to the jury. Furthermore, any error by the district court in instructing the jury on the unavoidably unsafe defense did not affect the result in this case because the jury found that defendant had not proven the defense. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court's error was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Christiansen v. Wright Medical Technology Inc." on Justia Law
Brown v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc.
Plaintiffs, consumers from California and Texas, filed class actions against Electrolux, the manufacturer of front-loading washing machines, alleging warranty and consumer claims. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that the rubber seal on the front door of the machines retains water, allowing mildew to grow, causing stains on clothing, and creating a foul odor. The court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in assessing predominance and therefore vacated the class certification. On remand, the district court should revisit Electrolux's argument that the consumer claims do not satisfy predominance because plaintiffs cannot prove causation on a classwide basis, and the district court abused its discretion by certifying the warranty claims without first resolving preliminary questions of state law that bear on predominance. The court further concluded that plaintiffs' damages do not necessarily defeat predominance, and Electrolux's defense of misuse does not necessarily defeat predominance. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Brown v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc." on Justia Law
Seamon v. Remington Arms Co.
Plaintiff filed a product liability suit against Remington after her husband, Kenneth Seamon, died from a gunshot wound while deer hunting alone. Plaintiff alleged that Mr. Seamon died as a result of a defect in his Remington Model 700 bolt action rifle. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's exclusion of the causation opinion of plaintiff's liability expert and the district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment. In this case, the expert provided a reasonable explanation for why the defense's proposed alternative cause - trigger pull - was not in fact the cause of Mr. Seamon's death. In holding that the expert's opinion was based on speculation, rather than facts in the record, the court concluded that the district court also mischaracterized the evidentiary support for the expert’s opinion in several ways. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment regarding the motion to exclude, and consequently the motion for summary judgment, remanding for further proceedings. View "Seamon v. Remington Arms Co." on Justia Law