Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Products Liability
Bobo v. Tennessee Valley Authority
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
Christiansen v. Wright Medical Technology Inc.
This case concerned the first of over 500 cases regarding the Wright Medical Conserve "metal-on-metal" hip replacement device designed and manufactured by defendant. Plaintiff filed a products liability suit alleging, among other things, that defendant was liable for design defect based on strict liability and negligence. On appeal, defendant challenged the entry of a $2,100,000 judgment. The court rejected defendant's argument that the district court erred in ordering the jury to continue deliberations after the jury had already begun to deliver its verdict. In this case, upon recognizing the inconsistency in the jury verdict, the district court immediately halted publication of the verdict and instructed the jury that an error had been made; the district court acted in a neutral and non-biased manner in acknowledging and addressing the inconsistent verdict; and the district court also recharged the jury. The court also rejected defendant's argument that the district court erred in its instructions on Utah's products liability law with regard to the unavoidably unsafe product defense in Comment k of Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. The court explained that any categorical bar to liability for an unavoidably unsafe product was not available to defendant and thus the district court did not err in failing to give such an instruction to the jury. Furthermore, any error by the district court in instructing the jury on the unavoidably unsafe defense did not affect the result in this case because the jury found that defendant had not proven the defense. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court's error was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Christiansen v. Wright Medical Technology Inc." on Justia Law
Brown v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc.
Plaintiffs, consumers from California and Texas, filed class actions against Electrolux, the manufacturer of front-loading washing machines, alleging warranty and consumer claims. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that the rubber seal on the front door of the machines retains water, allowing mildew to grow, causing stains on clothing, and creating a foul odor. The court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in assessing predominance and therefore vacated the class certification. On remand, the district court should revisit Electrolux's argument that the consumer claims do not satisfy predominance because plaintiffs cannot prove causation on a classwide basis, and the district court abused its discretion by certifying the warranty claims without first resolving preliminary questions of state law that bear on predominance. The court further concluded that plaintiffs' damages do not necessarily defeat predominance, and Electrolux's defense of misuse does not necessarily defeat predominance. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Brown v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc." on Justia Law
Seamon v. Remington Arms Co.
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
Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
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
Aycock v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
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
Chapman, et al. v. The Procter & Gamble Dist., et al.
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
4432 Ind. Tobacco Plaintiffs v. Various Tobacco Companies, et al.
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
Walker, et al. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
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
Guarino v. Wyeth, et al.
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