Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Products Liability
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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of law to the Delaware Supreme Court. The question arose in connection with a toxic tort class action in the federal district court for the District of Delaware that was appealed to the Third Circuit. Delaware resident Catherine Baker filed suit individually and on behalf of fellow residents who lived near Atlas Point, a chemical plant that regularly used and emitted ethylene oxide, a dangerous chemical. The question asked whether an increased risk of illness, without present manifestation of a physical harm, was a cognizable injury under Delaware law. Put another way: did an increased risk of harm only constitute a cognizable injury once it manifested in a physical disease? To this, the Supreme Court answered: an increased risk of illness without present manifestation of a physical harm is not a cognizable injury under Delaware law. View "Baker v. Croda Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants, the Law Offices of Ben C. Martin and the law firm Martin Baughman, PLLC (collectively, BCM), argued that the district court in this multidistrict litigation (MDL), In re Bard IVC Filters Products Liability Litigation, lacked authority to order common benefit fund assessments against the recoveries of claimants who were not involved in cases that were part of the MDL—that is, those with claims that were not filed in any court, or were filed in state court, or were filed in federal court after the MDL closed (collectively, non-MDL cases). After settling their clients’ claims against C.R. Bard, Inc. and Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc. (collectively, Bard), BCM moved to exempt the recoveries of their clients in non-MDL cases from common benefit fund assessments. The district court denied the motion.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order. The panel held that the district court’s order requiring common benefit fund assessments in the non-MDL cases was within the scope of the district court’s authority. A district court properly exercises its authority to order common benefit fund holdback assessments from claimants’ recoveries in non-MDL cases when (1) counsel for claimants voluntarily consents to the district court’s authority by signing, or otherwise entering into, a participation agreement requiring contributions in exchange for access to common benefit work product, (2) that participation agreement is incorporated into a court order, and (3) as a result of entering the participation agreement, counsel receives access to common benefit work product. The panel affirmed the district court’s order denying claimants’ motion to exempt non-MDL cases from common benefit fund assessments. View "IN RE: LAW OFFICES OF BEN C. MARTIN V. BABBITT & JOHNSON PA, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Mark Kielar challenged a superior court’s decision to grant Hyundai Motor America’s (Hyundai) motion to compel arbitration of his causes of action for violation of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, and fraudulent inducement arising from alleged mechanical defects in the condition of his 2012 Hyundai Tucson. The superior court’s ruling followed Court of Appeal's earlier decision in Felisilda v. FCA US LLC, 53 Cal.App.5th 486 (2020) and concluded Hyundai, a nonsignatory manufacturer, could enforce the arbitration provision in the sales contract between Kielar and his local car dealership under the doctrine of equitable estoppel. The Court of Appeal joined recent decisions that have disagreed with Felisilda and concluded the court erred in ordering arbitration. Therefore, it issued a preemptory writ of mandate compelling the superior court to vacate its June 16, 2022 order and enter a new order denying Hyundai’s motion. View "Kielar v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court made permanent a preliminary writ it issued granting Monsanto Company's petition for a writ of prohibition or mandamus requiring the St. Louis circuit court to transfer venue of five of the six plaintiffs' claims, holding that Missouri law compelled this result.Plaintiffs brought this action claiming that they were injured as a result of exposure to a herbicide manufactured by Monsanto Company and seeking monetary damages. Monsanto filed a motion to transfer venue as to five of the six plaintiffs in this case to St. Louis County but failed to file a motion to transfer in the six plaintiff's case The circuit court subsequently consolidated Plaintiffs' individual claims. Monsanto filed a motion to reconsider, arguing that venue was inappropriate in St. Louis Valley. The circuit court overruled the motion, after which Monsanto sought relief by way of mandamus or prohibition. The Supreme Court granted relief, holding that Mo. Rev. Stat. 508.010.5(1) mandated that venue shall be where Monsanto's registered agent was located as of filing - St. Louis County. View "State ex rel. Monsanto Co. v. Honorable Mullen" on Justia Law

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Two putative class actions are at issue in these appeals: Nacarino v. Kashi Co., No. 22-15377, and Brown v. Kellogg Co., No. 22-15658. The complaints were filed in the Northern District of California, and they asserted materially identical state-law consumer protection claims for unfair business practices, unjust enrichment, and fraud. Both complaints alleged that the front labels on several of Defendants’ products are “false and misleading” under state and federal law. At issue is whether food product labels that advertise the amount of protein in the products are false or misleading.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed on different grounds the district court’s dismissal of the two complaints. The panel rejected Plaintiffs’ arguments that the protein claims on Defendants’ labels were false because the nitrogen method for calculating protein content overstated the actual amount of protein the products contained. The panel held that FDA regulations specifically allow manufacturers to measure protein quantity using the nitrogen method.   The panel rejected Plaintiffs’ arguments that the protein claims on Defendants’ labels were misleading because the “amount of digestible or usable protein the Products actually deliver to the human body is even lower” than the actual amount of protein the products contain. The panel held that Defendants’ protein claims could be misleading under FDA regulations if they did not accurately state the quantity of protein or if the products did not display the quality-adjusted percent daily value in the Nutritional Facts Panel. However, Plaintiffs’ complaints did not allege that the challenged protein claims were misleading within the meaning of the federal regulations. View "ELENA NACARINO, ET AL V. KASHI COMPANY" on Justia Law

