Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries
Hazel v. Blitz U.S.A., Inc.
On November 5, 2010, James Nix poured kerosene from a gasoline can onto a burn pile in his yard. The kerosene ignited, and the flame entered the gas can through its unguarded pour spout. The gas can exploded and sprayed kerosene and fire onto Nix's five-year-old son Jacob, who was standing only a few yards away. Jacob suffered severe burn injuries to over 50% of his skin and was permanently scarred. Blitz U.S.A., Inc. manufactured the gas can. Blitz distributed the gas can involved in Jacob's injury through Fred's, a retail store chain headquartered in Tennessee. Fred's sold the gas can to a consumer at its store in the town of Varnville, in Hampton County, South Carolina. The explosion and fire that burned Jacob occurred at Nix's home in Hampton County, South Carolina. In 2013, Jacob's aunt Alice Hazel, his legal guardian, and Jacob's mother Melinda Cook, filed separate but almost identical lawsuits in state court in Hampton County seeking damages for Jacob's injuries. Both plaintiffs asserted claims against Blitz on strict liability, breach of warranty, and negligence theories. Both plaintiffs asserted claims against Fred's for strict liability and breach of warranty based on the sale of the allegedly defective gas can. Both plaintiffs also asserted a claim against Fred's on a negligence theory based only on Fred's negligence, not based on the negligence of Blitz. This is the claim important to this appeal, referred to as "Hazel's claim." Petitioner Fred's Stores of Tennessee, Inc. contended the circuit court erred by refusing to enjoin these lawsuits under the terms of a bankruptcy court order and injunction entered in the bankruptcy proceedings of Blitz U.S.A., Inc. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the circuit court correctly determined the bankruptcy court's order and injunction did not protect Fred's from these lawsuits. The matter was remanded back to the circuit court for discovery and trial. View "Hazel v. Blitz U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law
Scott v. Key Energy Services, Inc.
After plaintiff sustained injuries in an on-the-job accident, he filed suit against his former employer, Key Energy, and the company that manufactured the equipment that caused his injuries, Hydra-Walk, alleging products liability and negligence claims. Plaintiff suffered injuries when the Hydra-Walk system he was operating became unstable and overturned, crushing him.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants, concluding that Hydra-Walk is not a third-party tortfeasor for purposes of determining whether plaintiff may pursue a remedy. The court explained that plaintiff's arguments to the contrary ignored that a merger occurred between Key Energy and Hydra-Walk, with Key Energy emerging as the only surviving entity and Hydra-Walk, ceasing to exist. Furthermore, the North Dakota Supreme Court has never allowed an employee to successfully recover against an employer where the employee was injured by equipment manufactured by another company prior to the company's merger with the employer and the injury occurred post-merger. Without further indication that the North Dakota Supreme Court would be receptive to the application of the exception, the court was unwilling to apply it, for the first time, to plaintiff's claims. Finally, the court concluded that the North Dakota Supreme Court would not apply the dual capacity doctrine to the exclusive remedy rule to plaintiff's claims. View "Scott v. Key Energy Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Sinclair Wyoming Refining v. A & B Builders
In 2013, a refinery unit (“Unit”) at the Sinclair Wyoming Refinery Co. (“Sinclair”) in Sinclair, Wyoming caught fire and exploded because its “FV-241” control valve fractured and released flammable hydrogen gas. A high temperature hydrogen attack (“HTHA”) weakened the valve and caused the fracture. FV-241 was made from carbon steel, which was more susceptible to HTHA than stainless steel. Sinclair had purchased the Unit in 2004. Sinclair moved the Unit from California to Wyoming and converted it from its previous use to a hydrotreater, a refinery unit that introduced hydrogen to remove impurities from the product stream. Sinclair contracted the design, engineering, and construction work to other companies. During the moving and conversion process, FV-241 was remanufactured and installed on the Unit. Sinclair brought a diversity action against seven companies involved in dismantling the Unit, converting it to a hydrotreater, rebuilding it in Wyoming, and remanufacturing and installing FV-241. Sinclair alleged various contract and tort claims. The district court granted several motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment that eliminated all of Sinclair’s claims. The court also entered summary judgment in favor of certain Defendants’ indemnity counterclaim. Although its analysis diverged from the district court's judgment in some respects, the Tenth Circuit affirmed orders dismissing or granting summary judgment on all of Sinclair's claims, and granting summary judgment on the indemnity counter claim. View "Sinclair Wyoming Refining v. A & B Builders" 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
Connell v. Lima Corporate
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Lima Corporate in a diversity action brought by plaintiffs, alleging product liability and negligence claims relating to a hip implant. The panel held that in light of the statutory text, context, and stated purpose, Lima Corporate was a biomaterials supplier of its Hip Stem – a "component part" supplied "for use in the manufacture of an implant" pursuant to the Biomaterials Access Assurance Act (BAAA), 21 U.S.C. 1602(1)(A). In this case, Lima Corporate was immune from liability under the BAAA and, under the circumstances, could not be impleaded under section 1606. View "Connell v. Lima Corporate" on Justia Law
Horne v. Electric Eel Manufacturing Co., Inc.
