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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the MDL court's partial summary judgment award and denial of plaintiff's motion to reconsider. Plaintiff filed suit against Boston Scientific, alleging that the transvaginal mesh product that the company manufactured injured her and that Boston Scientific failed to warn of risks associated with the mesh. Plaintiff joined an MDL and then lost her failure to warn claim at summary judgment. After the case was transferred to a district court for trial on the remaining claims, plaintiff moved to reconsider the summary judgment award based on evidence that she failed to cite during summary judgment briefing in the MDL court. The district court denied the motion and plaintiff subsequently lost at trial. The Fourth Circuit could not say that the MDL court erred in its summary judgment ruling based on the evidence plaintiff cited in opposition to summary judgment. The Fourth Circuit explained that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require parties to cite all evidence in support of their positions at summary judgment. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion to reconsider despite plaintiff’s citation to additional excerpts of plaintiff's treating phsysician's deposition establishing that he reviewed and was familiar with the Directions for Use (DFU). View "Carlson v. Boston Scientific" on Justia Law

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The Cervenys sued the manufacturer of Clomid (Aventis, Inc.), asserting various tort claims under Utah law: failure to warn under theories of strict liability and negligence, breach of implied warranty, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud. They presented two theories, pointing to two types of warning labels that Aventis had allegedly failed to provide: (1) a label that warned of risks to the fetus when a woman takes Clomid before becoming pregnant; and (2) a label that unmistakably warned about harm to the fetus when Clomid is taken during pregnancy. The district court rejected the Cervenys’ claims based on preemption. The Tenth Circuit held that the district court ruling was correct on the Cervenys’ first theory, because the undisputed evidence showed that the FDA would not have approved a warning about taking Clomid before pregnancy. But on the second theory, the Tenth Circuit found the district court did not explain why a state claim based on the FDA’s own proposed language would be preempted by federal law. The district court also erred in failing to distinguish the remaining claims (breach of implied warranty, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud) from the failure-to-warn claims. These claims are based at least partly on affirmative misrepresentations rather than on a failure to provide a warning. The district court failed to explain why claims involving affirmative misrepresentations would have been preempted. View "Cerveny v. Aventis, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of domestic violence assault, domestic violence stalking, and endangering the welfare of a child. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of conviction as to the charge of domestic violence assault and remanded for entry of a judgment of acquittal on that charge, holding that the record contained insufficient evidence for the jury to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Defendant’s conduct forming that basis for domestic violence assault occurred within the relevant limitations period. The Court also remanded to determine whether resentencing was necessary as to the stalking and endangering the welfare of a child charges. View "State v. Lacourse" on Justia Law

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Barbara Bobo's husband, who worked for the TVA for more than 22 years, was diagnosed with asbestos-induced lung cancer and in 1997 died from a heart attack. Mrs. Bobo was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in 2011 and died from mesothelioma in 2013. Before her death, Mrs. Bobo filed suit claiming that the TVA's negligence resulted in her being exposed to "take-home" asbestos when she washed her husband's work clothes over the years. The district court entered judgment against the TVA. The court concluded that, assuming that the district court erred in considering the state court deposition testimony of Mr. Bobo to support its finding that he had been exposed to asbestos while employed by TVA, the error was harmless because there was plenty of other evidence proving the same fact; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony of plaintiff's expert; under Alabama law, TVA owed a duty to Mrs. Bobo to prevent take-home asbestos exposure and TVA violated that duty; the court rejected TVA's argument that the district court applied the wrong exposure standard, concluding that which standard applies does not matter because the evidence of exposure was enough to satisfy either tests at issue; and TVA is not shielded from liability under the discretionary function exception. The court affirmed as to these issues. The court vacated the award of damages, remanding to the district court for it to recalculate the damages award in order to exclude from it any amounts that were written off by Mrs. Bobo's providers and to correct any other errors that may appear to the court when the parties have a chance to focus exclusively on the medical expenses component of the damages award. View "Bobo v. Tennessee Valley Authority" on Justia Law

