Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Products Liability
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
Caronia v. Philip Morris USA
Plaintiffs appealed from the district court's dismissal of their claims in connection with the design, manufacture, and sale by Philip Morris of cigarettes that allegedly contained unnecessarily dangerous levels of carcinogens when smoked by humans, and plaintiffs' independent equitable claim seeking to require Philip Morris to fund a program of medical monitoring for longtime smokers of Marlboro cigarettes who have not been diagnosed with, but were at risk for, lung cancer. The court concluded that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' claims for negligence and strict products liability as time barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Further, the implied warranty of merchantability was not breached if the cigarettes were minimally safe when used in the customary, usual, and reasonably foreseeable manner and, therefore, summary judgment dismissing these claims was appropriate. With respect to the claim seeking medical monitoring, the court certified a question of law to the New York Court of Appeals. View "Caronia v. Philip Morris USA" on Justia Law
In Re: Fosamax Products Liability Litigation
Plaintiff appealed from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Merck and the dismissal of her products liability claim for failure to provide an adequate warning regarding the risks associated with Fosamax. Fosamax has allegedly been linked to osteonecrosis of the jaw and plaintiff claimed that Merck should have known of a possible link between the drug and the condition. At issue was whether the district court erred in granting Merck's summary judgment motion after discrediting expert testimony from plaintiff's treating physician. Because the physician's expert testimony contained contradictions that were unequivocal and inescapable, unexplained, arose after the motion for summary judgment was filed, and were central to plaintiff's failure-to-warn claim, the court held that the district court did not err in determining that there was no genuine dispute of material fact raised by the later testimony. View "In Re: Fosamax Products Liability Litigation" on Justia Law
In re: Quigley Company, Inc.
This case required the court to address the scope of federal bankruptcy jurisdiction over suits against non-debtor third parties, as well as the scope of a stay issued pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 524(g)(4). Pfizer and Quigley appealed from a judgment in the district court reversing the Clarifying Order of the bankruptcy court and holding that the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos (Angelos) could bring suit against Pfizer for claims based on "apparent manufacturer" liability under Pennsylvania law. The court determined that it had jurisdiction to hear the appeal; that the bankruptcy court had jurisdiction to issue the Clarifying Order; and that the Clarifying Order did not bar Angelos from bringing the suits in question against Pfizer. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "In re: Quigley Company, Inc." on Justia Law
Walters v. Indus. & Commercial Bank of China, Ltd.
Plaintiffs Debbie and Max Walters appealed from a district court judgment that dismissed their petition for the issuance of a turnover order. In 1990, the Walters' thirteen-year-old son was killed on a hunting trip with his father when a Chinese-manufactured rifle the boy carried allegedly misfired. The Walters sued China and several entities allegedly controlled by China in the U.S. District Court on theories of products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty in connection with the manufacture of the rifle. The Walters eventually won a $10 million default judgment, and sought to enforce it by collecting China's assets in the possession of the respondent banks, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ltd., Bank of China, Ltd. and China Construction Bank Corporation. Citing the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA), the district court dismissed the petition with prejudice. Without filing a new petition, the Walters argued on appeal that the Banks lacked standing to assert foreign sovereign immunity on behalf of China, and that China waived any immunity by its conduct underlying the default judgment and by its failure to appear. Upon review of the submitted briefs and the applicable legal authority, the Second Circuit found Plaintiffs' arguments were without merit, and affirmed the district court's decision to dismiss their case.