Articles Posted in Products Liability

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Plaintiff filed a product liability suit against Remington after her husband, Kenneth Seamon, died from a gunshot wound while deer hunting alone. Plaintiff alleged that Mr. Seamon died as a result of a defect in his Remington Model 700 bolt action rifle. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's exclusion of the causation opinion of plaintiff's liability expert and the district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment. In this case, the expert provided a reasonable explanation for why the defense's proposed alternative cause - trigger pull - was not in fact the cause of Mr. Seamon's death. In holding that the expert's opinion was based on speculation, rather than facts in the record, the court concluded that the district court also mischaracterized the evidentiary support for the expert’s opinion in several ways. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment regarding the motion to exclude, and consequently the motion for summary judgment, remanding for further proceedings. View "Seamon v. Remington Arms Co." on Justia Law

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In 1996, a Florida District Court of Appeal approved certification of a class-action lawsuit originating in the Circuit Court of Dade County that encompassed an estimated 700,000 Floridians who brought state-law damages claims against the major American tobacco companies for medical conditions, including cancer, "caused by their addiction to cigarettes that contain nicotine." The Florida Supreme Court then decertified the class but held that the jury findings would nonetheless have "res judicata effect" in cases thereafter brought against one or more of the tobacco companies by a former class member. Here, a member of that now-decertified class, successfully advanced strict-liability and negligence claims that trace their roots to the pre-decertified class' jury findings. Over the defendants' objection, the District Court instructed the jury that "you must apply certain findings made by the [class action] court and they must carry the same weight they would have if you had listened to all the evidence and made those findings yourselves." When the jury found in favor of the plaintiff on both claims, the defendants renewed their motion for a judgment as a matter of law, contending, among other things, that federal law preempted the jury’s imposition of tort liability as based on the class-action jury findings. The District Court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed. The Eleventh Circuit reversed: "the State of Florida may ordinarily enforce duties on cigarette manufacturers in a bid to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. But it may not enforce a duty, as it has through the [class-action] jury findings, premised on the theory that all cigarettes are inherently defective and that every cigarette sale is an inherently negligent act. So our holding is narrow indeed: it is only these specific, sweeping bases for state tort liability that we conclude frustrate the full purposes and objectives of Congress. As a result, [plaintiff's class-action]-progeny strict-liability and negligence claims are preempted, and we must reverse the District Court’s denial of judgment as a matter of law." View "Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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Following a jury verdict awarding compensatory damages to plaintiff, Reynolds appealed the final judgment. Plaintiff was awarded compensatory damages based on the loss of support and services, loss of companionship and protection, and her mental pain and suffering, as a result of her husband's lung cancer and death, the legal cause of which was attributed to his addiction to smoking cigarettes manufactured by Reynolds. The court concluded that the district court erred in granting plaintiff's motion in limine to exclude evidence of the deceased's alcohol abuse as it related to his death under Rule 403 where the evidence was highly probative and did not cause a high amount of unfair prejudice. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for a new trial. View "Aycock v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Marianne and Daniel Chapman, filed a products liability suit against P&G after Marianne developed neurological symptoms that the Chapmans maintain were caused by zinc-induced, copper-deficiency myelopathy (CDM) from using Fixodent denture adhesive. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of P&G. The court concluded that the district judge properly determined that Fixodent, containing zinc, was in the McClain v. Metabolife Int'l, Inc. category two analysis involving toxic substances and conducted the requisite Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., review of proffered expert testimony. The court also concluded that the district judge, as gatekeeper of the evidence presented to the jury, did not abuse her discretion or commit manifest injustice by precluding the testimonies of Dr. Brewer, Dr. Lautenbach, and Dr. Landolph as experts on general causation; in precluding Dr. Greenberg's expert testimony regarding the specific causation of Marianne's CDM; and in granting P&G's motions preventing the testimonies of three additional plaintiffs' experts. Because plaintiffs' general and specific-causation-expert testimony was inadmissible at trial, plaintiffs failed to prove that Fixodent caused Marianne's CDM. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to P&G. View "Chapman, et al. v. The Procter & Gamble Dist., et al." on Justia Law