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Defendant Carus Corp. (Carus) was an international company that developed and sold chemical products for municipal and industrial applications. Defendant's products included a chemical called Totalox, which essentially, was designed as a deodorizer for sewer systems. The Town of Lexington (Town) used Totalox in its sewer treatment plants. In 2010, Plaintiff John Machin, a Town employee, was exposed to Totalox when a storage container valve broke during the delivery of Totalox to one of the Town's wastewater stations. Plaintiff suffered reactive airways syndrome, which was also known as chemically induced asthma or obstructive lung disease. As a result of his injuries, Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim and was awarded workers' compensation benefits. The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted four certified questions from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina: (1) Under South Carolina law, when a Plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may the jury hear an explanation of why the employer is not part of the instant action?; (2) when a Plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may a defendant argue the empty chair defense and suggest that Plaintiff's employer is the wrongdoer?; (3) In connection with Question 2, if a defendant retains the right to argue the empty chair defense against Plaintiff's employer, may a court instruct the jury that an employer's legal responsibility has been determined by another forum, specifically, the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission?; and (4) when a Plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may the Court allow the jury to apportion fault against the nonparty employer by placing the name of the employer on the verdict form? The South Carolina Supreme Court answered these questions in the abstract, without any suggestion as to the resolution of the post-trial motion before the federal court: Questions 1, 2, and 3 "yes," provided a defense seeks to assign fault to the plaintiff's employer. The Court answered Question 4, "no." View "Machin v. Carus Corporation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants after he was injured when his rifle suddenly discharged, firing a bullet through his foot. Plaintiff alleged five products liability claims and one claim under Texas law. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of defendants because plaintiff's claim was time-barred. At issue was whether the district court properly applied Texas's choice of law rules, which is dependent upon whether section 71.031(a) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code is a choice of law provision and whether the statute applies in federal court. The court concluded that Hyde v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. is controlling in this case. In light of Hyde, the court concluded that section 71.031 is a choice of law provision that applies in both state and federal courts, and an analysis of section 71.031 demonstrates the result is the same regardless of whether plaintiff is considered a resident of Texas or Georgia. In this case, even assuming the rifle was first purchased in 1998, plaintiff had until 2013 to initiate his products liability suit, but he did not do so until 2015, which was more than fifteen years from the date of the sale of the rifle. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Burdett v. Remington Arms Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Respondent, the representative for the estate of Phil Felice Marotta, filed an action as an Engle progeny plaintiff against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, an Engle defendant, asserting that Marotta’s addiction to Reynolds’ cigarettes caused his death by lung cancer. The jury found Reynolds liable on Respondent’s strict liability claim and awarded total compensatory damages of $6 million. Reynolds appealed the final judgment, and Marotta cross-appealed the trial court’s decision to preclude the jury from considering punitive damages on the product liability claim. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed. The district court then certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered the rephrased question in the negative, holding that federal law does not implicitly preempt state law tort claims of strict liability and negligence by Engle progeny plaintiffs. The Court approved the Fourth District’s decision related to the preemption issue but quashed the decision below to the extent that it held that Respondent was precluded from seeking punitive damages. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Marotta" on Justia Law

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Hundreds of plaintiffs sued the drug manufacturer Merck, alleging that the osteoporosis drug Fosamax caused them to suffer serious thigh bone fractures. Each brought a state-law tort claim alleging that Merck failed to add an adequate warning of the risk to Fosamax’s FDA-approved drug label. Many also brought claims including defective design, negligence, and breach of warranty. Plaintiffs’ suits were consolidated in multi-district litigation in the District of New Jersey. Following discovery and a bellwether trial, the court granted Merck summary judgment, based on the Supreme Court’s holding in Wyeth v. Levine, that state-law failure-to-warn claims are preempted when there is “clear evidence” that the FDA would not have approved the warning that plaintiffs claim was necessary. The Third Circuit vacated. Preemption is an affirmative defense; Merck did not carry its burden to prove that it is entitled to that defense. The Wyeth “clear evidence” standard is demanding and fact-sensitive. It requires a court sitting in summary judgment to anticipate the range of conclusions that a reasonable juror might reach and the certainty with which the juror would reach them. Here, plaintiffs produced sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the FDA would have approved a properly-worded warning about the risk of thigh fractures—or to conclude that the odds of FDA rejection were less than highly probable. View "In Re: Fosamax Products Liability Litigation" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the first of over 500 cases regarding the Wright Medical Conserve "metal-on-metal" hip replacement device designed and manufactured by defendant. Plaintiff filed a products liability suit alleging, among other things, that defendant was liable for design defect based on strict liability and negligence. On appeal, defendant challenged the entry of a $2,100,000 judgment. The court rejected defendant's argument that the district court erred in ordering the jury to continue deliberations after the jury had already begun to deliver its verdict. In this case, upon recognizing the inconsistency in the jury verdict, the district court immediately halted publication of the verdict and instructed the jury that an error had been made; the district court acted in a neutral and non-biased manner in acknowledging and addressing the inconsistent verdict; and the district court also recharged the jury. The court also rejected defendant's argument that the district court erred in its instructions on Utah's products liability law with regard to the unavoidably unsafe product defense in Comment k of Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. The court explained that any categorical bar to liability for an unavoidably unsafe product was not available to defendant and thus the district court did not err in failing to give such an instruction to the jury. Furthermore, any error by the district court in instructing the jury on the unavoidably unsafe defense did not affect the result in this case because the jury found that defendant had not proven the defense. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court's error was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Christiansen v. Wright Medical Technology Inc." on Justia Law

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After a jury found that the mesothelioma contracted by James Lester Phillips was caused in part by exposure to asbestos contained in Bendix brakes, Honeywell challenged the $5.8 million awarded to Phillips's wife and surviving children. In the published portion of the opinion, the court rejected Honeywell's claims of evidentiary error, concluding that the trial court properly admitted a 1966 letter of a Bendix employee sarcastically addressing an article in Chemical Week magazine that stated asbestos had been accused, but not yet convicted, as a significant health hazard. The court reasoned that the letter was circumstantial evidence relevant to the issue of Bendix's awareness of asbestos's potential to cause cancer. The court noted that Illinois and Florida cases holding admission of this letter was prejudicial were distinguishable because they did not include a limiting instruction. The court also concluded that the trial court properly admitted the testimony of plaintiffs' expert about causation and the contributions to Phillips's risk of cancer from every identified exposure to asbestos that Phillips experienced. The court rejected Honeywell's remaining contentions in the unpublished portion of the opinion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Phillips v. Honeywell International Inc." on Justia Law