Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Nissan North America, Inc. v. Continental Automotive Systems, Inc.
The United States Court of Appeals considered an indemnification case between Nissan, an automobile manufacturer, and Continental, a brake parts supplier. Nissan sought indemnification from Continental for a $24 million jury award and $6 million in attorney fees and costs resulting from a products liability lawsuit in California. The lawsuit arose after an accident involving a Nissan vehicle, with the jury finding that the design of the vehicle’s braking system caused harm to the plaintiffs. Nissan argued that a provision in their contract with Continental obligated Continental to indemnify them for the jury award and litigation costs. Both the district court and the Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the contract required Nissan to show that a defect in a Continental-supplied part caused the injury, which Nissan failed to do. The Appeals Court affirmed the district court's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Continental. View "Nissan North America, Inc. v. Continental Automotive Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
Trumbull County v. Purdue Pharma, L.P.
In the multidistrict National Prescription Opiate Litigation, municipalities from across the nation, Indian Tribes, and other entities allege that opioid manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and retailers acted in concert to mislead medical professionals into prescribing, and millions of Americans into taking and often becoming addicted to, opiates. Two northeast Ohio counties, Trumbull and Lake, alleged that national pharmaceutical chains “created, perpetuated, and maintained” the opioid epidemic by filling prescriptions for opioids without controls in place to stop the distribution of those that were illicitly prescribed and that conduct caused an absolute public nuisance remediable by abatement under Ohio common law.The district court ordered a bellwether trial, after which a jury concluded that the “oversupply of legal prescription opioids, and diversion of those opioids into the illicit market” was a public nuisance in those counties and that defendants “engaged in intentional and/or illegal conduct which was a substantial factor in producing" that nuisance. The district court entered a $650 million abatement order and an injunction requiring defendants to “ensure they are complying fully with the Controlled Substances Act and avoiding further improper dispensing conduct.” On appeal, the Sixth Circuit certified a question of law to the Ohio Supreme Court: Whether the Ohio Product Liability Act, Ohio Revised Code 2307.71, abrogates a common law claim of absolute public nuisance resulting from the sale of a product in commerce in which the plaintiffs seek equitable abatement, including both monetary and injunctive remedies? View "Trumbull County v. Purdue Pharma, L.P." on Justia Law
Cash-Darling v. Recycling Equipment, Inc.
Cash died when a hammermill shredder exploded at his workplace. The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) determined that the explosion was primarily caused by the accumulation of combustible aluminum dust produced by the shredding process. The personal representative of his estate sued REI, the company that assembled and sold the shredder to LR, Cash’s employer, asserting four product-liability claims. The district court granted REI summary judgment, because it “did not design the hammermill system at issue, and instead assisted LR with locating primarily used components that LR requested based on the design of LR’s existing system, REI is not legally responsible for any alleged defect in the system as a whole.”The Sixth Circuit reversed. A key requirement of the contract-specification defense is that the customer provided the manufacturer with detailed plans or specifications directing how the product should be built. The district court erred in holding that no genuine dispute of material fact exists as to whether REI followed LR’s design specifications. There was evidence to suggest that REI contemplated incorporating a dust-collection bin in the design, one that had not been requested. View "Cash-Darling v. Recycling Equipment, Inc." on Justia Law
Thacker v. Ethicon, Inc.
