Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Products Liability
RSD Leasing, Inc. v. Navistar Int’l Corp.
Plaintiff RSD Leasing Inc., a company that leases and, eventually, resells trucks to other commercial entities, appealed from a district court decision, granting in relevant part summary judgment to Defendants Navistar International Corp. and Navistar, Inc., the manufacturer of several allegedly substandard trucks in RSD’s fleet. The sole question on appeal is whether, for purposes of its purchase of those trucks, RSD qualifies as a “consumer” under the Vermont Consumer Protection Act and therefore is eligible to invoke the Act’s protections. In the absence of any on-point Vermont caselaw signaling whether the statute extends “consumer” protections to a business that purchases a good intending exclusively to lease that good to a third party and then to resell it at the end of the lease term, the district court relied in substantial part on two brief passages from the Act’s legislative history, holding that RSD was not acting as a “consumer” when it purchased the trucks at issue. The Second Circuit wrote that it is unable to confidently predict how the Vermont Supreme Court would decide the matter. Therefore, the court certified to the Vermont Supreme Court the following question: Does a business that purchases goods intending first to lease those goods to end users and then to resell them at the termination of the lease term qualify as a ‘consumer’ under the VCPA? View "RSD Leasing, Inc. v. Navistar Int'l Corp." on Justia Law
MacNaughton v. Young Living Essential Oils, LC
The National Advertising Division (“NAD”), a self-regulatory organization, concluded that Defendant Young Living Essential Oils, LC’s (“Young Living”) claims that its oils are “therapeutic-grade” and impart physical and/or mental health benefits are “unsupported,” and recommended that Young Living stop making these claims. Plaintiff had already spent money on Young Living’s products, including lavender oil advertised to “promote [a] feeling of calm and fight occasional nervous tension” and peppermint oil that allegedly “helps to maintain energy levels.” Feeling misled by claims that the products would have effects like “promoting feelings of relaxation & tranquility,” Plaintiff sued, on behalf of herself and other similarly situated individuals, asserting claims under common law and various state statutes that she believes protect consumers like her against companies like Young Living. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s suit, finding that Young Living’s claims that its products would do things like “help to maintain energy levels” was run-of-the-mill puffery that companies use when trying to persuade potential customers to part with their dollars. The Second Circuit vacated in part and affirmed in part. The court vacated the district court’s ruling insofar as it dismissed the New York General Business Law claims for being based on statements of non-actionable puffery and the unjust enrichment claim for not satisfying the Rule 9(b) requirement. The court affirmed the ruling as to the dismissal of the breach of warranty claims. The court found that Plaintiff’s stated the circumstances constituting fraud with sufficient particularity to satisfy Rule 9(b) and certainly with enough particularity to give fair notice of her claim and enable the preparation of a defense. View "MacNaughton v. Young Living Essential Oils, LC" on Justia Law
Glover v. Bausch & Lomb, Inc.
Plaintiffs appealed from a district court judgment dismissing, as preempted by the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”), their claims under the Connecticut Product Liability Act (“CPLA”) for injuries caused by a medical device, and denying leave to amend the complaint to include a claim under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”). Because both issues turned on unresolved questions of state law, the Second Circuit certified two questions to the Supreme Court of Connecticut to clarify the scope of the CPLA and CUPTA. In view of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s answers to those questions, the court held: (1) that the Plaintiffs’ CPLA claims are not preempted by the FDCA because traditional Connecticut tort law provides a cause of action for failing to provide adequate warnings to regulators such as the United States Food and Drug Administration; and (2) that Plaintiffs’ proposed CUTPA claim would be precluded by the CPLA. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court’s dismissal of the CPLA claims, affirm the district court’s denial of leave to amend the complaint, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Glover v. Bausch & Lomb, Inc." on Justia Law
Sarkees v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Co.
In 1974, when Sarkees was 19, he worked for Goodyear for seven months. Sarkees believed he was exposed to the chemical ortho-toluidine (OT). He took chemical samples and unloaded railroad tank cars, the majority of which contained OT, he drove a forklift to load Nailax2 (made with OT), and he manually cleaned Nailax reactors and packaged Nailax. While conducting many of these tasks, Sarkees recognized the smell of OT and experienced chemicals splashing on his skin. He often cleaned the inside of Nailax reactors, wearing “the same contaminated coveralls for the entire work shift.” Sarkees approximated that he cleaned the filters “more than 80 times,” inhaling a “strong chemical smell” and fumes without a respirator. A 2014 Department of Health and Human Services report states, “Epidemiological studies have demonstrated a causal relationship between exposure to o-toluidine and urinary-bladder cancer in humans.” Beginning in 1998, Sarkees participated in a bladder cancer screening program offered by Goodyear to former employees. In 2016, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer.The district court dismissed his suit for negligence and strict products liability, after excluding expert testimony that OT was the specific cause of his cancer. The Second Circuit vacated. In excluding the expert’s opinion, the district court improperly relied on a state court evidence ruling instead of the applicable federal evidence rule. The evidence is admissible under Federal Rule 702 and “Daubert.” View "Sarkees v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Co." on Justia Law
Glover v. Bausch & Lomb, Inc.
