Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Products Liability
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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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Martha and Kevin Smith purchased and lived in a house that had a plumbing system composed of polyethylene ("PEX") tubing manufactured by NIBCO, Inc. The PEX tubing failed, which allowed water to leak into the house, allegedly causing damage. The Smiths subsequently commenced a lawsuit in against NIBCO, among others, asserting various theories of liability. Ultimately, the circuit court entered a summary judgment in favor of NIBCO and certified the judgment as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. App. P. The Smiths appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court found that the Smiths' claims against NIBCO, the judgment on which was certified as final under Rule 54(b), and the Smiths' claims against D.R. Horton and Dupree Plumbing that remained pending in the circuit court were so closely intertwined that separate adjudication of those claims would pose an unreasonable risk of inconsistent results. Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court exceeded its discretion in certifying the September 20, 2021, order granting NIBCO's summary-judgment motion as final. The Supreme Court therefore dismissed the appeal. View "Smith v. NIBCO, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was severely injured in a crash while he was driving a Peterbilt semi-truck. He sued the truck’s manufacturer, PACCAR, Inc. (PACCAR), alleging that the truck’s defective design caused his injuries. A jury returned a verdict in PACCAR’s favor. His estate appeals, arguing that the district court committed several evidentiary errors at trial.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held, 1.) Plaintiff's expert's second report was untimely under the discovery orders in the case, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding it; 2.) the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that plaintiff had failed to show the good cause required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4) to modify the scheduling order after the court declared a mistrial; 3.) Plaintiff failed to preserve his challenge to Defendant's "state-of-the-art" defense.Applying plain error review to Plaintiff's challenge to Defendant's "state-of-the-art" defense, the court held the district court did not plainly err in admitting the testimony as the witnesses were testifying based on their extensive industry experience, and noted that Iowa law permits industry custom as evidence of the state of the art. View "Elizabeth Zick v. Paccar, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted allowance of appeal to consider whether the Pennsylvania Uniform Statute of Limitations on Foreign Claims Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 5521(b), required Pennsylvania courts to apply a foreign jurisdiction’s statute of repose to a claim that accrued in a foreign jurisdiction. In 2013, Appellee William Kornfeind was injured when he fell from a 28-foot extension ladder while performing maintenance work on the roof of his home in Wauconda, Illinois. The ladder was designed, manufactured, and distributed by Old Ladder Company (Old Ladder) in 1995. Kornfeind believed he purchased it from The Home Depot (Home Depot) in Illinois sometime in the late 1990s. Old Ladder filed for bankruptcy in 2006. In 2007, New Werner Holding Co. assumed certain liabilities from Old Ladder. In 2015, Kornfeind filed suit at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. After the close of discovery, New Werner and Home Depot each filed motions for summary judgment, arguing the trial court should use Pennsylvania’s Uniform Statute of Limitations on Foreign Claims Act to borrow Illinois’ ten-year statute of repose for product liability claims. They argued that because Kornfeind admitted in his deposition that he purchased the ladder in the late 1990s, the latest he could have purchased it was on December 31, 1999, which was more than ten years before he filed suit in 2015. As Kornfeind’s product liability claims would be time-barred by the Illinois statute of repose and Pennsylvania did not have a statute of repose for product liability claims. The trial court denied both motions for summary judgment, reasoning that, as a matter of law, Pennsylvania’s borrowing statute “is explicitly limited to statutes of limitations and does not include statutes of repose.” Because the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts that the Uniform Statute of Limitations on Foreign Claims Act did not require the application of a foreign jurisdiction’s statute of repose, it affirmed the portion of the order of the Superior Court that affirmed the trial court order denying the motion for summary judgment filed by New Werner. View "Kornfeind v. New Werner Holding" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Cindy Roe suffered serious injuries after her Jeep Grand Cherokee unexpectedly backed over her. After the accident, she filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the manufacturer of her vehicle, FCA US (“FCA”), alleging that the shifter assembly in her vehicle had been defectively designed in that it could be perched into a “false-park” position where the vehicle appears to be in park, but was actually in an unstable position that could slip into reverse. Roe further alleged this defect caused her injuries. FCA moved to exclude Roe’s experts as unreliable on the issue of causation, among other objections. FCA additionally moved for summary judgement because Roe could not create a material issue of fact on the essential element of causation without her experts’ testimony. The district court agreed with FCA, excluded the experts, and granted summary judgment for FCA. Notably, the district court found that the experts’ theory on causation was unreliable because they failed to demonstrate that the shifter could remain in false park for sufficient time for Roe to move behind the vehicle and then slip into reverse without manual assistance. Roe appealed, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in excluding the expert testimony. