Articles Posted in Products Liability

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The 1994 “Engle” Florida class action against major cigarette manufacturers, was decertified, but “Phase I findings” concerning the defendants’ conduct may be used in individual suits. Berger sued Philip Morris for smoking-related injuries. A jury awarded Berger compensatory and punitive damages. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Philip Morris’s motions for a new trial based on improper closing argument, and for judgment as a matter of law on all claims based on due process and preemption principles. Eleventh Circuit precedent holds, categorically, that use of Phase I findings to establish Engle-progeny tort claims is constitutionally permissible. The court reversed judgment as a matter of law, in favor of Philip Morris, on intentional tort claims and remanded for the entry of judgment in Plaintiff’s favor on fraudulent concealment and conspiracy to fraudulently conceal claims and for reinstatement of the punitive damages award. Engle-progeny concealment claims arise from a sustained effort to hide the truth about the health hazards of smoking. Florida courts hold that Engle-progeny plaintiffs are not required to show reliance on a specific statement. Berger’s testimony that peer pressure influenced her decision to start smoking and that she chose her cigarette brand based on personal preferences did little to rebut the reasonable inference that Philip Morris’s disinformation campaign confused her about the health hazards of smoking; a reasonable juror could have concluded that if she had known the whole truth about smoking, she would have quit. View "Cote v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for unintentional and intentional torts arising from the death of her mother. Plaintiff alleged that her mother's illnesses were caused by her addiction to cigarettes manufactured by defendants. The jury found for plaintiff and defendants appealed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and rejected defendants' due process arguments because, consistent with precedent, the use of the Engle findings to establish the conduct elements of the progeny plaintiffs' tort claims was a constitutionally permissible application of res judicata. The court rejected defendants' contention that their Seventh Amendment rights were violated because the court concluded that the jury was not asked or required to reexamine the Engle findings. The court also rejected defendants' contention that the damages award should have been apportioned based on the mother's comparative fault, because the district court neither misinterpreted nor misapplied Florida law and plaintiff did not waive her statutory right to full, unapportioned damages. View "Searcy v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment against three tobacco companies in favor of plaintiff for compensatory and punitive damages. This case was one of thousands of Engle progeny suits initiated by smokers in Florida against tobacco companies and remained pending for several years while awaiting resolution of other appeals. With the benefit of those decisions, the court carefully reviewed the record and considered the parties' written and oral arguments, affirming the judgment awarded to plaintiff on her claims of negligence, strict liability, fraudulent concealment, and civil conspiracy. The court held that the district court's instructional error was harmless; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the companies' motion for mistrial after plaintiff's medical incident; the court rejected the companies' challenges to the punitive damages award; and the court rejected challenges to the district court's comparative fault findings and federal preemption and due process limits on the Engle jury's findings. View "Burkhart v. R.J.Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against ZOLL, alleging that claims for strict products liability, negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent marketing and promotion, breach of express warranty, negligent misrepresentation, and negligent infliction of emotional distress all related to the operation (or failure to operate) of the deceased's LifeVest. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. However, in light of developing and binding precedent in this circuit, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the remaining claims. The court held that these claims were cognizable Florida common law causes of action and were not preempted by federal law. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Godelia v. ZOLL Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this wrongful death action, plaintiff filed suit against R.J. Reynolds to recover damages based on the death of his wife from tobacco-related diseases caused by her decades-long history of smoking R.J. Reynolds' cigarettes. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court properly interpreted Florida law in ultimately deciding that plaintiff's damages could not be reduced, even though the jury found his wife to be 45% at fault for her injuries; plaintiff did not waive his right to insist that the Florida intentional tort exception be applied to prevent reduction of compensatory damages based on the wife's degree of fault; and the district court's repudiation of its own charge to the jury concerning the reduction of damages did not justify a reversal of its ultimate decision not to reduce those damages. View "Smith v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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BSC appealed from various orders and a final judgment in favor of plaintiff, who alleged substantial injuries caused by the Pinnacle Pelvic Floor Repair Kit that was manufactured and sold by BSC. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for plaintiff, holding that the district court acted well within its discretion in consolidating four lawsuits and BSC could not establish that it was prejudiced by the consolidation of the suits; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded BSC's 510(k) review process evidence; the district court did not err by declining to overturn the jury's verdict where plaintiff provided sufficient evidence in her favor, so her claims were properly reserved for the jury; the district court did not err by denying judgment as a matter of law to BSC on plaintiff's failure to warn claims; and the district court did not err by denying judgment as a matter of law to BSC on its argument that plaintiff's claims were time barred. View "Eghnayem v. Boston Scientific Corp." on Justia Law

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In this appeal arising from an allegedly defective surgical mesh implant, the Eleventh Circuit certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Texas: In a product liability case, does Texas' discovery rule require a plaintiff to have some knowledge of possible wrongdoing on the part of the manufacturer—i.e., a causal connection between the injury and the manufacturer's conduct—before the plaintiff's claims can accrue? View "Bergin v. Mentor Worldwide LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Products Liability

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Plaintiff filed suit against S&N for negligence, product liability, breach of contract, and misrepresentation. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from his decision to get S&N's metal-on-metal hip replacement system and the injuries he says it caused him. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the negligence claim to the extent it relies on an improper training or failure to warn theory of liability; affirmed the dismissal of the breach of contract claim; and reversed the dismissal of the negligence claim and strict product liability claims premised on manufacturing defect, as well as his misrepresentation claim. The court explained that these surviving claims were cognizable Florida common law causes of action and were not preempted by federal law. View "Mink v. Smith & Nephew, Inc." on Justia Law

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Federal tobacco laws do not preempt state tort claims based on the dangerousness of all the cigarettes manufactured by the tobacco companies. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the jury verdicts of negligence and strict liability in Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246 (Fla. 2006) (Engle III), and decertified the class to allow individual actions about the remaining issues. In this case, R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris challenged the jury verdict against them in one of the individual actions. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed its holding in Walker v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 734 F.3d 1278 (11th Cir. 2013), and concluded that giving full faith and credit to the Engle jury findings of negligence and strict liability does not deprive R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris of property without due process of law, and that federal law does not preempt the Engle jury findings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgments against R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. View "Graham v. R.J Reynolds Tobacco" 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