Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s v. Axon Pressure Products Inc.
This dispute arose from a 2013 oil well blowout on the HERCULES 265 drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. After the rig's charterer filed suit raising products liability claims against a refurbisher of the rig's blowout-prevention components, counterclaims and third-party claims ensued. The district court subsequently granted a series of summary judgments, based both on contractual indemnity and also on the merits of the liability claims. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to Hercules' duty to defend, hold harmless, and indemnify Axon; reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to Walter's duty to directly indemnify Axon; reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to Walter's duty to indemnify Hercules for Axon's claims; vacated the district court's order excluding Bellemare's testimony; vacated the district court's orders excluding the expert reports of Sones, Bourgoyne, Williams, Rusnak, Bellemare, and Adair, as well as the orders excluding the affidavits of Sones and Bourgoyne; reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the causation and "unreasonably dangerous condition" prongs of the Louisiana Products Liability Act; vacated the district court's final judgment and fee orders; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's v. Axon Pressure Products Inc." on Justia Law
Smith v. Chrysler Group, L.L.C.
Smith was killed while driving a 2013 Jeep Wrangler, manufactured by Chrysler. Days after the crash, Chrysler sent out a Recall Notice: the transmission oil cooler (TOC) tube of some 2012 and 2013 Wranglers might leak, which could cause a fire in the underbody of the vehicle. Smith’s Jeep was never inspected for the defect before his accident and the wrecked Jeep was not preserved for a post-accident inspection. Days after the crash, the scene of the accident was photographed, showing what appears to be charred grass along the path Smith’s Jeep traveled after leaving the road. Smith’s family sued, asserting strict products liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, claiming that the recall defect caused a fire in the Jeep's underbody, filling the passenger compartment with carbon monoxide, so that Smith lost consciousness and ran off the road. The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Chrysler. The court properly excluded a supplemental report by plaintiff’s expert, which failed adequately to connect newly disclosed information and conclusions that Smith’s Jeep had a defect and that the alleged defect caused a fire. Even if there was a defect, there was no evidence that it caused a fire in Smith’s Jeep or that the fire caused the crash. The court upheld an award of costs to Chrysler, despite plaintiffs’ “impoverished condition.” View "Smith v. Chrysler Group, L.L.C." on Justia Law
Sandifer v. Hoyt Archery, Inc.
After Dr. Alan Sandifer was pierced in the head by the cable guard of his 2007 Hoyt Vulcan XT500 bow, his family filed suit against Hoyt Archery and its insurers under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) alleging that the compound bow was defectively designed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding most of the testimony of plaintiffs' primary expert. In this case, plaintiffs failed to show how the accident occurred, because the expert's response to Hoyt's theory was based on unscientific and unhelpful propensity evidence that was not reasonably relied upon by experts in the biomechanical field and consequently failed to satisfy Daubert's requirements for the admissibility of expert opinion. View "Sandifer v. Hoyt Archery, Inc." on Justia Law
Allen v. Walmart Stores, LLC
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against defendants after plaintiff's daughter died from inhaling a large quantity of aerosol dust remover in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The court held that plaintiff's negligence claim based on premises liability failed because she did not plead that there were any issues with the conditions of the premises, and because Wal-Mart did not owe the daughter any duty of care regarding her purchase or abuse of dust remover. Furthermore, Wal-Mart was not liable for negligent entrustment under Restatement (Second) of Torts 390 and under Texas laws, and Wal-Mart employees were not liable in their individual capacities. The court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to remand and motion to alter or amend the complaint. View "Allen v. Walmart Stores, LLC" on Justia Law
Williams v. Manitowoc Cranes, LLC
Plaintiff filed suit against Manitowoc Cranes after her husband, John, was injured in a crane accident that rendered him physically and mentally incapacitated. The jury ruled for plaintiff, finding that Manitowoc failed to warn Model 16000 Series crane operators that, if the crane tips over, large weights stacked on the rear of the crane can slide forward and strike the operator's cab. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's final judgment against Manitowoc for $2.8 million in actual economic damages and $600,000 in non-economic damages. The court held that Manitowoc was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the failure-to-warn claim where Manitowoc's warning was inadequate, and the inadequate warning proximately caused John's injuries. In this case, Manitowoc's misuse allegations did not convince the court that John's alleged misuse proximately caused his injuries, and the jury had an adequate basis for finding that an alternative warning could have communicated valuable additional information about the falling counterweight danger, allowing John to avoid injury. Finally, the court rejected Manitowoc's expert and evidentiary challenges. View "Williams v. Manitowoc Cranes, LLC" on Justia Law
