Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Products Liability
Adams v. Toyota Motor Corp.
This case arose out of an accident that killed three people and injured others. Family members of the deceased and the driver filed suit against Toyota alleging various claims. The jury found that the driver was 40 percent at fault and Toyota was 60 percent at fault for the collision. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of a limited number of substantially similar incidents; the district court did not abuse its broad discretion by allowing plaintiff's expert's opinion under FRE 702; the district court did not err by denying Toyota's motion for judgment as a matter of law where plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence from which a jury could find that the 1996 Camry contained a design defect; the district court erred in awarding prejudgment interest and vacated the award of prejudgment interest to Plaintiff Trice; and Trice's award should not be reduced by the amount that Plaintiff Devyn previously recovered from the driver and the driver's insurers. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Adams v. Toyota Motor Corp." on Justia Law
Blaes v. Johnson & Johnson
Plaintiff filed a products liability action against defendants after his wife died of ovarian cancer. Plaintiff claimed that his wife's death was caused by her regular and prolonged use of talcum-based products. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the complaint without prejudice; the district court did not abuse its discretion by reasoning that it would be more efficient to add this case to another multi-plaintiff case with the same issues because the case would likely be tried at an earlier date in state court, and the dismissal would not prejudice defendants because plaintiff's case would be consolidated with a previously scheduled trial; the district court specifically addressed plaintiff's proposed reason for dismissing the action and implicitly rejected defendants' argument that plaintiff was forum shopping; defendants did not cite any support for their contention that a motion to dismiss should be denied only because defendants would be deprived of a federal forum; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by considering the information presented in plaintiff's reply brief. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the district court to analyze whether costs and fees should be assessed and the amount, if any. . View "Blaes v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law
Parks v. Ariens Co.
Timothy Parks died from asphyxiation after the Gravely Promaster 152Z riding mower he was operating on his property fell off the edge of an embankment and rolled over on top of him. Plaintiff, Timothy's wife, filed suit alleging that the manufacturer of the 152Z, Ariens, was negligent for failing to equip the machine with a rollover protection system (ROPS). The district court granted summary judgment against plaintiff. The optional equipment doctrine holds that a manufacturer is, under certain circumstances, not negligent if a purchaser fails to buy optional safety equipment that would have prevented the accident. Although the Iowa Supreme Court has not yet considered the optional equipment doctrine, policy reasons and the popularity of the optional equipment doctrine lead the court to conclude that the Iowa court would adopt it. Therefore, in this case, the court concluded that Ariens fulfilled any duty it had to Timothy when it provided the ROPS as an optional feature for the 152Z mower and ensured that he had the information necessary to make an informed choice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Parks v. Ariens Co." on Justia Law
Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc.
After plaintiffs' 23-month-old son, Jacob, drowned in a pond after climbing out of his crib and leaving their home in the middle of the night, plaintiffs filed a products liability and negligence suit against Dorel. Dorel denied that the doorknob cover it designed and manufactured was defective or unreasonably dangerous when used properly. The jury unanimously found Dorel was not liable for Jacob’s death and rendered a general verdict in Dorel’s favor. The court concluded that the district court did not err in admitting evidence that mother failed to secure the chain lock the night of Jacob’s death and father knew before that night that Jacob could defeat the doorknob cover. Even if the court accepted plaintiffs' alleged evidentiary errors for the purpose of argument, plaintiffs failed to establish how those errors prejudicially influenced the outcome of the trial. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Stults v. International Flavors
Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against numerous makers and distributors of microwave popcorn and butter flavoring. Plaintiff consumed microwave popcorn every day for approximately twenty years and alleged that defendants' products caused plaintiff's lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans. This appeal concerns one of the defendants, IFF. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that they are entitled to a new trial because the stricken testimony of one defendant's experts was prejudicial. In this case, plaintiff failed to object to the district court's curative instruction and they forfeited any error absent a showing of plain error - which they have not demonstrated. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion for an evidentiary hearing; the district court did not plainly err by admitting the rest of defendant's expert's testimony or by giving a prompt and thorough curative instruction concerning the stricken testimony; the court rejected plaintiff's claim that another expert's improper testimony requires a new trial where plaintiff's disagreement with the why the expert ruled out diacetyl as a cause of plaintiff's illness is far from grounds for a new trial; and the court rejected plaintiff's claim that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's claim for judgment as a matter of law where issues related to the breach of implied warranty claim are uncontested, and it was unnecessary for the jury to proceed to the question of affirmative defenses because the jury found in IFF’s favor on the breach-of-implied-warranty claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Stults v. International Flavors" on Justia Law
Posted in: Products Liability
O’Neal v. Remington Arms Co., LLC
Remington manufactured O’Neal’s Model 700 .243 caliber bolt-action rifle in 1971, using the “Walker trigger.” As early as 1979, Remington knew that the Walker trigger can cause the rifles to fire a round when the safety lever is released to the fire position, without the trigger being pulled, because of the manner in which components of the trigger mechanism interact. Remington estimated that at least 20,000 rifles would inadvertently fire merely by releasing the safety, but decided against a recall. O'Neal, deer hunting with friends, loaned his Remington Model 700 to Ritter. The hunters were traveling in a pickup truck when they spotted a deer. After the pickup stopped, Ritter began to exit the truck and moved the safety lever on the rifle to the fire position without pulling the trigger. The rifle discharged. The cartridge traveled through the pickup seat and hit O’Neal, who eventually died from the gunshot. The gun had had three owners; it had been loaned out several times. In a suit by O’Neal’s widow, the court granted Remington summary judgment on grounds that O'Neal could not show whether the alleged defect existed at the time of manufacture or resulted from subsequent modification. The Eighth Circuit reversed: South Dakota law permits a plaintiff to prove a product defect through circumstantial evidence. O'Neal presented sufficient circumstantial evidence to show the alleged defect was present at the time of manufacture and did not result from an alteration. View "O'Neal v. Remington Arms Co., LLC" on Justia Law
Robinson v. Mine Safety Appliances Co.
