Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of various claims of certain plaintiffs in an action against Ford for an alleged defect in plaintiffs' purchase or lease of vehicles manufactured between 2002 and 2010. At issue were the district court's Daubert decision addressing plaintiffs' proof of their defect theory. The court held that the district court properly considered appropriate factors and did not abuse its discretion in excluding the opinions of plaintiffs' experts based on their lack of relevance and reliability; plaintiffs failed to show that the district court made a clearly erroneous factual finding or error of law by excluding their expert witnesses; and because plaintiffs could not prove their theory of defects, they failed to meet the essential element of causation. View "Belville v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred in denying plaintiffs' motion to remand their case to state court and deciding Bayer's motion to dismiss in an action seeking damages for violations of North Carolina tort and products liability law. The court held that plaintiffs' action did not fall within the small class of cases in which state law claims may be deemed to arise under federal law for purposes of conferring federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgments and remanded with instructions that the action be remanded to North Carolina state court. View "Burrell v. Bayer Corp." on Justia Law

by
Lipitor, a pharmaceutical drug, is prescribed to lower patients’ “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. Plaintiffs, more than 3,000 women, claim that they developed diabetes as a result of taking Lipitor. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the lawsuits for pretrial proceedings. The parties agreed on four bellwether cases. Plaintiffs enlisted general experts, to testify that there was a causal association between Lipitor and diabetes; specific experts, to testify that Lipitor proximately caused the onset of diabetes in the bellwether plaintiffs; and an expert biostatistician, who concluded that taking Lipitor led to a statistically significant increased risk of diabetes. Plaintiffs also sought to introduce internal Pfizer emails, information from Lipitor's labeling, a statement in Lipitor's FDA New Drug Application, and information from the Lipitor website. Citing Federal Rule of Evidence 702, the court excluded the opinions of the statistician; the general causation expert, except relating to a specific dosage; and the specific causation opinions. The rulings left the plaintiffs without their bellwether cases, limited to a subset of patients who had taken an 80 mg dose. The court issued show-cause orders asking whether any plaintiff could submit evidence that would enable her claim to survive summary judgment given prior rulings. Some plaintiffs submitted evidence showing only that they were not diabetic before taking Lipitor, that they were diagnosed with diabetes after taking Lipitor, and that they lacked certain risk factors that might make them especially likely to develop the disease. After the court rejected the evidence, the plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued that the cases ought to be returned to their transferor district courts for individual resolution on the issue of specific causation. The Fourth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. View "Plaintiffs Appealing Case Management Order 100 v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After sustaining serious internal injuries in a personal watercraft (PWC) accident, plaintiff filed suit against the manufacturers of the PWC (Yamaha). On appeal, plaintiff argued that the district court erred in requiring expert testimony on her claims and in failing to conduct an appropriate Daubert analysis before excluding her expert's testimony. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded the expert's inadequate warning opinion and the district court properly concluded that the PWC's warnings were adequate as a matter of law. In this case, plaintiff based her claims of strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranties on theories of warning and design defects. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Yamaha on all claims because the record was devoid of admissible evidence on either theory of defect. View "Hickerson v. Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A." on Justia Law

by
In these consolidated products liability cases involving a transvaginal mesh prescription device called Obtryx, the jury returned verdicts for plaintiffs, awarding over $4 million to each. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in consolidating the four cases where common questions of fact and law formed a substantial part of each suit and the district court bent over backwards to ensure that distinct questions of fact and law could be appropriately developed at trial and distinguished by the jury. The court rejected BSC's evidentiary challenges; BSC was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law where it failed to establish that there was insufficient evidence to defeat the jury awards; and the district court's instruction to the jury regarding punitive damages was a correct statement of West Virginia law at the time of the trial. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgments. View "Campbell v. Boston Scientific Corp." on Justia Law