Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Shane Boda v. Viant Crane Service, LLC
While working his construction job, Plaintiff was severely injured when a crane cable snapped and dropped its payload onto him. Plaintiff sued Viant Crane Service, LLC and Viant Crane, LLC (together “Viant”), arguing that their crane was defective. The district court granted summary judgment to Viant. On appeal, Plaintiff argues that an A2B doesn’t simply fall off a crane without some sort of defect. Viant, on the other hand, argues that there are alternative explanations for the A2B falling off—chiefly, employees mishandling the crane. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The court explained that because Plaintiff doesn’t have any direct evidence that the crane was defective, he relies on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, “the thing speaks for itself.” The court wrote that applying that rule, the district court held that res ipsa loquitur doesn’t apply to Plaintiff’s claim because the crane was outside of Viant’s control for several days, creating a possibility of mishandling by employees. Plaintiff argues that the district court’s evidentiary burden was too strict and that the court should follow Daleiden v. Carborundum Co., 438 F.2d 1017 (8th Cir. 1971). The court wrote that, in contrast to Daleiden, Plaintiff’s evidence fails to reasonably eliminate other plausible causes of the A2B malfunctioning, such as mismanagement by those handling the tank. View "Shane Boda v. Viant Crane Service, LLC" on Justia Law
Jonathan Edwards v. Skylift, Inc.
After Plaintiff was injured by a machine that Skylift, Inc., manufactured and sold, he sued Skylift claiming that the machine was defective and unreasonably dangerous and that Skylift negligently designed it. The district court rejected these claims and granted summary judgment to Skylift. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling granting summary judgment to Skylift. The court held that the product was not unreasonably dangerous, i.e., "dangerous to an extent beyond that which" was actually contemplated by the machine's users. The court explained that Plaintiff does little to confront this glaring deficiency in his claim, focusing instead on the feasibility of adding certain features to the machine that he says would have prevented the accident. Further, the court explained that Arkansas recognizes that a plaintiff may assert both strict liability and negligence claims in a product-liability action. Here, Plaintiff does not convincingly argue that the machine fell short of contemporary industry standards; in fact, Plaintiff’s expert may well have admitted they satisfied those standards. In sum, the court found nothing that calls into question the lower court’s determinations that the machine was not unreasonably dangerous under Arkansas law or that Skylift did not negligently design it. View "Jonathan Edwards v. Skylift, Inc." on Justia Law
Bader Farms, Inc. v. BASF Corporation
Monsanto Company and BASF Corporation began developing dicamba-tolerant seed and sued each other over intellectual property. When the USDA deregulated Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant soybean seed that year, Monsanto began to sell it. BASF’s lower-volatility dicamba herbicide was approved in 2017. Bader Farms, Inc. sued Monsanto and BASF for negligent design and failure to warn, alleging its peach orchards were damaged by dicamba drift. The jury awarded compensatory damages and punitive damages based on Monsanto’s acts. The district court denied Defendants’ motions for a new trial and judgment as a matter of law but reduced punitive damages to $60 million. The district court’s judgment also held Monsanto and BASF jointly and severally liable for the punitive damages. Defendants appealed, arguing that Bader failed to prove causation, the measure of actual damages is the value of the land rather than lost profits, Bader’s lost profits estimate was speculative, and the punitive damages award was unwarranted under Missouri law and excessive under the United States Constitution. The Eighth Circuit held that Bader established causation by showing Defendants' conduct was both the cause in fact and the proximate cause of Bader's injury. Further, the district court properly refused to find intervening cause as a matter of law or to give an affirmative converse on the issue. However, the evidence established different degrees of culpability between BASF and Monsanto, and the district court should have instructed the jury to separately assess punitive damages against each of them; therefore, the court remanded with directions to hold a new trial only on the issue of punitive damages. View "Bader Farms, Inc. v. BASF Corporation" on Justia Law
Stewart v. Norcold, Inc.