Ethicon manufactures a mesh sling, used to treat stress urinary incontinence, and a posterior mesh “Prolift, “designed to treat pelvic organ prolapse. In 2009, Dr. Guiler surgically implanted both devices to treat Thacker. Before the surgery, Thacker reviewed and signed an informed consent form that listed several risks, including: “infections and/or erosions of the mesh” which could require additional follow-up surgeries, urinary retention, “[p]ainful intercourse and vaginal shortening,” and treatment failure. After the surgery, Thacker’s incontinence worsened, and she suffered from shooting pain in her groin area and severe abdominal swelling and bloating. In 2010, Thacker started experiencing severe and unbearable pain during intercourse.Thacker ultimately sued Ethicon, alleging strict liability and negligence claims under the Kentucky Product Liability Act for design defect and failure to warn. The district court granted Ethicon summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Dr. Guiler’s testimony suggested that he likely would have recommended a different course of treatment had Ethicon given adequate information. Thacker’s expert testified that no reasonable physician would have used the Pelvic Mesh Devices to treat Thacker had Ethicon given adequate information in 2009. A jury could accept that expert’s opinion that a feasible alternative design would have prevented Thacker’s injuries. View "Thacker v. Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law
Smith v. General Motors LLC
In 2005-2006, GM changed the dashboard used for GMT900 model cars from a multi-piece design to a single-piece design, which made the dashboard prone to cracking in two places. Plaintiffs, from 25 states, alleged that GMT900 vehicles produced in 2007-2014 contained a faulty, dangerous dashboard and that GM knew of the defective dashboards before GTM900 vehicles hit the market. The complaint contained no allegation that any of the plaintiffs have been hurt by the allegedly defective dashboards. The complaint, filed on behalf of a nationwide class, alleged fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment, and violations of state consumer protection statutes and the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. At worst, Plaintiffs suffered only cosmetic damage and a potential reduced resale value from owning cars with cracked dashboards. Although the plaintiffs claimed that routine testing, customer complaints, and increased warranty claims alerted GM to the defective dashboards and accompanying danger, that is not enough to survive a motion to dismiss without specifics about how and when GM learned about the defect and its hazards, and concealed the allegedly dangerous defect from consumers. Even accepting that GM produced defective vehicles, under the common legal principles of the several states, the plaintiffs must show that GM had sufficient knowledge of the harmful defect to render its sales fraudulent. View "Smith v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law
Clabo v. Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems, Inc.
In 2003, Clabo underwent surgery to correct pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. Clabo’s doctor implanted her with a TVT transvaginal mesh sling device that the Defendants manufactured. By 2006, she began experiencing pelvic pain, urinary issues, scarring, and pain during sexual intercourse. After being notified by her doctor that the mesh from her device had eroded through her vaginal canal, Clabo had a procedure in April 2006 to remove the TVT implant. A month later, Clabo had surgery to implant a mesh sling similar to the one she had removed. In 2011, Clabo had another surgery to have pieces of her second implant removed and other parts repaired, again due to mesh erosion. Clabo alleges that it was not until July 2012 that she finally realized, after speaking with a physician-friend, that the TVT mesh product was the likely cause of her persistent pain and suffering.In May 2013, Clabo filed suit under the Tennessee Products Liability Act. The court dismissed Clabo’s claims as barred by Tennessee’s statute of repose, which prohibits product liability claims brought more than six years after the date of the injury that gave rise to the suit, finding that Clabo’s initial injury occurred during 2006. The Sixth Circuit affirmed; the record demonstrates that Clabo’s injuries occurred outside of the statute of repose period. View "Clabo v. Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
Malone v. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.
