Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff purchased a new pickup truck. FCA US LLC (FCA) is the manufacturer of the truck. Within 900 miles the truck engine overheated and the truck had to be towed to the dealership for repair. The dealership replaced a defective radiator hose clamp, and visually inspected the cylinder heads for cracks that are often caused by overheating. The dealership did not undertake a standard dye test for leaks. The engine continued to overheat and after a few thousand miles the water pump failed. The dealership replaced the water pump under warranty. Plaintiff filed a complaint against FCA alleging causes of action for breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranty. FCA made an offer of settlement of $30,000. Plaintiff refused the offer, and the matter went to jury trial. The jury found FCA breached its express warranty and awarded $20,154 in compensatory damages plus a $10,000 civil penalty, for a total of $30,154. The jury also found FCA breached its implied warranty and awarded $30,154 in compensatory damages.   The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court reasoned that FCA failed to show that any of the damages the jury awarded included registration renewal fees or insurance premiums. The jury simply awarded a lump sum of damages. With such an undifferentiated award, there is no way to determine what portion, if any, of the verdict was rewarded on an improper basis. Further, FCA refused to repurchase the truck or even investigate whether it was a lemon. That is more than sufficient to show a willful violation. View "Figueroa v. FCA US" on Justia Law

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Michael Galier brought a negligence and products liability action against Defendant-Appellant Murco Wall Products, Inc., a Texas manufacturer. Galier alleged exposure to Murco's products caused him to contract mesothelioma. The Oklahoma County District Court denied Murco's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and, following a jury trial, granted judgment to Galier. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied certiorari. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated the Court of Civil Appeals' decision, and remanded for reconsideration in light of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017). The Court of Civil Appeals reaffirmed the district court. The Oklahoma Supreme Court previously granted certiorari to address whether the Court of Civil Appeals properly found that Oklahoma possesses specific personal jurisdiction over Murco, and determined that it did: " 'relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation' "--supported specific jurisdiction. View "Galier v. Marco Wall Products" on Justia Law

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In this opinion, the Supreme Court answered two certified questions from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concerning the relationship between Hawaii's general long-arm statute, Haw. Rev. Stat. 634-35, and the personal jurisdiction limitations of the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause.Plaintiff, a Hawaii resident, brought a product liability action against two out-of-state corporations in Hawai'i state court. The suit was removed to the United States District court for the District of Hawaii, which dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction because Plaintiff's claims did not "arise out of" Defendants' activities. The Ninth Circuit certified questions to the Supreme Court regarding the reach of Hawaii's long-arm statute. The Supreme Court answered (1) a Hawaii court may assert personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state corporate defendant if the plaintiff's injury "relates to" but does not "arise from" the defendant's in-state acts enumerated in Hawaii's general long-arm statute; and (2) a Hawaii court may assert personal jurisdiction to the full extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in light of Ford Motor Co. v. Mont. Eighth Judicial District Court, 141 S.Ct. 1017 (2021). View "Yamashita v. LG Chem, Ltd " on Justia Law

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Olson and Zdroik sustained injuries while volunteering at municipal fireworks displays in 2018. Fireworks distributed by Spielbauer Fireworks exploded prematurely at both events, severely burning the two. Both towns used teams of volunteers to operate their Fourth of July displays. Olson opened and closed a bin from which other volunteers retrieved fireworks during the Rib Lake show. Zdroik worked at the Land O’Lakes event as a “shooter,” manually lighting the fuses on mortar shells.Spielbauer’s insurer, T.H.E. Insurance, contested coverage under Spielbauer’s general and excess liability policies, which stated: This policy shall NOT provide coverage of any kind ... for any claims arising out of injuries or death to shooters or their assistants hired to perform fireworks displays or any other persons assisting or aiding in the display of fireworks whether or not any of the foregoing are employed by the Named Insured, any shooter or any assistant. The issue was whether the exclusion extends to all volunteers or only to those assisting hired shooters or hired assistants.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, in favor of T.H.E. Insurance. The Shooters Endorsement plainly and unambiguously excludes from coverage hired shooters and their hired assistants and “any other persons” who assist the fireworks display, regardless of whether they assist hired persons. View "T.H.E. Insurance Co. v. Olson" on Justia Law