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Coloplast Corporation and Coloplast Manufacturing US, LLC (collectively, Coloplast) manufacture and market Restorelle L, a surgical mesh device. Plaintiff sued Coloplast for injuries allegedly caused by the implantation of Restorelle L mesh. After excluding portions of Plaintiff’s expert opinions and testimony, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Coloplast. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in excluding her expert’s opinion on specific causation and in granting summary judgment on her negligent design claim.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the expert’s supplemental declaration was untimely because it was submitted after the deadlines for disclosure of expert reports and completion of all discovery. The court reasoned that Rule 26(e)(2) requires that an expert’s supplement “be disclosed by the time the party’s pretrial disclosures under Rule 26(a)(3) are due.” Rule 26(a)(3)(B), in turn, states that “Unless the court orders otherwise, these disclosures must be made at least 30 days before trial.” Plaintiff maintains that she, therefore, had until thirty days before trial to disclose the expert’s supplemental declaration. However, the court explained that she ignored the caveat that Rule 26’s default timing provision applies only if the court does not order otherwise. Here, the court set deadlines in its scheduling order, those deadlines superseded the default rules, and Plaintiff failed to meet those deadlines. Further, the court wrote that the district court also did not abuse its discretion when it decided to exclude the expert’s report and declaration without considering lesser sanctions. View "Angela Cantrell v. Coloplast Corp." on Justia Law

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In this products liability matter involving “pelvic mesh” medical devices, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered whether defendant C.R. Bard, Inc., was denied a fair trial by the trial court’s determination that defendant could not present 510(k) clearance evidence -- evidence that, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 360c, the devices were allowed to be marketed without premarket clinical trials -- to counter the product liability claims brought by plaintiffs Mary and Thomas Walsh McGinnis. North Carolina surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Barbee implanted Bard’s “Align TO” and “Avaulta Solo” pelvic mesh devices. In the months following surgery, McGinnis had to undergo numerous invasive surgeries to remove the mesh and repair internal damage, with limited success. In 2011, plaintiffs filed suit against defendant Bard under North Carolina law. Counsel agreed that the substantive issues would be tried under the law of North Carolina but that the issue of damages would be tried under New Jersey law. Plaintiffs moved in limine to bar defendant from presenting any evidence of the devices’ 510(k) clearance to the jury. The trial court found the 510(k) evidence inadmissible. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that the exclusion of any 510(k) evidence deprived defendant of a fair trial on the issue of negligence. The Supreme Court agreed that 510(k) evidence was generally inadmissible because the 510(k) clearance process solely determines substantial equivalency, and not safety and efficacy. However, in a products liability claim premised on the reasonableness of a manufacturer’s conduct in not performing clinical trials or studies, the Court held evidence of 510(k) clearance had significant probative value under N.J.R.E. 401 that was not substantially outweighed by the risk of prejudice and potential juror confusion under N.J.R.E. 403. Therefore, under the specific facts and circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division and remanded for a new trial. The Court disagreed with the Appellate Division’s decision regarding the scope and admissibility of 510(k) evidence and a Rule 104 hearing. To this, the Supreme Court believed the scope and admissibility of 510(k) evidence should be resolved at the hearing on a motion in limine, which was how the issue was and, presumably, would be raised. View "Hrymoc v. Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law

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Five people were killed when a commercial truck rear-ended a line of traffic on an interstate highway. The truck driver was prosecuted and sentenced to prison for his misconduct. The issue on this appeal was the liability, if any, of the manufacturer of the truck. Plaintiffs, suing on behalf of the heirs and estates of the decedents, contended the manufacturer, Daimler Trucks North America, should have been held liable in tort under design-defect and warning-defect theories of products liability because it failed to equip the truck with two collision-mitigation systems—forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking—and did not warn of the dangers caused by that failure. The district court granted summary judgment to Daimler. After its review of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, finding many of the arguments made by Plaintiffs on appeal were inadequately preserved for appellate review, and the remaining arguments lacked merit. View "Butler, et al. v. Daimler Trucks North America" on Justia Law

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In this diversity case, Plaintiff sued Biomet Inc. and Zimmer, Inc. (collectively, “Biomet”) under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (“LPLA”). The district court found Plaintiff’s claims were prescribed and granted summary judgment in favor of Biomet.   The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s summary judgment order and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, including any additional discovery the district court may order. The court explained that given Plaintiff’s consultations with his doctor, a medical professional. But on the other hand, a jury could just as reasonably determine that contra non valentem tolled prescription until some point in time before September 2019. It is unclear whether Plaintiff stopped suffering complications from infections after the removal, such that his recovery after the device’s removal would have put him on notice of any fault of Biomet’s before the letter was received. As the record stands, when the prescriptive period expired, and whether contra non valentum applies, is a question best left for the jury. View "Bruno v. Biomet" on Justia Law

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Raul Camacho was installing glass panels when he fell out of a scissor lift manufactured by JLG Industries Inc. (JLG). Camacho failed to latch a chain that was designed to guard the lift’s entrance. Camacho sued JLG for strict products liability, failure to warn, and related claims. At a jury trial, Camacho alleged the scissor lift as designed with the chain invited human error, and the foreseeable risk of harm could have been avoided if JLG had marketed only its alternative design with a self-closing gate. Camacho also alleged there was a defective warning label on the lift. At the close of evidence, JLG moved for a directed verdict. The trial court granted the motion. The court ruled in order to show causation Camacho needed to prove if the chain been latched, “the accident would have happened anyway.” To this, the Court of Appeal disagreed: "Camacho only needed to make a prima facie showing that the alternative design with the self-closing gate would have prevented his fall. Under a risk-benefit test, it was then JLG’s burden to prove the benefits of the chain outweighed its risks." The Court found Camacho made a prima facie showing of causation, and the jury could have reasonably inferred that had a self-closing gate been in place, Camacho’s fall would have been prevented. The Court also found the jurors could have reasonably inferred JLG’s allegedly defective warning label was also a substantial factor in causing Camacho’s injuries. Thus, the Court reversed the judgment and directed the trial court to vacate its order granting JLG’s motion for a directed verdict. View "Camacho v. JLG Industries" on Justia Law