Christopher v. Johnson & Johnson
These appeals and cross-appeal stemmed from the Pinnacle Hip multidistrict litigation (MDL). After plaintiffs received Pinnacle's metal-on-metal design, suffered complications, and required revision surgery, plaintiffs secured a half-billion-dollar jury verdict. Both plaintiffs and defendants appealed. The Fifth Circuit held that only a few of plaintiffs' claims failed as a matter of law but that the district court's evidentiary errors and plaintiff's counsel's deceptions furnished independent grounds for a new trial. In this case, counsel concealed payments to two key expert witnesses. Therefore, DePuy was entitled to judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on Greer's and Peterson's defective marketing claims; J&J was entitled to JMOL on all plaintiffs' aiding-and-abetting claims; and the remaining claims avoided JMOL, although a new trial was required. View "Christopher v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law
Davidson v. Fairchild Controls Corp.
After plaintiffs were injured when oil from an airplane's air cycle machine leaked into the cabin and caused the cockpit to fill with smoke and fumes, they filed suit against several defendants. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Fairchild Controls, holding that plaintiffs' design defect theory failed where the limited expert testimony about the air-foil bearing technology did not prove that a safer design was feasible. The court also held that the failure to warn claim failed because plaintiffs were knowledgeable users, and a warning would have been superfluous. View "Davidson v. Fairchild Controls Corp." on Justia Law
Wildman v. Medtronic, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit alleging breach of express warranty under Texas law, after a Medtronic device implanted in his back to relieve pain did not last as long as the company promised. The Fifth Circuit held that the warranty on Medtronic's website goes beyond what the FDA considered and thus the narrow breach of express warranty claim plaintiff asserted was not preempted by the FDA regulation. The court explained that a verdict finding that Medtronic misled consumers like plaintiff in making this representation would not undermine any FDA finding concerning the safety of the device. Rather, it would be enforcing a duty that also exists under federal law: to not make misleading representations about the device. To escape such liability, Medtronic would not need to redesign the device, but only to limit its warranties to those approved by the FDA. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wildman v. Medtronic, Inc." on Justia Law
Lyles v. Medtronic, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against MSD in Louisiana state court under the Louisiana Products Liability Act for both the Atlantis Plate and an Infuse Bone Graft Device that was surgically implanted in his body. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on claims dealing with the Atlantis Plate, holding that the district court did not create manifest error by considering the malpractice complaint and that plaintiff did not meet his burden under the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that plaintiff and his attorney did not exercise due diligence in pursuing the discovery of documents dealing with the Verte-Stack or Progenix, and that MSD's actions in answering plaintiff's interrogatory and production request were in good faith. View "Lyles v. Medtronic, Inc." on Justia Law
In Re: DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc.
Petitioners sought a writ of mandamus arising from an MDL proceeding involving more than 9,300 plaintiffs alleging product liability claims for designing, manufacturing, and distributing an allegedly defective hip-implant device. A majority of the Fifth Circuit denied the writ that petitioners sought to prohibit the district court from proceeding to trial on plaintiffs' cases. A different majority held that so-called Lexecon objections were not waived and that the district court abused its discretion in finding waiver; that petitioners have shown the required clear and indisputable right to a writ of mandamus; and that petitioners have established that a writ of mandamus was appropriate under the circumstances. In regard to the ultimate result, a majority of the court concluded that petitioners have not shown that they have no other adequate means to attain the relief they sought. A majority of the court requested the district court vacate its ruling on waiver and to withdraw its order for a trial. View "In Re: DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc." on Justia Law