Articles Posted in Products Liability

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating the importance of expert selection in Washington, D.C. product liability cases. The case required the court to determine if the testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses was based on sufficiently reliable methodology. Ultimately, the court concluded that the testimony of both witnesses was properly excluded by the trial court.

LaptopThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a college student who died in a fire that started in the boy’s room. Investigators found the boy’s laptop among the debris. The plaintiffs presented two expert witnesses to testify that, in their opinion, the fire was started when the battery in the laptop malfunctioned.

The first expert had a PhD in inorganic chemistry and was an expert in battery safety. He testified that upon inspecting the batteries in the laptop, one of the three cells had ruptured. He further explained that a battery cell can only rupture in certain circumstances, including electrically abusive condition,s mechanically abusive conditions, high temperatures (such as a fire), or an internal problem with the battery.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Utah issued a written opinion in a product liability lawsuit discussing the liability of a retailer that had nothing to do with the design or manufacture of a reclining chair that crushed the plaintiff’s foot. The court held that, although a previous legal doctrine shielded passive retailers from liability in these circumstances, that doctrine was now outdated and no longer applicable.

CouchThe case is instructive to Washington, D.C. residents who have recently been injured due to a dangerous or defective product and may be considering a Washington, D.C. product liability lawsuit.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff purchased a reclining chair from the defendant furniture store. The chair purchased by the plaintiff came with a foot-massage feature. While the plaintiff was using the feature, the chair crushed his left foot. The plaintiff filed a product liability claim against both the manufacturer of the chair as well as the defendant furniture retailer. This appeal deals only with the furniture retailer.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a product liability case brought by a homeowner who sustained serious injuries after he fell while using the ladder manufactured by the defendant. The court hearing the case had to determine if the expert testimony provided by the plaintiff was properly admitted by the trial judge. Finding that it was, the court affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

LaddersThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a homeowner who was using a ladder manufactured by the defendant to change a few rusty screws in the gutter above his garage. The homeowner climbed the ladder, but before he could complete the job, the ladder buckled under his weight. The homeowner struck his head on the pavement of his driveway, causing bleeding and bruising in his brain. As a result, the homeowner now suffers from seizures, dementia, and quadriplegia.

The homeowner filed a product liability lawsuit against the ladder’s manufacturer, claiming that the ladder was not designed to support a 200-pound person and that a safer and feasible alternative existed. In support of his claim, the homeowner provided two experts. One expert focused his testimony on the durability of the ladder and whether it could support a 200-pound person. This expert concluded that the ladder may not have been able to support a 200-pound person, depending on how the weight was distributed. The other expert testified that the way the homeowner had placed the ladder was proper and that more substantial support beams on the ladder could have prevented it from buckling under the homeowner’s weight.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a product liability case filed by a man who was injured when the solution he was using to clean his basement floor erupted into flames. In the case, Suarez v. W.M. Barr & Company, the plaintiff brought both a failure-to-warn claim as well as a general negligence claim. The court affirmed the dismissal of the failure-to-warn claim but held that there was an issue of triable fact regarding the negligence claim.

BasementThe Facts of the Case

Suarez purchased a gallon of the defendant’s Goof Off product to clean his basement floors. Suarez read the warnings on the product’s packaging and accordingly opened doors and windows in the basement to ventilate the area. While following the packaging’s instructions, the product caught fire, severely burning Suarez. Suarez then filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of Goof Off. Specifically, he claimed that the warning on the product’s packaging was inadequate and also that the product was unreasonably dangerous.

Suarez presented experts who testified that the active ingredient in Goof Off, acetone, could have been agitated, causing the fire. However, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on both claims, and Suarez appealed to a higher court.

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After someone is injured in any kind of accident, they may seek financial compensation from the at-fault party through a personal injury lawsuit. However, before a party’s case is heard by a court, several facts must first be established. One very important fact that must be determined before a case is heard is whether the court where the case is filed has “jurisdiction” over the defendant and the case.

Ford MustangJurisdiction is a legal term that refers to a court’s ability to issue a binding order on a party. If a court does not have jurisdiction over the parties, it will not be able to legally hear the case, and any ruling or verdict in the case will be invalid. Therefore, before a case proceeds to trial, jurisdiction must first be established.

Jurisdiction is actually a complex legal subject that is often argued and contains many nuances. There are two types of jurisdiction, each of which must be established. They are personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to implement an order binding the parties. Subject matter jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to hear the specific topic of the case being filed.

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Earlier this month, a personal injury plaintiff’s appeal was thrown out for failing to object to the error he alleged occurred at trial. The court in Stults v. International Flavors held that the plaintiff’s failure to object to the curative jury instruction given by the trial judge in response to objectionable testimony by an expert prevented him from raising that issue on appeal. This case illustrates the importance of retaining an attentive and knowledgeable team of attorneys.

popcorn-pipoca-1-1327054The Facts of the Case

This case arose after the plaintiff developed a lung disease. He claimed that he developed the disease because he consumed microwavable popcorn manufactured by the defendant every day for 20 years. He also submitted evidence that showed the chemical used to give the popcorn its buttery flavor can cause the very lung disease he was diagnosed with when people are exposed in high doses.

