Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Johnson v. Monsanto Co.
Johnson, a school district’s grounds manager and a heavy user of Roundup herbicides made by Monsanto, sued Monsanto after contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury found that Monsanto failed to adequately warn of its products’ potential dangers and that its products had a design defect. It awarded Johnson around $39.3 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages. The court denied Monsanto’s motion for a new trial on the condition that Johnson accept a reduced award of punitive damages.The court of appeal affirmed in part. Monsanto was liable on the failure-to-warn claims because substantial evidence was presented that Roundup’s risks were “known or knowable” to Monsanto. The trial court did not err in allowing Johnson to proceed on a consumer expectations theory of design defect. Johnson presented abundant—and certainly substantial— evidence that the ingredients in Roundup, caused his cancer. Johnson’s causes of action were not preempted under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, 7 U.S.C. 136. Monsanto has not established that the trial court erred in admitting or excluding evidence. The court reversed in part. The evidence does not support the entire award for future noneconomic damages. Johnson was entitled to punitive damages, but they should be reduced commensurate with the reduction of future noneconomic damages. View "Johnson v. Monsanto Co." on Justia Law
Kuykendall v. Accord Healthcare, Inc.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint alleging that she used defendants' prescription chemotherapy drug and now suffers from permanent hair loss. As a plaintiff in this multidistrict litigation (MDL), plaintiff was required to serve defendants with a completed fact sheet disclosing details of her personal and medical history soon after filing her short form complaint. She failed to do so in this case.The court applied the Deepwater Horizon two-factor test to the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's case and held that the district court was not required to make specific factual findings on each of the Deepwater Horizon prongs before dismissing plaintiff's case. The court explained that plaintiff exhibited a clear record of delay sufficient to meet the first prong in the Deepwater Horizon test, and lesser sanctions would not have served the best interests of justice. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. View "Kuykendall v. Accord Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law
McAdams v. Mercedes-Benz, USA, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Plaintiff had opted out of a class-action settlement that was approved in Seifi v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, holding that McAdams's status as a member of the Seifi class was determined in that case, and therefore, McAdams's claim in this case was barred by res judicata.While the Seifi class action was pending, McAdams filed a complaint against Mercedez-Benz USA, Mercedez-Benz Easton, and Mercedes-Benz of New Rochelle, alleging claims relating to issues with the balance-shaft gear and the transmission conductor plate of her Mercedes. After the judgment in the Seifi class action was issued, the trial court determined that McAdams was bound by the Seifi class action settlement because she had not formally opted out of the class action, and therefore, her balance-shaft-gear claim was barred by res judicata. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that McAdams had opted out of the Seifi class-action settlement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that McAdams's claim that she had not opted out of the class action was barred by res judicata because the federal court determined who had opted out in its entry adopting the Seifi class-action settlement. View "McAdams v. Mercedes-Benz, USA, LLC" 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
Little v. Kia Motors America, Inc.
Plaintiff Regina Little asserted claims on her own behalf and on behalf of other New Jersey owners and lessees of 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 Kia Sephia vehicles distributed by defendant Kia Motors America, Inc., alleging that those vehicles had a defective brake system. The central question in this appeal was whether the trial court properly permitted plaintiff’s theory of damages based on the cost of brake repairs to be asserted classwide, supported only by aggregate proofs. The jury determined that defendant had breached its express and implied warranties and that the class had sustained damages. The jury found that the class members had suffered $0 in damages due to diminution in value but that each class member had sustained $750 in damages “[f]or repair expenses reasonably incurred as a result of the defendant’s breach of warranty.” The trial court granted defendant’s motion to decertify the class as to the quantum of damages each individual owner suffered. The parties cross-appealed. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s post-trial determinations, reinstated the jury’s award for out-of-pocket repair costs based on plaintiff’s aggregate proofs, and remanded for an award of attorneys’ fees. The appellate court held that, notwithstanding the jury’s rejection of plaintiff’s diminution-in-value theory, the trial court should have ordered a new trial on both theories of damages, which it found were not “fairly separable from each another.” Although aggregate proof of damages can be appropriate in some settings, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered such proof improper as presented in this case. The trial court erred when it initially allowed plaintiff to prove class-members’ out-of-pocket costs for brake repairs based on an estimate untethered to the experience of plaintiff’s class. The trial court properly ordered individualized proof of damages on plaintiff’s brake-repair claim based on the actual costs incurred by the class members. Thus, the trial court’s grant of defendant’s motions for a new trial and for partial decertification of the class were a proper exercise of its discretion. View "Little v. Kia Motors America, Inc." on Justia Law
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
Mize v. Mentor Worldwide LLC
Plaintiffs filed suit against Mentor, alleging causes of action for negligence and negligence per se based on Mentor's negligent failure to warn and negligent manufacturing of breast implants, strict products liability for failure to warn, and strict products liability for manufacturing defects.The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment and entered an order overruling the demurrer to the third amended complaint. The court held that the tort claims in this case survive preemption because they are premised on conduct that both violates the Medical Device Amendments (MDA) to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act and would give rise to a recovery under state law even in the absence of the MDA. The court also held that plaintiffs pleaded the requisite causal connection between their injuries and Mentor's tortious acts to survive a demurrer. Finally, the trial court erroneously sustained Mentor's demurrer to the loss of consortium claim because it was derivative of the other claims. View "Mize v. Mentor Worldwide LLC" on Justia Law
Estes v. Eaton Corp.