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Roe v. FCA US" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff received MemoryGel Silicone Gel Breast Implants made by Mentor Worldwide, LLC. After one of her implants ruptured, she sued Mentor pro se, alleging negligence and negligence per se, strict liability failure to warn, and strict liability manufacturing defect. The district court dismissed her complaint without prejudice and later dismissed her amended complaint with prejudice as preempted and foreclosed by Florida law.   Plaintiff appealed the district court’s dismissal of the manufacturing defect claims in Counts I and III of her initial complaint. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and held that Plaintiff’s manufacturing defect claims are sufficiently pleaded to survive a motion to dismiss.   The court explained that construing her pro se pleadings liberally, Plaintiff’s manufacturing defect claims are sufficiently pleaded to survive Mentor’s motion to dismiss. She plausibly alleged that Mentor violated a duty it owed to her, not the government. Specifically, she alleged that the implants’ manufacturing process differed from the specifications agreed to by the FDA and that Mentor used materials that differed from those approved by the FDA, violating both state law and the device-specific regulatory controls the FDA approved under 21 C.F.R. Section 820.30. These allegations are enough to state a plausible claim against Mentor under Rule 12(b)(6), and the district court erred by holding otherwise. View "Lalitha E. Jacob, MD v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC" on Justia Law

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Rankins, a DHL employee, was seriously injured at work when a cable within a winch system snapped. Rankins received workers’ compensation benefits. The winch system was designed and installed by SSK. Rankins brought products-liability claims in state court against SSK. DHL lost the physical pieces of the winch system after the suit was removed to federal court. SSK brought a third-party suit against DHL seeking damages for the spoliation of evidence and seeking contribution under the Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act. DHL settled with Rankins by waiving its workers’ compensation lien ($455,229.17) and paying an additional $87,500. DHL then argued that its good-faith contribution settlement with Rankins entitled it under state law to a full dismissal of all third-party claims stemming from Rankins’s injury. The district court rejected SSK’s argument that the settlement did not compensate SSK for its own spoliation-related difficulties and dismissed SSK’s third-party complaint.The court found that, under FRCP 54(b), there was no just cause for delaying SSK’s appeal of the dismissal of the spoliation claim. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The spoliation and product liability claims are not factually and legally separable to the extent required by Rule 54(b), so there is no final judgment. View "Systems Solutions of Kentucky LLC, v. DHL Express (USA), Inc." on Justia Law

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Stevenson was injured in the course of his employment while moving a portable ladder in order to clean a component of a Windmoeller printing press. The ladder was supplied with the machine and was necessary to reach an interior printing plate. The ladder caught on the cable attached to the machine, which caused Stevenson to twist and injure his shoulder and back; he required surgery.Stevenson’s product-liability suit argued that the design of the machine, including the placement of the cable near the access door used to service the machine’s interior components, was defective and foreseeably gave rise to his injury. Stevenson asked the court to appoint an engineering expert. Fed. R. Evid. 706 codifies the power of a trial judge to appoint an expert to function as a neutral expert serving the court rather than any party. The district court denied this motion, reasoning Stevenson was really asking for the appointment of an expert to support his case, rather than a neutral expert. Stevenson contends that the month that the court allowed him to respond to a subsequent summary judgment motion was insufficient to hire his own expert, allow related discovery, and file his response.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Windmoeller. Only an advocate expert could have filled the gap in Stevenson’s case. Stevenson could have asked for pre-authorization of the payment for such an expert from a court fund under Local Rule 83.40. View "Stevenson v. Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp." on Justia Law