At trial, both plaintiff and defendant had expert witnesses testify to the cause of plaintiff’s lung disease. At some point in the trial, a defense expert made an improper comment on the evidence and the plaintiff objected. The court sustained the plaintiff’s objection and the jury was told to disregard the defense expert’s testimony on that issue. After the trial, the jury determined that the plaintiff did not prove his case.

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Earlier this month, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower state court decision, allowing the plaintiff in a product liability lawsuit to proceed toward trial despite the defendant’s challenges to the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. In the case, Seamon v. Remington Arms Company, the plaintiff was the wife of a man who had died while hunting alone with his Remington Model 700 bolt-action rifle.

weapon-1038957_960_720The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s husband left to go hunting by himself back in November 2011. He had an elevated stand up in the trees from which he would hunt. However, after several hours of failing to return text messages from his family, they called police. Police found the man dead in the elevated tree stand, with his rifle 13 feet below. There was a rope attached to the rifle’s scope, the safety was off, and there was a spent shell in the chamber. There was no gunshot residue on the man, leading investigators to believe he was at least five to 10 feet away when the gun fired. No one witnessed the shooting.

The man’s wife filed a product liability case against the manufacturer of the rifle, claiming that her husband died as a result of a defect in the gun. The plaintiff had an expert testify that, in his experience, the trigger mechanism in the Model 700 rifle was subject to sporadic firing. He testified that in cases of sporadic firing, there are usually some deposits in the fire control housing of the gun. He further testified that upon examination, the gun the plaintiff’s husband was using had deposits in the fire control housing. This led the expert to believe that the gun may have accidentally fired without having the trigger pulled.

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Earlier this month, one state’s supreme court heard a case brought by a man who was injured by a crane when an intermittent malfunction caused the crane to shift forward, crushing the man’s foot. In the case, Carson v. ALL Erection & Crane Rental Corporation, the court determined that, while the lessor did have a duty to inspect the equipment prior to leasing it to the plaintiff’s employer, that duty did not require an inspection so exhaustive as to discover the difficult-to-discover defect.

A white construction crane building a building. (Recently removed from StockXpert because it didn't sell... hope you can find a home for it!)

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the “eyes and ears” for a fellow employee who was the designated crane operator. The plaintiff and the crane operator were instructed to move the crane a few miles from its current location. Along the way, the two encountered a section of road with overhead wires, and precautions were taken in crossing the road. However, as the crane was taken out of drive, it shifted forward, causing wood planks underneath where the plaintiff was standing to rise unexpectedly. The plaintiff slid down the wooden planks and under the crane, where his foot was crushed. It was later amputated.

After the accident, the crane was inspected by both ALL Erection, the defendant lessor, as well as the plaintiff’s employer. Ultimately, the crane was repaired. It was determined that the cause of the crane’s unexpected shift was “a failure of the solid‐state electrical circuitry.” However, it was not until a very thorough examination that the error was found.

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Manufacturers, regardless of the products they make, are required to ensure that the goods they release into the stream of commerce are safe for normal use or consumption. When a product causes an injury or death, the manufacturer may be liable to those injured as a result of their product. In some cases, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers of a dangerous product may also be held liable. These lawsuits are called product liability lawsuits.

furniture-6-1425763Product liability lawsuits break down into three categories:  negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability. Negligence claims rely on the fact that the manufacturer was somehow negligent in the design or production of the item. These claims also include a manufacturer’s failure to warn about the dangerous propensities of a product.

Breach of warranty claims arise when there is an express or implied warranty that a product is safe for a certain kind of use, and that turns out not to be the case. These cases are brought under a breach-of-contract theory because the plaintiff is alleging that the manufacturer failed to “live up to their end of the deal.”

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Earlier last month, the Court of Appeals of Maryland decided a case that may have a significant impact for anyone who had contact with equipment containing asbestos and has subsequently been diagnosed with a serious illness. In the case, May v. Air & Liquid Systems Corporation, the court allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed against the defendant manufacturer even though the asbestos-containing part causing the plaintiff’s injuries was not manufactured by the defendant.

meters-1426079The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case is the widow of a man who served in the Navy between the years of 1956 and 1976. During her husband’s tenure in the Navy, he was a machinist who worked on pumps that were manufactured by the defendant. At some point after his service, the plaintiff’s husband was diagnosed with mesothelioma that was a result of his coming into contact with asbestos that was contained in the gaskets of the pump.

The gaskets, however, were replacement parts and were not manufactured by the defendant, but by a third party not present in this lawsuit. The man’s wife filed a lawsuit based on the legal theories of strict products liability and failure to warn. It was not contested that the pump’s manual made no mention of the dangers of asbestos.

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