Robinson worked as a sandblaster for decades. Sand sometimes breaks down into silica dust, which, if inhaled, can cause the incurable lung disease silicosis. By 1997, Robinson knew that sandblasting could cause silicosis. In 1998, he saw Dr. Ragland, after coughing up white mucus. In 2002, he went to Ragland for bronchitis. In 2007, Robinson went to an emergency room for chest pain. The report listed three possibilities: tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, or a pneumonoconiosis disease (e.g., silicosis) caused by inhaling dusts. Medical notes reflect an “impression” of “silicosis related to sandblasting.” Robinson saw a respiratory specialist, to “follow up his silicosis.” Ridgeway’s notes, shared with Ragland, list an “impression” of silicosis. In 2011 Ridgeway biopsied Robinson’s lung. According to Robinson, Ridgeway then first told him he had silicosis. In 2012, Robinson sued entities that “sold, designed, manufactured, or marketed . . . silica related products.” The Eighth Circuit affirmed that the suit was time-barred. Arkansas’s three-year limitations period for product-liability actions applied, subject to a discovery rule: the period “does not commence running until the plaintiff knew or, by the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have discovered the causal connection between the product and the injuries suffered.” Robinson should have known in 2007 that silica-related products had damaged his lungs. View "Robinson v. Mine Safety Appliances Co." on Justia Law
Arena Holdings Charitable, LLC v. Harman Prof’l, Inc.
A fire occurred at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on July 3, 2011. Arena Holdings alleges the fire started when a Crown Macro-Tech 5002VZ amplifier produced a direct current to a speaker that spread to adjoining speakers located in the catwalk area. Harman is the manufacturer of the alleged defective amplifier. Impulse Group installed the sound reinforcement system at the Arena when it was originally built, and installed the amplifier. The fire caused approximately $5,000,000 of damage throughout the Arena; it directly damaged the arena structure and equipment in the vicinity of the amplifier and speakers. The presence of smoke and soot throughout the Arena after the fire caused additional damage. Arena Holdings sued Harman, alleging negligence, strict liability and post-sale failure-to warn claims. Harman filed a third-party complaint against Impulse Group and others. The district court granted Harman summary judgment, finding that the economic loss doctrine precluded Arena Holdings from recovering tort damages. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, acknowledging that barring tort claims where a plaintiff seeks economic damages for foreseeable losses for which the plaintiff could have contractually allocated risk is admittedly no longer a "modern trend," but stating that it is neither is an antiquated or disfavored approach. View "Arena Holdings Charitable, LLC v. Harman Prof'l, Inc." on Justia Law
Stanley v. Cottrell Inc.
From 1978 to 2008 Stanley worked as a hauler for Allied and was responsible for loading and unloading cars from his trailer. In 2008, Stanley attempted to unload a car from the upper deck of a 55 foot, eight car trailer manufactured by Cottrell. He lifted himself onto the upper deck railing of the trailer, moved sideways across the railing, and placed his right hand on the trunk of the car. As he reached for the car door with his left hand, he lost his hold and fell, landing on his back and leg. His back was not seriously injured, but his leg has been operated on seven times, resulting in $642,797.38 in medical costs. Stanley sued, alleging negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, and outrage, claiming that his trailer was defective under Missouri law because it was not equipped with additional fall protections such as ladders, handholds, and extended catwalks. After contrasting expert testimony, a jury found for Cottrell. Stanley moved for a new trial, arguing that the court erred by refusing to allow the testimony of rebuttal witnesses and by its jury instructions on his negligence and strict liability claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed denial of his motions and award of $11,171.92 in costs to Cottrell. View "Stanley v. Cottrell Inc." on Justia Law
Am. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Omega Flex, Inc.
A fire destroyed the Kostecki home. Their insurer, AAIC, reimbursed their loss, received an assignment of rights, and filed a products liability action against Omega, the manufacturer of TracPipe, a corrugated stainless steel tubing product that brought propane gas from an underground storage tank into the Kosteckis’ home. The court granted Omega summary judgment on breach of warranty and failure to warn. The case proceeded to trial on claims of negligent design and strict liability for an unreasonably dangerous product. All experts agreed that the fire started when lightning struck a tree near the underground propane tank, causing electric energy to enter the Kostecki home and ignite combustible materials in the space between the basement and the first floor. Fire investigators found holes in the TracPipe running through that space. A jury returned a verdict for Omega, finding that it did not fail to use ordinary care in designing the product or sell the product in an unreasonably dangerous and defective condition. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim that the court abused its discretion when it excluded the opinion of AAIC’s metallurgical expert, that the product was defectively designed, and admitted testimony by a defense expert, criticizing the fire causation theory. View "Am. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Omega Flex, Inc." on Justia Law