The Stewarts purchased an RV in 2013 from Spitler, who financed their purchase through a bank loan. The RV was equipped with a refrigerator manufactured by Norcold. In 2016, the RV was destroyed in a fire that the Stewarts alleged was caused by the Norcold refrigerator. The Stewarts brought product liability claims against Norcold seeking damages including the market value of the RV, emergency expenses, the value of the lost personal property, and the payoff of the loan balance on the RV.During a summary judgment motion hearing, the Stewarts affirmed that the amount of the loan constituted “the alleged damages that are the subject of this lawsuit,” stating, “we are not seeking recovery of the damage to the RV.” The district court’s order granting Norcold summary judgment stated that “the only claim that remains … is for the loan payoff amount of $43,201.85.”On appeal, the Stewarts asserted that they “retained a damage claim against [Norcold]” for $106,885, which includes damages for the market value of the RV, emergency expenses, and the value of their personal property. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The Stewarts waived any challenge to the district court’s determination that the loan payoff amount was the only damage claim at issue. View "Stewart v. Norcold, Inc." on Justia Law
Floyd County Mutual Insurance Ass’n v. CNH Industrial America LLC
After a tractor manufactured by CNH caught fire, Floyd filed suit against CNH in federal court under a theory of product liability, claiming that its insureds owned the tractor and other property on the tractor, both of which were damaged in the fire, and that Floyd was subrogated to its insureds' claims against CNH because Floyd had paid its insureds' claim for the damage. The district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and concluded that section 1332's amount-in-controversy requirement was not satisfied in this case. The court concluded that the Iowa Supreme Court would hold that the economic-loss doctrine permits recovery only for the other property and not for the product itself. Accordingly, the Iowa Supreme Court would bar recovery in tort for damage that a defective product causes to itself, even if the plaintiff also seeks recovery for damage to other property. Here, Floyd's recovery is limited as a matter of law to the alleged $22,787.81 in damage to property other than the tractor. The court denied the motion to certify a question of law to the Iowa Supreme Court and upheld the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Floyd County Mutual Insurance Ass'n v. CNH Industrial America LLC" on Justia Law
Gareis v. 3M Company
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in plaintiffs' case, which is part of the Bair Hugger multidistrict litigation (MDL). The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding (1) evidence of 3M's knowledge of the risks and utility of the Bair Hugger and (2) evidence of reasonable alternative designs to the Bair Hugger besides the TableGard. Furthermore, even assuming the risk-utility and reasonable-alternative design evidence was erroneously excluded, plaintiffs failed to show that they suffered prejudice from the exclusion of the evidence. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by allowing 3M's expert to testify about operating-room airflow. Even if the admission of the testimony was erroneous, there was no basis to reverse the jury's verdict on this ground. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to 3M on plaintiffs' failure-to-warn claim asserted under both negligence and strict-liability theories. The court explained that, even if the district court erred, the error was harmless. View "Gareis v. 3M Company" on Justia Law
Forrest v. Polaris Industries, Inc.
Plaintiffs, 14 purchasers of off-road vehicles, filed a putative class action against Polaris alleging that a design defect caused the vehicles, all of which contain "ProStar" engines, to produce excessive heat. Plaintiffs claim that the heat degrades vehicle parts, reduces service life, and creates a risk of catastrophic fires. 7 of the 14 plaintiffs experienced fires which destroyed their vehicles.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Polaris's motion to dismiss the claims of the "no-fire" purchasers, because they failed to allege an injury in fact as required to establish an Article III case or controversy. The court concluded that the district court correctly applied circuit precedent in determining that the no-fire purchasers failed to allege an injury sufficient to confer standing. View "Forrest v. Polaris Industries, Inc." on Justia Law
Amador v. 3M Company
In December 2015, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation created and centralized the In re Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Devices Products Liability Litigation (MDL) in the District of Minnesota for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Plaintiffs in the MDL brought claims against 3M alleging that they contracted periprosthetic joint infections (PJIs) due to the use of 3M's Bair Hugger, a convective (or forced-air ) patient-warming device, during their orthopedic-implant surgeries. The MDL court excluded plaintiffs' general-causation medical experts as well as one of their engineering experts, and it then granted 3M summary judgment as to all of plaintiffs' claims, subsequently entering an MDL-wide final judgment.The Eighth Circuit reversed in full the exclusion of plaintiffs' general-causation medical experts and reversed in part the exclusion of their engineering expert; reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of 3M; affirmed the discovery order that plaintiffs challenged; affirmed the MDL court's decision to seal the filings plaintiffs seek to have unsealed; and denied plaintiffs' motion to unseal those same filings on the court's own docket. View "Amador v. 3M Company" on Justia Law
Axline v. 3M Company
Plaintiff, whose case is part of the Bair Hugger multidistrict litigation (MDL) against 3M, appeals the district court's orders deciding that Ohio substantive law applies in her case and denying her motion for leave to amend her complaint. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that, after consideration of the eleven factors that may be considered in an Ohio choice-of-law analysis, the district court did not err in deciding that Ohio substantive law governed this case. In this case, plaintiff has not rebutted the presumption that the substantive law of Ohio, the state where she was injured, governs this products liability case. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the complaint where plaintiff failed to comply with local rules. View "Axline v. 3M Company" on Justia Law
McMahon v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp.
After plaintiff suffered injuries to his right hand while using a RotoZip Model RZ20 hand-held spiral saw, he filed suit against Bosch, the manufacturer, and Lowe's, the retailer, alleging strict liability and negligence products liability theories. Plaintiff alleged that he was injured when the saw’s auxiliary handle spontaneously detached from the saw's body.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' joint motion to bar the opinions of plaintiff's expert regarding the saw's alleged design defects and the saw's failure to have an interlocking device safety measure. The court concluded that the expert's proposed opinion lacked relevance as it did not fit the facts of this case. The court explained that plaintiff did not meaningfully argue in his brief his claim that the saw was defective for not having an interlocking safety measure and thus waived his claim. Furthermore, even if the issue was not waived, the district court did not err in concluding the expert's testimony on alternative-design options was not reliable and should not be admitted.The court also affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' joint motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims of strict products liability, negligent design, negligent failure to warn, and negligent supply of a dangerous instrumentality. In this case, the district court concluded that the claims involved such complex or technical information that they required expert testimony. Therefore, the exclusion of plaintiff's expert was fatal to his claims. View "McMahon v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp." on Justia Law