Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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The case involves four plaintiffs who took docetaxel, a chemotherapy drug, as part of their treatment for early-stage breast cancer and subsequently suffered permanent chemotherapy-induced alopecia (PCIA). The plaintiffs allege that the manufacturers of the drug, Hospira, Inc., Hospira Worldwide, LLC, and Accord Healthcare, Inc., violated state law by failing to warn them that docetaxel could cause PCIA.The case was initially heard in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, where the defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiffs' state law failure-to-warn claims were preempted by federal law. The district court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit was tasked with determining whether federal law preempts the plaintiffs' state law failure-to-warn claims against the defendant drug manufacturers. The court found that the district court had erred in its interpretation of what constitutes "newly acquired information" under the changes-being-effected (CBE) regulation, which allows manufacturers to file a supplemental application with the FDA and simultaneously implement a labeling change before obtaining FDA approval. The court held that the district court failed to enforce the requirement that newly acquired information must "reveal risks of a different type or greater severity or frequency than previously included in submissions to FDA."The court vacated the district court's judgment on the plaintiffs' failure-to-warn claims and remanded the case for further consideration of one outstanding issue: whether the Bertrand Abstract, a scientific study, constituted "newly acquired information" that revealed a greater risk of PCIA than previously known. If the Bertrand Abstract does not meet this standard, the court held that the defendants would not be liable to the plaintiffs on their state law failure-to-warn claims. View "Hickey v. Hospira" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a verdict from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The plaintiffs, C. Sidney Johnston and Danette Johnston, had sued Ferrellgas, Incorporated after Mr. Johnston was injured using a propane tank manufactured by Ferrellgas. A jury had found Ferrellgas liable for a manufacturing defect and negligence and awarded the Johnstons $7 million, which the district court reduced to $1.7 million. On appeal, Ferrellgas contended that the district court erred in denying its motion for judgment as a matter of law because there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict.The Court of Appeals agreed with Ferrellgas. The Court found that there was no substantial evidence to support the jury's finding that the tank was defective when it left Ferrellgas's possession, a crucial element of a manufacturing defect claim. The Court also found that the negligence claim must fail, as it was dependent on the tank having a manufacturing defect.The Court therefore reversed the district court's denial of Ferrellgas's motion for judgment as a matter of law on both the manufacturing defect and negligence claims, and rendered judgment for Ferrellgas. View "Johnston v. Ferrellgas" on Justia Law

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In this diversity case, Plaintiff sued Biomet Inc. and Zimmer, Inc. (collectively, “Biomet”) under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (“LPLA”). The district court found Plaintiff’s claims were prescribed and granted summary judgment in favor of Biomet.   The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s summary judgment order and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, including any additional discovery the district court may order. The court explained that given Plaintiff’s consultations with his doctor, a medical professional. But on the other hand, a jury could just as reasonably determine that contra non valentem tolled prescription until some point in time before September 2019. It is unclear whether Plaintiff stopped suffering complications from infections after the removal, such that his recovery after the device’s removal would have put him on notice of any fault of Biomet’s before the letter was received. As the record stands, when the prescriptive period expired, and whether contra non valentum applies, is a question best left for the jury. View "Bruno v. Biomet" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence following his guilty-plea conviction of felon in possession of a firearm. He argued that the district court erred in enhancing his sentence under U.S.S.G. Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B), which applies only when a defendant’s firearm “had an altered or obliterated serial number,” because there is no evidence that his rifle ever had a serial number.   The Fifth Circuit agreed and vacated Defendant’s sentence and remanded. The court explained that it agreed that Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B) does not apply when there is no evidence that the firearm ever had a serial number. The text of Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B) is clear that it only applies when the firearm “had an altered or obliterated serial number.” U.S.S.G. Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B). And in ordinary parlance, something cannot be “altered or obliterated” if it never existed in the first place. Consequently, to apply an upward enhancement under the provision, the government must present evidence showing that Defendant’s rifle once had a serial number. Because there was no such evidence, the court held that the district court erred in applying a four-level enhancement under Section 2K2.1(b)(4)(B). View "USA v. Sharp" on Justia Law

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Fourteen women (“Plaintiffs”) from seven states brought the present putative class action against Ashley Black and her companies (“Defendants”), alleging false and deceptive marketing practices. They take issue with various representations in Defendants’ ads about a product called the FasciaBlaster, a two-foot stick with hard prongs that is registered with the Food and Drug Administration as a massager. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims in their entirety.  Plaintiffs appealed the order striking the class allegations and the dismissal of individual claims.   The Fifth Circuit found that the district court correctly struck Plaintiffs’ class allegations and properly dismissed all but two of their claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to the district court. The court explained that it agreed with the district court that Plaintiffs’ allegations suffer from a combination of defects, including a failure to plead adequately what representations were actually made when those representations were made, who made the representations, and where those representations occurred.   However, the court reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ breach of express warranty under, respectively, California Consumer Code Sections 2313 & 10210, and Florida Statutes Sections 672.313 & 680.21. The court wrote that the district court did not apply the law of a specific jurisdiction when conducting its analysis. Plaintiffs on appeal cite various Fifth Circuit cases in addition to Texas and California state law precedents. Defendants proffer Fifth Circuit, California, and Florida precedents. Neither party, however, briefed what law should be applied to each claim. View "Elson v. Black" on Justia Law

