Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Smith v. Toyota Motor Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against Toyota in strict products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty for injuries she sustained in a single-vehicle roll over accident. Plaintiff alleged that her 1997 Toyota 4Runner was unreasonably prone to roll over and that its seatbelt system failed to restrain her during the accident.Given plaintiff's concession that there was no evidence relating to the design of the seatbelt and that her claims instead centered on FMVSS 209, the Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err in determining that she had abandoned her claim for strict liability. The court declined to reach plaintiff's evidentiary arguments because she failed to preserve them. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Smith v. Toyota Motor Corp." on Justia Law
Green Plains Otter Tail, LLC v. Pro-Environmental, Inc.
Green Plains, owner and operator of an ethanol production facility, filed suit against PEI for negligence and products liability, alleging defective design and failure to adequately instruct and warn users. The district court granted summary judgment to PEI.The Eighth Circuit held that reasonable minds could differ about whether the regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) was defective, and thus Green Plains submitted sufficient evidence of a defective design to survive summary judgment. Furthermore, reasonable minds could disagree as to whether PEI could foresee that a company would view the "suggested" maintenance as mandatory, or would ignore it due to the effort required. Therefore, under Minnesota law, the court held that PEI was not entitled to summary judgment on proximate cause. Finally, the court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on the failure-to-warn claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Green Plains Otter Tail, LLC v. Pro-Environmental, Inc." on Justia Law
Farkas v. Addition Manufacturing Technologies, LLC
After plaintiff's fingers were severely injured by a machine that uses a hydraulic clamp to crimp metal tubes, he filed suit against Addition, the machine designer's successor. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Addition, holding that plaintiff failed to provide facts showing that the machine was inherently dangerous or improperly guarded at the time it entered the stream of commerce. Therefore, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish a material issue of fact as to his strict liability claims.In regard to his products liability claims, the court held that plaintiff failed to offer evidence that the danger of a tube forming machine to the user's hand was anything but "open, obvious, and apparent." Therefore, the defect was not latent under Missouri case law, and thus not a material issue of fact regarding his negligence claim. View "Farkas v. Addition Manufacturing Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law
Ellingsworth v. Vermeer Manufacturing Co.
Plaintiff filed suit against Vermeer in Missouri state court, alleging that he was injured while operating a Vermeer wood chipper. After Vermeer successfully removed to federal court, the district court denied plaintiff's motions to remand and for leave to amend, granting summary judgment to Vermeer.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not improperly remove the case where plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the only nondiverse party that was in the case at the time. Furthermore, even if the district court did not err, plaintiff could not get the relief he sought in light of Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 64 (1996). The court also held that plaintiff failed to sufficiently establish good cause and the district court was well within its discretion to deny the motion for leave to amend his complaint to add a claim of agency liability against Vermeer. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on the products liability and failure to warn claims. In this case, the record clearly established that Vermeer did not manufacture the winch attachment that injured plaintiff. View "Ellingsworth v. Vermeer Manufacturing Co." on Justia Law
Glick v. Western Power Sports, Inc.
After plaintiff was injured when a neck brace allegedly caused or failed to protect him from serious bodily injury, he filed suit against the makers and sellers of the neck brace. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders granting defendants' motions to dismiss. The district court correctly noted that, even though entry of default was proper where a party fails to respond in a timely manner, a court must not enter default without first determining whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action. In this case, all but one of the allegations in the amended complaint constitute mere legal conclusions and recitations of the elements of the causes of action.The court agreed with the district court that where, as here, there are so few facts alleged in the complaint, the court need not address each individual claim to make a sufficiency determination on a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Accordingly, because the amended complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that was plausible on its face, the district court did not err in granting defendants' motion to dismiss. View "Glick v. Western Power Sports, Inc." on Justia Law
Merfeld v. Dometic Corp.
Plaintiffs filed suit against Dometic, alleging that the fire that extensively damaged a storage building and personal property owned by plaintiffs was caused by a defective Dometic refrigerator installed in their RV. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Dometic, holding that Dometic was immune from liability under Iowa Code 613.18 because it sold, but did not manufacture, design, or assemble the refrigerator. The court held that any design input by Dometic was not related in any way to the boiler tubes, or that Dometic had any role in designing the boiler tubes. View "Merfeld v. Dometic Corp." on Justia Law
Klingenberg v. Vulcan Ladder USA, LLC
After plaintiff suffered serious injuries from falling off a Vulcan ladder, he and his wife filed suit against Vulcan and GP. The jury rejected plaintiffs' design defect claim, but found that defendants breached an express warranty. The jury awarded plaintiff damages and the district court denied defendants' post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law and, in the alternative, a new trial.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that plaintiff's expert was qualified and his testimony was properly admitted under Federal Rule of Evidence 702; the expert provided a sufficient case-specific basis to support his opinion and he did not simply speculate on causation after a great deal of prodding; GP waived its statute of limitations defense; and the evidence was sufficient to support the jury verdict on the breach of contract claim; defendants waived their remaining arguments; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendants' motion for a new trial. View "Klingenberg v. Vulcan Ladder USA, LLC" on Justia Law
Wurster v. The Plastics Group
After James Wurster suffered fatal burns when a gas can manufactured by TPG exploded as he was burning garbage on this farm, his wife filed suit against TPG. The jury rendered a take-nothing verdict under Iowa's comparative fault scheme and found TPG forty-five percent at fault for Mr. Wurster's death due to its failure to provide adequate warnings on the gas can and apportioning the balance of the fault to Mr. Wurster.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that plaintiff's design defect claim was sufficiently presented to the jury; the district court did not err by instructing the jury on reasonable alternative design; and there was no prejudicial error in giving the assumption of risk instruction. The court also held that the district court did not err by granting judgment as a matter of law to TPG on the post-sale failure to warn claim because plaintiff presented insufficient evidence to show TPG had a post-sale duty to warn consumers of the danger posed by its W520 gas cans. View "Wurster v. The Plastics Group" on Justia Law
Vallejo v. Amgen, Inc.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order limiting the scope of plaintiff's general causation phase discovery in this products liability suit alleging that plaintiff's husband's use of Enbrel caused his myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) which resulted in his death. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the scope of plaintiff's general causation discovery; the district court's basis for weighing proportionality was based on common sense and the search conducted by plaintiff's counsel during the discovery hearing; the district court did not rely on misrepresented facts by Amgen in issuing its discovery orders; any error in failing to provide plaintiff an opportunity to cross-examine Amgen's expert was harmless; the district court was under no obligation to order Amgen to provide plaintiff with materials the FDA requests—but does not require—from pharmaceutical companies when the agency evaluates safety risks; and plaintiff's assertion that the district court's order limiting the scope of her discovery prejudiced her case was rejected.The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing sanctions under Rule 11 and by imposing sanctions under 28 U.S.C. 1927. Finally, the district court properly exercised its inherent power to sanction plaintiff's counsel, and here was no abuse of discretion View "Vallejo v. Amgen, Inc." on Justia Law
BNSF Railway Co. v. Seats, Inc.
Plaintiff filed the underlying action against BNSF after he was injured when the backrest of his locomotive seat broke, and alleged that the seat did not comply with the federal standards in the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA). BNSF settled a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) claim with plaintiff.BNSF then filed suit against Seats to recover the costs of settlement. The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that the district court erred in determining that the LIA preempted BNSF's claims for products liability and breach of contract. Because the district court did not address defendant's other grounds for dismissal of the two claims, the court remanded for further proceedings on those alternative arguments. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. Seats, Inc." on Justia Law