Horne rented a drain rodding machine made by Electric Eel from Home Depot. A Home Depot employee selected the machine, which had been tested before it was shipped. After a previous customer returned the machine, a Home Depot employee had determined that it was defective and replaced the foot pedal. Two friends were with Horne as he used the rodder. The powered reverse did not work, so Horne tried to remove the cable by hand. The cable wrapped around his forearm; he was thrown to the ground. Horne’s right hand was badly injured. The wound became gangrenous, most of his right index finger had to be amputated. Horne sued Home Depot and Electric Eel for negligence and breach of warranty and Electric Eel for strict product liability.The Seventh Circuit vacated, in part, summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court noted conflicting provisions of Home Depot’s rental agreement. Horne assumed the risks of operating a machine in good working condition but did not assume the risks of operating a machine with flaws in its basic functioning. Horne has evidence that three key features of the machine were defective; a jury could infer that those defects caused his injuries. He is entitled to take his case against Home Depot to trial. Horne did not establish that Home Depot's Exculpatory Clause violated public policy. Horne failed to establish the absence of abnormal use or reasonable secondary causes and did not tie Electric Eel to his injuries. View "Horne v. Electric Eel Manufacturing Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Ideus v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.
Plaintiff file a products liability action against Teva, the manufacturer of intrauterine devices, after she suffered complications from the implantation of an intrauterine device that broke and embedded inside her uterus.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the manufacturer, holding that all Teva was required to do under Nebraska law was warn medical professionals like plaintiff's physician about the device's potential risks. The court explained that the Nebraska Supreme Court has indicated that it would follow the "overwhelming majority rule" and join other states in rejecting the prescription-contraceptives exception to the learned-intermediary doctrine. View "Ideus v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Dunn v. Genzyme Corp.
In this case involving claims of personal injury and product liability against the manufacturer of a medical device the Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the superior court judge denying the manufacturer's motion to dismiss, holding that plaintiffs asserting parallel state law claims may do so with no greater degree of specificity than otherwise required under Iannacchino v. Ford Motor Co., 451 Mass. 623, 636 (2008).Plaintiff sued Genzyme Corporation, asserting that Synvisc-One, a class III medical device subject to premarket approval under the Medical Device Amendments (MDA), 21 U.S.C. 360c et seq., was negligently manufactured, designed, distributed, and sold by Genzyme. Genzyme filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the allegations were preempted by federal regulation. The trial judge denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that while all of Plaintiff's state law claims properly paralleled the federal requirements, none of them was sufficiently pleaded under Iannacchino to survive Genzyme's motion to dismiss. View "Dunn v. Genzyme Corp." on Justia Law
Brooks v. Mentor Worldwide
Plaintiffs Amber Brooks and Jamie Gale brought tort claims based on injuries they sustained when their breast implants began to deteriorate. The district court found they failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and dismissed their complaint with prejudice. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that though Congress heavily regulated the production and use of medical devices, there was a narrow preemption by which plaintiffs could plead their claim arising from the failure of that medical device. They also alleged the district court abused its discretion by denying their motion for leave to amend their complaint. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that federal law preempted all of plaintiffs' claims, and any any state-law claims were insufficiently pled. With respect to the trial court's dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint with prejudice, the Tenth Circuit determined plaintiffs elected to "stand by their 'primary position,' and took no available avenue to amend their complaint. Therefore, the Tenth Circuit declined to grant their request now, and found the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiffs' request for leave to amend. View "Brooks v. Mentor Worldwide" on Justia Law
Ortega Garcia v. United States
Patricia Guadalupe Garcia Cervantes, a Mexican citizen who was attempting to enter the United States illegally by swimming across the Brownsville Ship Channel, was struck and killed by a Coast Guard vessel patrolling the area. Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of his and Cervantes' daughter, filed suit alleging negligence and wrongful death claims against the United States, as well as products liability, gross negligence, and wrongful death claims against the manufacturers of the vessel and its engines, Safe Boats and Mercury Marine.After determining that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction based on admiralty, the Fifth Circuit concluded that, notwithstanding plaintiff's own lack of standing, he may still maintain claims as next-of-friend for his daughter. Reviewing the district court's grant of summary judgment and its duty determination de novo, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims. The court held that the negligence claim failed because the United States owed no duty to Cervantes; the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's defective design claims against Safe Boats and Mercury Marine where Cervantes lacked standing to bring those claims under Section 402A of the Second Restatement in regard to maritime products liability claims; even assuming plaintiff could bring these products liability claims, plaintiff failed to show that the asserted defective products proximately caused Cervantes' death; plaintiff's failure-to-warn claims were also properly dismissed; and the district court correctly dismissed the wrongful death claims after dismissing all the underlying tort claims. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining claims and affirmed the dismissal. View "Ortega Garcia v. United States" on Justia Law