Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Plaintiff woke up in an Illinois motel room without any feeling in his arms; he was later diagnosed in Missouri with bilateral shoulder impingement syndrome. Four years later, Plaintiff and his wife filed an action against Cottrell, Inc., the manufacturer of the ratchet system that allegedly caused Plaintiff’s injury. In granting Cottrell’s motion for summary judgment, the district court found that Illinois’s two-year statute of limitations applied to Plaintiff’s cause of action instead of Missouri’s five-year statute of limitations, thus barring Plaintiff’s and his wife’s claims. Plaintiff and his wife appealed, arguing that the district court erred in not applying Missouri’s statute of limitations. At issue is when—or where in this context—the statute of limitations began to run on Plaintiff’s cause of action, which depends upon the proper interpretation and application of Missouri’s borrowing statute.   The Eighth Circuit reversed, concluding that the matter is a fact question for the jury to decide. The court explained that it must determine whether the “evidence was such to place a reasonably prudent person on notice of a potentially actionable injury” in Illinois, where Plaintiff woke up to complete numbness in his arms. The court reasoned that on the three facts the district court contemplated the court cannot say as a matter of law that a reasonable person in Plaintiff’s position would have been on notice of a potentially actionable injury in Illinois. View "Gregory Burdess v. Cottrell, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was severely injured in a crash while he was driving a Peterbilt semi-truck. He sued the truck’s manufacturer, PACCAR, Inc. (PACCAR), alleging that the truck’s defective design caused his injuries. A jury returned a verdict in PACCAR’s favor. His estate appeals, arguing that the district court committed several evidentiary errors at trial.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held, 1.) Plaintiff's expert's second report was untimely under the discovery orders in the case, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding it; 2.) the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that plaintiff had failed to show the good cause required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4) to modify the scheduling order after the court declared a mistrial; 3.) Plaintiff failed to preserve his challenge to Defendant's "state-of-the-art" defense.Applying plain error review to Plaintiff's challenge to Defendant's "state-of-the-art" defense, the court held the district court did not plainly err in admitting the testimony as the witnesses were testifying based on their extensive industry experience, and noted that Iowa law permits industry custom as evidence of the state of the art. View "Elizabeth Zick v. Paccar, Inc." on Justia Law

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This product liability case arises out of the multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) proceedings regarding Biomet’s M2a Magnum hip-replacement device. After experiencing complications from a hip replacement surgery using the M2a Magnum, Plaintiff sued Biomet, Inc., Biomet Orthopedics, LLC, Biomet Manufacturing LLC, and Biomet U.S. Reconstruction, LLC (collectively, “Biomet”), alleging multiple claims, including defective design. A jury ultimately found in Plaintiff’s favor, concluding the M2a Magnum was defectively designed. The jury also awarded Plaintiff punitive damages. Biomet moved for a new trial and renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law, but the district court denied these motions.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court’s summary judgment ruling concluded the M2a Magnum’s warnings and instructions were legally sufficient in the context of Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim. This ruling has no bearing on whether the M2a Magnum’s warnings and instructions prove an alternative design was unreasonable or would not have prevented the foreseeable risks it posed. Further, at trial, Plaintiff introduced evidence suggesting Biomet should have tested the M2a Magnum device before introducing it to the market but failed to do so. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, a reasonable jury could have found in favor of Plaintiff on the issue of punitive damages. Thus, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, the district court did not err in denying Biomet’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on punitive damages View "Lori Nicholson v. Biomet, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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