Estes worked as an electrician in two Bay Area naval shipyards and was exposed to asbestos-containing products manufactured or supplied to the Navy by approximately 50 companies. Later, he developed asbestos-related mesothelioma. In Estes’ personal injury lawsuit, a jury returned a defense verdict for an electrical component manufacturer, Eaton. The trial court granted Estes a new trial.The court of appeal reversed that order; the explanation of reasons for granting a new trial was not sufficient under Code of Civil Procedure section 657. The court overturned the verdict because “plaintiff presented sufficient evidence that he worked with arc chutes manufactured and supplied by [Eaton’s predecessor]; the arc chutes contained asbestos; asbestos fibers from the arc chutes were released during plaintiff’s work with them; and the levels of fibers released posed a hazard to plaintiff, and may have been a substantial factor in causing injury to him” whereas “[t]he evidence submitted by Eaton was not sufficient to rebut this evidence submitted by plaintiff.” This reasoning is little more than a conclusion that the plaintiff introduced sufficient evidence to prove that the arc chutes released hazardous levels of asbestos during Estes’s encounter with them in the workplace. The explanation is too vague to enable meaningful review. The court also rejected Estes’s substantial evidence challenge to the verdict exonerating Eaton of liability. View "Estes v. Eaton Corp." on Justia Law
Hale v. Metrex Research Corp.
Claiming that she suffered injuries when her dentist soaked her dentures in CaviCide disinfecting solution, which is manufactured by Metrex, plaintiff filed suit against Metrex, the dentist, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and others.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings to Metrex on plaintiff's claim that Metrex failed to warn and label its product adequately. The court held that plaintiff's failure to warn claim failed as a matter of law because she admitted in her complaint that CaviCide's label warned against the specific use that allegedly caused her injuries. In this case, plaintiff conceded that the use of CaviCide to disinfect dentures or any surface or instrument that contacts mucous membranes is prohibited by the CaviCide label. Furthermore, plaintiff maintained that her injures were caused by the dentist's failure to follow manufacturer's instructions clearly printed on the label for the proper use of the product. View "Hale v. Metrex Research Corp." on Justia Law
Verrazono v. Gehl Co.
Verrazono was seriously injured when a rough terrain forklift he was operating tipped over. He sued the manufacturer. The jury returned a defense verdict, finding the forklift was not defective and the manufacturer was not negligent. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Verrazono’s claim that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the “consumer expectations” test for design defect and erred in giving a “dynamite instruction” when the jury became deadlocked. Verrazono presented no evidence as to the safety expectations of a “hypothetical reasonable” telehandler user under the circumstances that occurred. Rather, Verrazono’s engineering expert’s testimony bore on a risk-benefit analysis. This was not a case where evidence about the objective features of the product, alone, was sufficient for an evaluation of whether the forklift was defectively designed in the manner Verrazono claimed. Verrazono’s failure to set forth all material evidence forfeited his substantial evidence claims. View "Verrazono v. Gehl Co." on Justia Law