Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Products Liability
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In October 2018, Molitor Equipment, LLC purchased two tractors from Deere & Company. These tractors were a transitional model and did not include engine compartment fire shields as standard equipment, which were included in the subsequent 2019 model. A year after purchase, both tractors caught fire in separate incidents. Molitor had an insurance policy with SECURA Insurance Company, who paid Molitor's claim and then pursued Molitor's warranty claims against Deere. SECURA claimed the tractors were defective and unreasonably dangerous due to the absence of the fire shields and that Deere's warranty obligated them to remedy the problem or refund the purchase prices.Deere moved to dismiss the claims, arguing that its warranty only covered manufacturing defects, not design defects. The district court granted Deere's motion, dismissing SECURA's breach of warranty claim to the extent it was based on a design defect theory. The case proceeded on a manufacturing defect theory. At the close of discovery, both parties moved for summary judgment. Deere argued that since the tractors conformed to their intended design, there was no manufacturing defect. The district court granted Deere's motion, holding that SECURA could not establish its breach of warranty claim because Deere's warranty covers defects only in "materials or workmanship."On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decisions. The appellate court agreed with the district court's interpretation of Deere's warranty, concluding that it did not cover design defects. The court also agreed that SECURA could not establish a breach of warranty claim based on a manufacturing defect, as the tractors conformed to their intended design. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of SECURA's design defect claim and its grant of summary judgment to Deere on the manufacturing defect claim. View "Secura Insurance Company v. Deere & Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sustained a spinal injury during a rollover car accident in Mexico. Plaintiff, along with his wife (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a claim for damages against General Motors, LLC (“GM”) on theories of strict liability, negligence, and loss of consortium. The district court applied the law of Coahuila, Mexico, under Missouri’s choice of law principles and granted GM’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s choice of law decision.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that its conclusion in Azarax that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to allow a party to rely on foreign law does not lead to the conclusion the district court abused its discretion here when it decided the opposite under different facts. Further, the court wrote that after considering the Section 6 factors and the parties’ arguments, it concluded Missouri’s relationship to this case does not overcome the presumption that the place of the injury—Coahuila, Mexico—is the place with the most significant relationship to the parties and occurrence. View "Nicolas Valadez Rey v. General Motors, LLC" on Justia Law

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Coloplast Corporation and Coloplast Manufacturing US, LLC (collectively, Coloplast) manufacture and market Restorelle L, a surgical mesh device. Plaintiff sued Coloplast for injuries allegedly caused by the implantation of Restorelle L mesh. After excluding portions of Plaintiff’s expert opinions and testimony, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Coloplast. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in excluding her expert’s opinion on specific causation and in granting summary judgment on her negligent design claim.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the expert’s supplemental declaration was untimely because it was submitted after the deadlines for disclosure of expert reports and completion of all discovery. The court reasoned that Rule 26(e)(2) requires that an expert’s supplement “be disclosed by the time the party’s pretrial disclosures under Rule 26(a)(3) are due.” Rule 26(a)(3)(B), in turn, states that “Unless the court orders otherwise, these disclosures must be made at least 30 days before trial.” Plaintiff maintains that she, therefore, had until thirty days before trial to disclose the expert’s supplemental declaration. However, the court explained that she ignored the caveat that Rule 26’s default timing provision applies only if the court does not order otherwise. Here, the court set deadlines in its scheduling order, those deadlines superseded the default rules, and Plaintiff failed to meet those deadlines. Further, the court wrote that the district court also did not abuse its discretion when it decided to exclude the expert’s report and declaration without considering lesser sanctions. View "Angela Cantrell v. Coloplast Corp." on Justia Law

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Several cities in Minnesota alleged that a chemical in refined coal tar that was used in pavement sealants contaminated their stormwater ponds. They filed an action seeking damages from refiners and manufacturers of the tar. The “refiner” defendants take raw coal tar and refine it into a product used by the “manufacturer” defendants to create pavement sealants. The district court dismissed all of the claims against the refiners and dismissed all but three of the claims against the manufacturers. The Cities moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) for entry of final judgment against the refiners. The district court, however, denied the motion because the Cities had not “demonstrated a danger of hardship or injustice through delay which would be alleviated by immediate appeal.” The Cities then entered into an agreement with the manufacturers, which provided that the Cities would conditionally dismiss their claims against the manufacturers. The Cities then appealed the district court’s decision dismissing claims against the refiners, and some of the refiners cross-appealed.   The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court concluded that this conditional dismissal of the Cities’ claims against the manufacturers does not create a final decision under 28 U.S.C. Section 1291. The whole purpose of pairing the voluntary dismissal with the tolling agreement was to provide for reinstatement of the claims in the event of reversal—that is, to make the dismissal conditional. The court wrote that its only power to prevent the manipulation of appellate jurisdiction is a rigorous application of the final judgment requirement. View "City of Burnsville v. Koppers, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and her husband purchased a ladder at Home Depot some years ago. Plaintiff’s husband was found dead near the ladder with injuries consistent with a fall. Plaintiff sued Home Depot, alleging that a defect in a ladder caused her husband’s death. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Home Depot, concluding that Plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to show causation. On appeal, Plaintiff asserted that she provided sufficient evidence that establishes her claims against Home Depot, and, at a minimum, her evidence creates a genuine dispute of material fact making a grant of summary judgment improper.