After plaintiff suffered post-operative injuries following implantation of artificial lenses during cataract surgery, she and her husband filed suit against Bausch & Lomb, the manufacturer of the lenses, as well as related entities. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss the negligence and failure-to-warn claims and denial of the motion for leave to amend the complaint to add a claim based on wrongful marketing.The Second Circuit reserved decision and certified two questions to the Supreme Court of Connecticut: 1) Whether a cause of action exists under the negligence or failure-to-warn provisions of the Connecticut Product Liability Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-572h, 52-572q, or elsewhere in Connecticut law, based on a manufacturer's alleged failure to report adverse events to a regulator like the FDA following approval of the device, or to comply with a regulator's post-approval requirements. 2) Whether the Connecticut Product Liability Act's exclusivity provision, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-572n, bars a claim under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a, et seq., based on allegations that a manufacturer deceptively and aggressively marketed and promoted a product despite knowing that it presented a substantial risk of injury. View "Glover v. Bausch & Lomb, Inc." on Justia Law
In Re: Mirena IUS Levonorgestrel-Related Products Liability Litigation
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants and dismissal of plaintiffs' products liability claims after precluding, pursuant to Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the opinions of plaintiffs' expert witnesses as to general causation.The court concluded that, not only was it appropriate for the district court to take a hard look at plaintiffs' experts' reports, the court was required to do so to ensure reliability. Furthermore, plaintiffs' contention that the district court impermissibly focused on plaintiffs' experts' conclusions instead of their methodologies is similarly unavailing. Even assuming that the district court required experts to back their opinions with studies definitely supporting their conclusions, the district court did not err in doing so. Therefore, the district court appropriately undertook a rigorous review of each of plaintiffs' experts, and based on that review reasonably found that the experts' methods were not sufficiently reliable and that their conclusions were not otherwise supported by the scientific community.The court also concluded that the district court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of defendants where no reasonable juror could find that it was more likely than not that general causation had been established based on plaintiffs' admissible evidence. The court was not persuaded that the district court erred in holding that there is a general causation requirement across all states. Furthermore, the court rejected plaintiffs' contention that the district court prevented them from obtaining and presenting evidence of general causation. In this case, plaintiffs failed to explain how admitting portions of the expert reports would have established general causation; the district court did not abuse its broad discretion in excluding differential-diagnosis evidence; and the district court did not abuse its broad discretion in managing discovery. View "In Re: Mirena IUS Levonorgestrel-Related Products Liability Litigation" on Justia Law
Bifolck v. Philip Morris USA Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Philip Morris under the Connecticut Product Liability Act, alleging that the company's Marlboro and Marlboro Lights cigarettes were negligently designed and caused his wife's death. After a jury found for Philip Morris, plaintiff appealed.The Second Circuit held that, although the district court misapplied the nonmutual offensive collateral estoppel standard, the error did not necessarily require vacatur of the judgment. Therefore, the court remanded and directed the district court to consider whether the application of nonmutual offensive collateral estoppel would be unfair. View "Bifolck v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law
In re Motors Liquidation Co.
After Old GM filed for bankruptcy, New GM emerged. This case involves one of the consequences of the GM bankruptcy. Beginning in February 2014, New GM began recalling cars due to a defect in their ignition switches. Many of the cars in question were built years before the GM bankruptcy. Where individuals might have had claims against Old GM, a ʺfree and clearʺ provision in the bankruptcy courtʹs sale order barred those same claims from being brought against New GM as the successor corporation. Various individuals nonetheless initiated class action lawsuits against New GM, asserting ʺsuccessor liabilityʺ claims and seeking damages for losses and injuries arising from the ignition switch defect and other defects. The bankruptcy court enforced the Sale Order to enjoin many of these claims against New GM. The court concluded that the bankruptcy court had jurisdiction to interpret and enforce the Sale Order; the ʺfree and clearʺ provision covers pre‐closing accident claims and economic loss claims based on the ignition switch and other defects, but does not cover independent claims or Used Car Purchasersʹ claims; the court found no clear error in the bankruptcy court's finding that Old GM knew or should have known with reasonable diligence about the defect, and individuals with claims arising out of the ignition switch defect were entitled to notice by direct mail or some equivalent, as required by procedural due process; because enforcing the Sale Order would violate procedural due process in these circumstances, the bankruptcy court erred in granting New GMʹs motion to enforce and these plaintiffs cannot be bound by the terms of the Sales Order; and the bankruptcy courtʹs decision on equitable mootness was advisory. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "In re Motors Liquidation Co." on Justia Law
Izzarelli v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Plaintiff filed suit against R.J. Reynolds under the Connecticut Products Liability Act (CPLA), Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. 52-572m et seq., for strict liability and negligence. Plaintiff claimed that the cigarettes she smoked for 25 years caused cancer in her larynx. On appeal, R.J. Reynolds challenged the denial of its renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. The court certified the following question to the Connecticut Supreme Court: Does Comment i to section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts preclude a suit premised on strict products liability against a cigarette manufacturer based on evidence that the defendant purposefully manufactured cigarettes to increase daily consumption without regard to the resultant increase in exposure to carcinogens, but in the absence of evidence of any adulteration or contamination. View "Izzarelli v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
In re: MTBE Products Liability Litig.
This case involved long-running multidistrict litigation concerning contamination of groundwater by the organic compound MTBE, which was used as a gasoline additive by Exxon and others. The court concluded that the state law tort verdict against Exxon was not preempted by the federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7401; the jury's finding that the MTBE levels in Station Six Wells will peak at 10ppb in 2033 was not inconsistent with a conclusion that the City had been injured; the City's suit was ripe because the City demonstrated a present injury and the suit was not barred by the statute of limitations; the jury's verdict finding Exxon liable under state tort law theories was not precluded by the jury's concurrent conclusion that the City had not carried its burden, in the design-defect context, of demonstrating a feasible, cost-reasonable alternative to MTBE available to satisfy the standards of the now-repealed Reformulated Gasoline Program; Exxon's demand for a retrial because of an incident of juror misconduct was unavailing; the jury properly offset the gross damages award by amounts it reasonably attributed to cleanup of contaminants other than MTBE; and the City was not entitled to a jury determination of Exxon's liability for punitive damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in its entirety. View "In re: MTBE Products Liability Litig." on Justia Law