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This case presented a question of whether Mississippi courts had personal jurisdiction over a South Korean battery manufacturer whose goods were in the stream of commerce in Mississippi. The Mississippi Plaintiff, Melissa Dilworth, was seriously injured when one of LG Chem Ltd.’s (LG Chem) lithium-ion batteries exploded in her vaping pen. LG Chem and its Georgia-based subsidiary, LG Chem America, argued successfully before the circuit court that they lacked sufficient minimum contacts with Mississippi to satisfy the constitutional standard for exercising personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants. On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that manufacturer LG Chem purposefully availed itself of the market for its product in Mississippi such that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction comported with due process principles. The Supreme Court also found that dismissal of subsidiary LG Chem America was premature; therefore, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for jurisdictional discovery. View "Dilworth v. LG Chem, Ltd. et al." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified a question of law to the Alabama Supreme Court. Dr. Dino Ferrante, a gastroenterologist, prescribed LIALDA, which is manufactured by Shire U.S., Inc., and Shire, LLC (referred to collectively as "Shire"), to help patient Mark Blackburn with his Crohn's disease. "LIALDA is the brand name for Shire's mesalamine drug, which is an anti-inflammatory drug specifically aimed at the gut. LIALDA is not approved by the FDA to treat Crohn's, but it is approved to treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn's 'sister' disease." After taking LIALDA for between 12 to 16 months, Blackburn discovered that he had developed kidney disease, specifically advanced chronic interstitial nephritis, which had resulted in irreversible scarring and had diminished his kidney function to 20% of normal capacity. As a result, Blackburn is awaiting a kidney transplant. The federal appellate court asked: (1) consistent with the learned intermediary doctrine, may a pharmaceutical company's duty to warn include a duty to provide instructions about how to mitigate warned-of risks?; and (2) might a plaintiff establish that a failure to warn caused his injuries by showing that his doctor would have adopted a different course of testing or mitigation, even though he would have prescribed the same drug? The Supreme Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Blackburn v. Shire U.S., Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Defendants were California residents who served in various capacities as officers or directors of JUUL Labs, Inc. (“JUUL”), an e-cigarette manufacturer, or its predecessor companies. The State of Colorado filed an amended complaint alleging that defendants in their individual capacities, along with JUUL as a corporation, violated several provisions of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (“CCPA”) and were subject to personal jurisdiction in Colorado. Defendants contended the district court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over them was improper because they lacked the requisite minimum contacts with Colorado and the exercise of personal jurisdiction over them was unreasonable under the circumstances. JUUL did not argue that the district court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that because: (1) the district court based its determination on allegations directed against JUUL and the group of defendants as a whole, rather than on an individualized assessment of each defendant’s actions; and (2) the State did not allege sufficient facts to establish either that defendants were primary participants in wrongful conduct that they purposefully directed at Colorado, or that the injuries alleged in the amended complaint arose out of or related to defendants’ Colorado-directed activities, the district court erred in finding that the State had made a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction in this matter. View "In re State of Colorado v. Juul Labs, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff-appellant David Salazar bought Walmart, Inc.’s “Great Value White Baking Chips” incorrectly thinking they contained white chocolate, he filed this class action against Walmart for false advertising under various consumer protection statutes. The trial court sustained Walmart’s demurrers without leave to amend, finding as a matter of law that no reasonable consumer would believe Walmart’s White Baking Chips contain white chocolate. The thrust of Salazar's claims was that he was reasonably misled to believe the White Baking Chips had real white chocolate because of the product’s label and its placement near products with real chocolate. Salazar also alleged that the results of a survey he conducted show that 90 percent of consumers were deceived by the White Baking Chips’ advertising and incorrectly believed they contained white chocolate. “California courts . . . have recognized that whether a business practice is deceptive will usually be a question of fact not appropriate for decision on demurrer. ... These are matters of fact, subject to proof that can be tested at trial, even if as judges we might be tempted to debate and speculate further about them.” After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal determined that a reasonable consumer could reasonably believe the morsels had white chocolate. As a result, the Court found Salazar plausibly alleged that “‘a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled’” by the chips' advertising. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff-appellant David Salazar bought Target Corporation’s White Baking Morsels incorrectly thinking they contained white chocolate, he filed this class action against Target for false advertising under various consumer protection statutes. Salazar claimed he was reasonably mislead to believe the White Baking Morsels had real white chocolate because of the product’s label, its price tag, and its placement near products with real chocolate. To support his position, Salazar alleged that the results of a survey he conducted showed that 88 percent of consumers were deceived by the White Baking Morsels’ advertising and incorrectly believe they contained white chocolate. He also alleged that Target falsely advertised on its website that the “‘chocolate type’” of White Baking Morsels was “‘white chocolate,’” and placed the product in the “‘Baking Chocolate & Cocoa’” category. Target demurred to all three claims on the ground that no reasonable consumer would believe the White Baking Morsels contained real white chocolate. Target also argued that Salazar lacked standing to assert claims based on Target’s website because he did not view the website and did not rely on its representations. The court sustained Target’s demurrer without leave to amend and entered judgment for Target. “California courts . . . have recognized that whether a business practice is deceptive will usually be a question of fact not appropriate for decision on demurrer. ... These are matters of fact, subject to proof that can be tested at trial, even if as judges we might be tempted to debate and speculate further about them.” After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal determined that a reasonable consumer could reasonably believe the morsels had white chocolate. As a result, the Court found Salazar plausibly alleged that “‘a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled’” by the White Baking Morsels’ advertising. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. Target Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed from the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a mixed group of domestic and foreign corporations, (collectively, “the defendants”), in a product liability action stemming from a motorcycle accident and allegedly defective helmet. Plaintiff contended that the district court erroneously excluded the testimony of her expert witness, after finding his testimony based on novel and untested theories unreliable.   In the district court proceedings, defendant HJC Corporation (“HJC”), a foreign corporation organized under the laws of, and principally operating within, South Korea, moved separately for summary judgment based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court denied this motion as moot, after granting summary judgment to all the defendants on the merits.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of Defendants’ motion to exclude Plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. Because the district court properly excluded Plaintiff’s expert’s testimony, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court reversed its denial of HJC’s motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that the district court erred by failing to conduct a veil piercing or alter-ego analysis with respect to HJC and HJCA for personal jurisdiction purposes. The court agreed with HJC that the district court erred by failing to address HJC’s jurisdictional motion before reaching the merits of Defendants’ summary judgment motion. View "Sheila A. Knepfle v. J & P Cycles, LLC, et al" on Justia Law