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that here, Plaintiff has failed to negate other causes of the accident. In addition to the unaccounted-for 11-year period between the purchase of the ladder and the accident, the expert hypothesized that an electrical malfunction may have caused the fall. Plaintiff replied that this sort of malfunction would have given her husband electrical burns, which were not observed by the coroner. However, a minor spark that did not contact her husband could have startled him and caused him to lose his balance. Plaintiff has provided no evidence to refute this. The court concluded that there is no proof here sufficient to induce the mind to pass beyond conjecture. View "Martha Hunt v. Home Depot, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff loaded purchases he made at a Home Depot store in Maplewood, Minnesota, on two flat carts. A Home Depot employee assisted Plaintiff by pushing one of the carts out of the store while Plaintiff followed, pushing the other. The exit doors automatically opened for the Home Depot employee and then closed while Plaintiff was exiting the store, tearing Plaintiff’s right rotator cuff and causing other injuries. Plaintiff alleged his injuries were caused by the door prematurely closing. The doors at issue were manufactured, installed, and serviced by Stanley. Plaintiff alleged a negligence claim against Home Depot and claims of strict product liability, negligence, and breach of express and implied warranties against Stanley. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff offered no evidence that Home Depot caused the alleged dangerous condition or that it had actual knowledge of the existence of the alleged dangerous condition. Instead, he argued that Home Depot should have known of the existence of the problem with the automatic doors. But Plaintiff did not retain an expert, nor did he offer evidence demonstrating that Home Depot should have known the automatic doors might close while a customer was entering or exiting the store. The court wrote that because Plaintiff did not submit any evidence indicating the automatic sliding doors were unsafe or an inspection of the doors would have revealed the alleged dangerous condition, Home Depot is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff’s negligence claim. View "Michael Oien v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Walmart in the Circuit Court for St. Louis County, Missouri. Plaintiff alleged Walmart engaged in misleading and deceptive marketing practices by selling cough suppressants with dextromethorphan hydrobromide (“DXM”) and a “non-drowsy” label. Walmart removed the case to the Eastern District of Missouri, and Plaintiff moved to have the case remanded to state court. The district court remanded, finding Walmart had not met the Class Action Fairness Act’s jurisdictional requirement of showing the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million.
The Eighth Circuit reversed, finding that Walmart has shown the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million.  The court concluded that Walmart’s declaration was sufficient to support a finding that sales exceeded $5 million. The total amount of sales can be a measure of the amount in controversy. The court explained that the declaration was sufficient, particularly when it is very plausible that a company the size of Walmart would have sold more than $5 million in cough suppressants in the state of Missouri over a period of five years. View "Nicholas Brunts v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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General Motors (“GM”) installed Generation IV 5.3 Liter V8 Vortec 5300 LC9 engines (“Gen IV engine”) in seven different GMC and Chevrolet trucks and SUVs in model years 2010 to 2014 (the “affected vehicles”). In 2016, representatives from various States filed a putative class action alleging that the affected vehicles contain a defect that causes excess oil consumption and other engine damage (the “oil consumption defect”). Plaintiffs appealed only the dismissal of their Missouri Merchandising Practice Act (MMPA) claim, stating that “the sole issue presented on appeal is whether the district court improperly applied the concept of puffery to  their deceptive omissions claims under the MMPA.”   The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the MMPA claims. The court concluded that advertising “puffery” does not affect an MMPA claim based on omission of a material fact, at least in this case, and the court agreed that Plaintiffs’ Class Action Complaint alleges sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state an omissions claim to relief that is plausible on its face. View "Michael Tucker v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff bought a laptop with a manufacturer’s warranty from Target. He filed a class action on behalf of “all citizens of Arkansas who purchased one or more products from Target that cost over $15 and that were subject to a written warranty.” His theory was that Target violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s Pre-Sale Availability Rule by refusing to make the written warranties reasonably available, either by posting them in “close proximity to” products or placing signs nearby informing customers that they could access them upon request. Target filed a notice of removal based on the jurisdictional thresholds in the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. The district court the class action against Target Corporation to Arkansas state court.   The Eighth Circuit vacated the remand order and return the case to the district court for further consideration. The court explained that the district court applied the wrong legal standard. The district court refused to acknowledge the possibility that Target’s sales figures for laptops, televisions and other accessories might have been enough to “plausibly allege” that the case is worth more than $5 million. The district court then compounded its error by focusing exclusively on the two declarations that accompanied Target’s notice of removal. The court wrote that the district court’s failure to consider Target’s lead compliance consultant’s declaration, Target’s central piece of evidence in opposing remand, “effectively denied” the company “the opportunity . . . to establish [its] claim of federal jurisdiction.” View "Robert Leflar v. Target Corporation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, husband and wife, sued Biomet, Inc. and associated entities (Biomet) after the wife’s M2a Magnum hip implant failed. The M2a Magnum is a large-diameter metal-on-metal hip implant produced by Biomet. The wife argued that the implant caused irreparable damage to her hip joint and surrounding tissues. A jury awarded the wife $20 million in damages. The jury awarded an additional $1 million in damages to her husband for his loss of consortium. Biomet appealed, arguing that (1) the jury’s verdict was inconsistent, (2) Plaintiffs failed to establish the required standard of care, (3) Plaintiffs failed to show a breach by Biomet, and (4) the damages award was excessive.   The Eighth Circuit disagreed and affirmed the judgment of the district court. The court explained that the jury could have, in its discretion, believed or discounted the expert testimony in its entirety. Further, the jury could have determined whether Biomet’s testing procedures met industry standards. If credited by the jury, this testimony was a sufficient evidentiary basis to conclude that Biomet failed to meet a reasonable standard of care. Thus, the court did not overturn the jury’s determination because the jury had a sufficient evidentiary basis to find a design defect. Further, the court deferred to the jury’s judgment as to whether $20 million is the correct compensation for a lifetime of hip dislocations and seven revision surgeries. View "Mary Bayes v. Biomet, Inc." on Justia Law