Posted in: Products Liability

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These consolidated appeals concern the ongoing tobacco litigation that began as a class action in Florida courts more than two decades ago. At issue is the fate of 588 personal injury cases filed on behalf of purportedly living cigarette smokers who, as it turns out, were dead at the time of filing (predeceased plaintiffs), 160 loss of consortium cases filed on behalf of spouses and children of these predeceased plaintiffs, and two wrongful death cases filed more than two years after the decedent-smoker's death. Plaintiffs' counsel sought leave to amend the complaints, but the district court denied those requests and dismissed the cases. The root of the problem occurred back in 2008 when these cases were originally filed where the law firm that brought the cases did not have the time or resources required to fully investigate all the complaints. Consequently, problem after problem cropped up once the district court started going through the inventory of cases. The defects that led to these consolidated appeals stemmed from counsel's failure to obtain accurate information regarding whether or when certain smokers died. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of these cases where, among other reasons, the problems could have been avoided if counsel had properly investigated the claims, and even if that lack of diligence were somehow excusable, counsel failed to inform the court that so many complaints were defective. View "4432 Ind. Tobacco Plaintiffs v. Various Tobacco Companies, et al." on Justia Law

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R.J. Reynolds appealed money judgments in favor of the survivors of two smokers. At issue was whether a decision of the Supreme Court of Florida in an earlier class action was entitled to full faith and credit in federal court. The court affirmed the judgments in favor of the survivors because R.J. Reynolds had a full and fair opportunity to be heard in the Florida class action and the application of res judicata under Florida law did not cause an arbitrary deprivation of property. View "Walker, et al. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought claims of negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, misrepresentation and fraud, and negligence per se against defendants, alleging that she developed tardive dyskinesia after taking generic metoclopramide manufactured by Defendant Teva for a period of greater than 12 weeks, contrary to administrative guidance issued by the FDA. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against Teva as preempted by federal law and because, preemption aside, the learned intermediary doctrine prevented her from stating a claim upon which relief could be granted under Florida law; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant Brand Manufacturers because Florida law did not permit an injured consumer to recover from the brand manufacturer of a prescription drug if the consumer is known to have ingested only the generic form of that drug; and noted that, insofar as plaintiff sought redress for her injuries, such redress lies with Congress or the Florida legislature. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Guarino v. Wyeth, et al." on Justia Law

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United Fire, as subrogee for Robert and Theresa Corral, brought a strict products liability suit against Whirlpool, alleging that a Whirlpool-manufactured clothes dryer caused a fire in the Corrals' home. United Fire appealed the district court's orders excluding the proffered testimony of two expert witnesses, Mr. Arms and Dr. Clarke, and granting Whirlpool's motion for summary judgment on United Fire's sole claim of relief. The court held that excluding the part of Mr. Arms' testimony regarding the physical origin of the fire was an abuse of discretion where the testimony was based on a widely accepted methodology and grounded in the available physical evidence. While Dr. Clarke's ultimate conclusions could be contested, it was an abuse of discretion to conclude that the basic methodology applied to analyze the metal dryer duct lacked minimum scientific reliability. Applying the "Cassisi inference," the court held that there were genuine issues as to whether a manufacturing defect within the dryer caused the fire. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the exclusion of Mr. Arms' expert testimony; reversed the exclusion of Dr. Clarke's expert testimony; reversed the grant of summary judgment; and remanded for further proceedings. View "United Fire and Casualty Co. v. Whirlpool Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, Norfolk Southern, stating claims under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51 et seq., and the Federal Safety Appliance Act (FSAA), 49 U.S.C. 20301 et seq. Plaintiff claimed that he suffered a shoulder injury as a result of a faulty handbrake during his work shift. Without addressing the sufficiency of plaintiff's testimony, the district court granted summary judgment to Norfolk Southern. The court found that the district court applied the wrong standard for summary judgment and that, even if it had applied the correct standard, summary judgment was improper. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Strickland v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Lilybet Farias appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants-Appellants Mr. Heater, Inc., Enerco Group, Inc. and The Home Depot, Inc. Further, she appealed the denial of the Rule 59 motion for reconsideration in favor of Defendants on her claims of strict products liability and negligent failure-to-warn. Plaintiff asserted that Defendants negligently failed to warn her of the danger which could result from the indoor use of two propane gas-fired infra-red portable heaters that she purchased from Home Depot and which had been manufactured by Enerco and Mr. Heater. As a result of the allegedly inadequate warnings, Plaintiff argued she unwittingly used the heaters inside her home and when she failed to close a valve on one of the gas tanks before going to sleep, her home caught fire causing thousands of dollars in damages. On appeal, Plaintiff argued the district court erred by resolving as a matter of law, rather than leaving the issue for the jury's determination, the question of the adequacy of the warnings and instructions provided with the heaters. Upon review, the Eleventh Circuit saw no error in the district court's conclusion that the warnings provided by Defendants were inadequate as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants. View "Farias v. Mr.Heater, Inc." on Justia Law