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Products Liability Law Legal Research Blog

No Due Process Violation in Application of Collateral Estoppel

Posted by Jeremy Y. Taylor on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 @ 12:12 PM

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: products liability, Jeremy Taylor, due process, collateral estoppel

Similar Incident Evidence Admissible in Unintended Acceleration Case

Posted by Jeremy Y. Taylor on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 @ 10:12 AM

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, admissibility, similar incidence evidence

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

Posted by Jeremy Y. Taylor on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 @ 10:08 AM

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: Jeremy Y. Taylor, products liability, defective components, manufacturer liability

PRODUCTS LIABILITY: What Statute of Limitations Governs Breach-of-Warranty Claims for Personal Injury?

Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 @ 17:02 PM

The Lawletter Vol. 41, No. 2

Fred Shackelford, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     The New Mexico Supreme Court has resolved an issue of first impression in that state: When a product causes personal injury and suit is filed for breach of warranty, what statute of limitations applies? In Badilla v. Wal-Mart Stores East, 2015-NMSC-029, 357 P.3d 936, the plaintiff bought a pair of work boots at a Wal-Mart store. More than three years after he was injured while wearing the boots, he filed a personal injury suit, alleging that the soles of the boots became unglued and caused him to trip on debris.

     In New Mexico, tort claims are generally subject to a three-year statute of limitations, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 37-1-8, while claims for breach of warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code ("U.C.C.") are generally subject to a four-year statute of limitations, id. § 55-2-725(1). The plaintiff based his claim on breaches of an express warranty and the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. The trial court and court of appeals ruled that the claims were time-barred under the three-year statute of limitations.

     On appeal, the Badilla court noted that courts in other states have reached different conclusions as to which statute of limitations should apply. The court outlined the two approaches taken by other courts, as follows:

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Topics: Alfred C. Shackelford III, products liability, statute of limitations, breach-of-warranty claim, personal injury

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

Posted by Jeremy Y. Taylor on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 @ 11:02 AM

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, manufacturer liability for injuries, 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, presumption of innocence, unfounded assumption

PRODUCTS LIABILITY: Nonmanufacturing Seller May Be Liable

Posted by Gale Burns on Mon, Dec 1, 2014 @ 13:12 PM

The Lawletter Vol 39 No 9

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Topics: products liability, nonmanufacturing seller

PRODUCTS LIABILITY UPDATE: Medical Monitoring for Long Term Smokers Denied

Posted by Gale Burns on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 @ 15:03 PM

Jeremy Taylor, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

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Topics: products liability, Jeremy Taylor, medical monitoring, smoking, no independent cause of action without diagnosis o, Caronia v. Philip Morris, USA, NY Ct App

PRODUCTS LIABILITY: Reading a Product Warning Constitutes "Use" of the Product

Posted by Gale Burns on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 @ 10:12 AM

The Lawletter Vol 38 No 9

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Topics: legal research, products liability, Jeremy Taylor, The Lawletter Vol 38 No 9, Lawing v. Trinity Manufacturing, S.C. Court of Appeals, worker not using product at time of accident, user includes one who examines product for warni, recovery under strict liability

PRODUCTS LIABILITY UPDATE: The "Other Property" Exception to the Economic Loss Rule in Tort Claims

Posted by Gale Burns on Wed, Jul 10, 2013 @ 09:07 AM

July 11, 2013

Jeremy Taylor, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

The Court of Appeals of Wisconsin recently applied the economic loss rule in a products liability action by a homeowner's property insurer against the manufacturer of an allegedly defective water softener that leaked and damaged drywall, flooring, and woodwork in the home.  See State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Hague Quality Water, Int'l, 2013 WI App 10, 826 N.W.2d 412.  The insurer, State Farm, brought only tort claims against the manufacturer.  The manufacturer defended on the basis that Wisconsin's economic loss doctrine precluded recovery under the plaintiff's theories.  The trial court granted the manufacturer's motion for summary judgment.  The court of appeals rejected the manufacturer's argument, holding that the insurer was entitled to proceed under its tort theories.

At the threshold, the court of appeals noted that the economic loss doctrine bars recovery of purely economic losses through tort remedies when the only damage is to the product purchased by the consumer.  Hence, the doctrine does not apply when a defect in the product causes personal injury or damage to "other property."  It was the "other property" exception with which the court was concerned in the case at hand.

The court noted that Wisconsin engages in a two-part analysis to determine whether damaged property constitutes "other property," so as to allow the pursuit of tort remedies.  First, courts consider whether the defective product and the damaged property are part of an "integrated system."  If they are, then the damaged property is considered to be the product itself and is not "other property."  If they are not, the court then examines the expected function of the product and asks whether the purchaser should have foreseen that the product could cause the damage at issue.  If so, then the damaged property is not "other property."  In order to be "other property," the damaged property must survive both tests.

As to the integrated-system test, the court of appeals concluded that the consumer's water softener was not part of an integrated system, because it had a function apart from the drywall, flooring, and woodwork in the home.  In other words, in order to come within the economic loss doctrine, a defective product must be part of a larger system, and if it lacks a function apart from its value in such a system, it is not "other property" for damage to which an action will lie in tort.  The court noted that property has been deemed to be part of an integrated system precluding a tort recovery when, for example, it consisted of cement that was part of pavers that had been damaged, a replacement gear in a printing press, and windows in a home.

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Topics: legal research, products liability, Jeremy Taylor, economic loss doctrine, other property is not part of integrated system, integrated property precludes tort recovery

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