Malone was adjusting the blade on his Craftsman table saw when the guard came off, causing injury to his fingers. Malone was later notified of a safety recall on the saw. Malone filed suit in an Ohio state court, against several Sears and Craftsman entities and Rexon, a Taiwanese company. Rexon removed the case to a federal district court, citing diversity jurisdiction, then moved to dismiss, arguing that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction. Rexon admitted that it manufactured the saw in question and conceded, for the purpose of its motion, that it had purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protections offered by the State of Ohio. The district court dismissed the case.The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded. The court noted that the injury occurred in Ohio and that Rexon has a “high volume of business activity” in Ohio, so Malone “could plausibly show, with additional discovery, that Rexon derived ‘substantial revenue’ from table saw sales in Ohio.” Jurisdictional discovery is necessary to determine whether Rexon had sufficient contacts with the state to satisfy due process. View "Malone v. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc." on Justia Law
Boal v. DePuy Orthopaedics
Since 2010, the Northern District of Ohio has been the home of multidistrict litigation involving a DePuy medical device used in hip-replacement surgeries that, at its peak, contained more than 8,500 cases. In 2013, the defendants entered into a broad settlement agreement with U.S. resident plaintiffs.Foreign plaintiffs brought the 12 suits at issue. In 2012, they filed “short-form” complaints, each alleging that a plaintiff had been implanted with the DePuy device during hip surgery in Spain. The complaints did not identify the basis for subject-matter jurisdiction; the civil cover sheets listed diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332. The complaints alleged that the plaintiffs were Spanish residents and either Spanish or British citizens. The defendants never disputed diversity jurisdiction. In 2015, the defendants followed through on earlier notices by filing motions to dismiss based on forum non-conveniens. The court granted the motions, finding that Spain provided the better forum.The Sixth Circuit vacated. “After eight years the parties now concede that the district court lacked diversity jurisdiction all along.” If foreign citizens are on both sides of a dispute but a state citizen is on only one side, the fact pattern does not fit section 1332(a)(3) because citizens of different states do not fall on both sides. Section 1332(a)(2) does not apply because it requires “complete” diversity— only state citizens are on one side of the dispute and only foreign citizens are on the other. View "Boal v. DePuy Orthopaedics" on Justia Law
Fox v. Amazon.com, Inc.
Fox used Amazon.com to order a hoverboard equipped with a battery pack. Although Fox claims she thought she was buying from Amazon, the hoverboard was owned and sold by a third-party that used Amazon marketplace, which handles communications with the buyer and processes payments. The board arrived in an Amazon-labeled box. The parties dispute whether Amazon provided storage and shipment. In November 2015, following news reports of hoverboard fires and explosions, Amazon began an investigation. On December 11, Amazon ceased all hoverboard sales worldwide. Approximately 250,000 hoverboards had been sold on its marketplace in the previous 30 days. Amazon anticipated more fires and explosions, scheduling employees to work on December 26, to monitor news reports and customer complaints. On December 12, Amazon sent a "non-alarmist" email to hoverboard purchasers. Fox does not recall receiving the email but testified that she would not have let the hoverboard remain in her home had she known all the facts. On January 9, Matthew Fox played with the hoverboard and left it on the first floor of the family’s two-story home. When a fire later broke out, caused by the hoverboard’s battery pack, two children were trapped on the second floor. Everyone escaped with various injuries; their home was destroyed.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of allegations that Amazon sold the defective or unreasonably dangerous product (Tennessee Products Liability Act) and caused confusion about the source of that product (Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977) but reversed a claim that Amazon breached a duty to warn about the defective or unreasonably dangerous nature of that product under Tennessee tort law. View "Fox v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law
Wilden v. Laury Transportation, LLC
Wilden, age 19, and her infant son were involved in a traffic accident with an 18-wheel tractor-trailer. Wilden suffered severe brain damage when her sedan was pulled beneath the side of the trailer in a “side-underride” crash. The remaining defendant is Great Dane, the trailer’s manufacturer. The district court excluded plaintiffs’ expert-witness testimony about an alternative design that allegedly would have prevented, or at least mitigated, Wilden’s injuries. That alternative design is a “telescoping side guard.” An ordinary, fixed-position side guard would block the space underneath the side of the trailer so that, in a crash, automobiles would not go underneath. A telescoping side guard would also slide and expand to protect the space opened up when a truck’s sliding rear-axle— which trucks use to meet weight-per-axle regulations—is moved toward the rear of the truck. Although elements of the telescoping design have existed for some time, and computer simulations suggest that the design could work, nobody has ever built or tested one in the real world. The court held that the testimony of the two experts was unreliable and inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Great Dane. Given the total absence of real-world, physical-prototype testing and that neither expert had designed a telescoping side guard, the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the evidence. View "Wilden v. Laury Transportation, LLC" on Justia Law