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In June 2011, a fifteen-year-old shot his brother, an eleven-year-old, with a Remington Model 700 rifle equipped with an X-Mark Pro trigger. The boy and his parents (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) sued Remington, the retailer that sold the rifle, and Remington’s predecessors in interest (collectively, “Defendants”) in Mississippi state court. Plaintiffs emphasized that Remington had in April 2014 recalled all Model 700 rifles with X-Mark Pro triggers because the rifles “can and will spontaneously fire without pulling the trigger.” They brought state-law claims for product liability, failure to warn, negligence, and gross negligence.   Defendants moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). In their response to that motion, Plaintiffs asked to file a federal-court complaint to allege additional facts related to the statute of limitations. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court’s subject-matter jurisdiction was based on diversity of citizenship. The court, therefore, applied “federal procedural and evidentiary rules and the substantive laws of the forum state.” Mississippi has a general three-year statute of limitations. For “non-latent injuries” like the one alleged here, the cause of action accrues on the date of the injury. But Plaintiffs, who filed suit in March 2018, argue that the statute of limitations was tolled by Defendants’ fraudulent concealment. The district court rejected that argument. The Fifth Circuit agreed, finding that Plaintiffs failed to meet Rule 9(b)’s requirements. View "Stringer, et al v. Remington Arms, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Defendants, C.R. Bard, Inc. and Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc. (“Bard”), due to complications Plaintiff experienced after implantation of a filter used as a medical device. The Plaintiffs now appeal the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Bard on their failure to warn and design defect claims.The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that n a failure-to-warn case, a plaintiff must show by the preponderance of the evidence that the product was defective because it failed to contain adequate warnings or instructions, the defective condition rendered the product unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer, and the defective and unreasonably dangerous condition of the product proximately caused the damages for which recovery is sought.Here, Bard’s warning label warned in two different locations that Filter fracture and migration were “known complication[s].” Plaintiffs have thus failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to their failure to warn claim.Further, the court wrote that Plaintiffs make broad statements throughout their brief that presume a design defect must have caused Plaintiff’s complications. But actual evidence had to be identified to the district court in order to advance beyond the summary judgment stage for a design defect claim. View "Nelson v. C. R. Bard, Incorporated" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs seek to hold Bodum USA, Inc., responsible for an alleged manufacturing defect in one of its French press coffee makers (“the Press”) that they claim caused it to malfunction and injure their young child. The district court granted summary judgment for Bodum, concluding that no reasonable jury could find that the Press deviated from its intended design.The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court explained that a manufacturing defect may be established exclusively through circumstantial evidence and plaintiffs must allege a specific deviation from the product’s intended design that allegedly caused the injury. Here, Plaintiffs show the alleged defect was present when the Press left Bodum’s control, Plaintiffs point to French press coil assemblies advertised on Bodum’s website that also contain an outwardly protruding coil. Moreover, the court wrote that the following evidence creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Press contained a manufacturing defect: (1) testimony from Plaintiffs that they purchased their Press in brand-new condition; (2) a specific alleged defect consisting of a metal coil protruding beyond its mesh enclosure; (3) the district court’s finding that “the metal mesh was intended to completely engulf the metal coil,” which is corroborated by expert testimony; (4) an expert witness who examined the Press, tested it, compared it with two exemplars, and opined that the protruding metal coil deviated from the Press’s intended design, and caused the glass to fracture and ultimately shatter; and (5) the shattering of the Press’s glass carafe allegedly during ordinary use, albeit by a five-year-old child. View "Norman v. Bodum USA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was severely burned when the landing gear on a tanker-trailer detached from its tractor and sank into a gravel surface, causing the tanker-trailer to tip over and spill scalding water on him. Plaintiff brought a premises liability claim against the owner of the property and product liability claims against the owner of the tanker-trailer and three related companies. The district court dismissed his product liability claims on the pleadings and his premises liability claim on summary judgment.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not apply the proper standard for evaluating the plausibility of George’s pleadings under Federal R. of Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). Further, the court held that the district court erroneously concluded that Chapter 95 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code governed Plaintiff's premises liability claim. Thus the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "George v. SI Grp, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured while she, her father, and others were tracking a wounded deer at night in the woods. Her father’s Remington Model 710 rifle accidentally discharged and injured her. Plaintiff and her family members filed suit in the district court.At issue before the circuit court is whether the district court erred when it held that Section 60 of the LPLA did not bar her from bringing a claim under Section 56 of the LPLA, which is a general section applicable to design-defect claims.The LPLA “establishes the exclusive theories of liability for manufacturers for damage caused by their products.” LA. STAT. ANN. Sec. 9:2800.52. The court found is that Section 60(B) unambiguously bars design defect claims. Plaintiff argues that because Section 60(C) precludes claims against manufacturers for improper use of firearms, that part of the statute is superfluous if Section 60(B) had already precluded all non-Section 55 manufacturing-defect claims against manufacturers.The court found Section 60(C) precludes claims based on conduct by a broader category of actors than Section 60(B). Further, the court disagreed with plaintiff’s argument that Remington’s interpretation would render Section 60(D) Section 60(E) superfluous. Section 60(B) does not block all failure-to-warn claims but only those based on harm resulting from a shooting injury by a specific actor subset. Finally, the court found that the plain text leads to preventing a meaningful category of potential claims against the manufacturers of firearms. The court reversed and rendered judgment for defendant. View "Seguin v. Remington Arms" on Justia Law