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    The Lawletter Blog

    Jeremy Y. Taylor

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    PRODUCTS LIABILITY: No Due Process Violation in Application of Collateral Estoppel

    Posted by Jeremy Y. Taylor on Thu, Nov 29, 2018 @ 10:11 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 43 No 7

    Jeremy Taylor—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                In a decision dated September 5, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the due process rights of the defendant tobacco manufacturers were not violated by the district court’s application of collateral estoppel based on a jury’s findings in a previous class action against the defendants. See Searcy v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 902 F.3d 1342 (11th Cir. 2018). Searcy was an action by the daughter of a cigarette smoker against tobacco companies for negligence, strict liability, concealment, and conspiracy to conceal arising from the death of her mother. The plaintiff alleged that her mother’s illnesses were caused by her addiction to cigarettes manufactured by the defendants. Following trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff for $1 million in compensatory damages and $1.67 million in punitive damages. 

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    Topics: Jeremy Taylor, products liability, collateral estoppel, preclusive effect, prior jury findings, due process challenge

    PRODUCTS LIABILITY: Similar Incident Evidence Admissible in Unintended Acceleration Case

    Posted by Jeremy Y. Taylor on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 @ 11:12 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 42 No 9

    Jeremy Taylor, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently held that evidence of other incidents involving unintended acceleration of the defendant automobile manufacturer’s vehicles was admissible in a products liability action brought by family members of persons killed in an unintended acceleration event.  See Adams v. Toyota Motor Corp., 867 F.3d 903 (8th Cir. 2017). 

                The driver of a 1996 Toyota Camry alleged that he was unable to stop his vehicle after exiting an interstate highway, despite attempts to apply the brakes.  While traveling at approximately 75 miles per hour, his vehicle collided with a car stopped at a red light. There were numerous fatalities and other severe injuries from the incident.

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    Topics: products liability, admission of evidence, other incident evidence, similar circumstances

    PRODUCTS LIABILITY: Manufacturer Not Strictly Liable for Sale of Product Containing Defective Components

    Posted by Jeremy Y. Taylor on Tue, Jul 26, 2016 @ 12:07 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 41 No 7

    Jeremy Taylor, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         New York's highest court recently addressed the issue of whether an automobile manufacturer could be held strictly liable for a mechanic's malignant mesothelioma allegedly caused by the mechanic's exposure to asbestos while replacing asbestos-containing brakes, clutches, and engine parts in the manufacturer's automobiles. See Finerty v. Abex Corp., 2016 N.Y. slip op. 03411, 2016 WL 1735804 (N.Y. May 3, 2016). The plaintiff claimed that he was exposed to asbestos during the 1970s and 1980s while working on engine parts in tractors and passenger vehicles manufactured by the defendant, Ford Motor Company. The plaintiff was later diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. The plaintiff sued Ford and others alleging strict products liability under theories of defective design and failure to warn.

         The New York Court of Appeals concluded that Ford could not be held liable under the plaintiff's theories. At the threshold, the court noted that a manufacturer of defective products which places those products into the stream of commerce may be held strictly liable for injuries caused by its products, since it is the manufacturer alone who (a) can fairly be said to know and to understand when a product is suitably designed and safely made for its intended purpose, and (b) has the practical opportunity to produce safe products. The court observed that product sellers are subject to strict liability with respect to allegedly defective products because they may be said to have assumed a special responsibility to the public, which has come to expect them to stand behind their products.

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    Topics: products liability, Jeremy Y. Taylor, The Lawletter Vol 41 No 7, manufacturer liability, defective components

    PRODUCTS LIABILITY: Strict Liability—Definition of "Product User" Expanded

    Posted by Jeremy Y. Taylor on Thu, Jan 28, 2016 @ 13:01 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 41 No 1

    Jeremy Taylor, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         The Supreme Court of South Carolina recently addressed the issue of who is a product "user" for purposes of holding the manufacturer liable for injuries under the theory of strict liability. See Lawing v. Univar, USA, Inc., No. 2013-002464, 2015 WL 7756860 (S.C. Dec. 2, 2015) (not yet released for publication). The plaintiff in Lawing was a maintenance mechanic in a factory that refined metals. The plaintiff was injured when some bags of sodium bromate, an oxidizer, caught fire when the plaintiff and other workers were using oxyacetylene torches near the bags. The plaintiff alleged that the manufacturer of the sodium bromate was strictly liable for failing to warn users of the dangers posed by the product. The manufacturer argued that it could not be held strictly liable to the plaintiff, because the plaintiff was not a "user" of the product.

         The South Carolina Supreme Court, as a matter of first impression, held that the plaintiff was a "user" of the product, even though he did not actually handle the bags of sodium bromate. The court noted that South Carolina's strict liability statute, S.C. Code Ann. § 15-73-10, has adopted the Official Comments to section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, from which the statute was derived. Official Comment l to section 402A provides that a "user" includes those who are utilizing a product for purposes of doing work upon it. The court rejected as overbroad the court of appeals' definition of a "user" as anyone who could foreseeably come into contact with the dangerous nature of a product, in that such a definition would allow a mere bystander to recover in strict liability, a proposition that the South Carolina Supreme Court had previously rejected. Rather, according to the court, the determination of who constitutes a user requires a case-by-case analysis.

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    Topics: Jeremy Y. Taylor, products liability, The Lawletter Vol 41 No 1, strict liability, product user

    PRODUCTS LIABILITY: Expert Testimony Based on Unfounded Assumption Inadmissible

    Posted by Jeremy Y. Taylor on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 @ 11:03 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 40 No 1

    Jeremy Taylor, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         The Virginia Supreme Court recently addressed the issue of the admissibility of expert testimony in a products liability case and ruled such testimony inadmissible under the circumstances presented. See Hyundai Motor Co. v. Duncan, ___ Va. ___, 766 S.E.2d 893 (2015). In Duncan, a driver was severely injured when he lost control of his car and ultimately struck a tree. Although the vehicle was equipped with a side airbag system, the airbag did not deploy. The circuit court entered judgment on a jury verdict for the plaintiff guardian/conservator.

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    Topics: products liability, expert testimony, inadmissible if insufficient facts, unfounded assumption

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