Articles Posted in Products Liability

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Petitioner Apple, Inc. (Apple) is the defendant in a putative class action filed by plaintiffs and real parties in interest Anthony Shamrell and Daryl Rysdyk. In their operative complaint, plaintiffs alleged that Apple's iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 smartphones were sold with a defective power button that began to work intermittently or fail entirely during the life of the phones. Plaintiffs alleged Apple knew of the power button defects based on prerelease testing and postrelease field failure analyses, yet Apple began selling the phones and continued to sell the phones notwithstanding the defect. The trial court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification but expressly refused to apply Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. University of Southern California, 55 Cal.4th 747 (2012) to the declarations submitted by plaintiffs' experts. The trial court believed it was not required to assess the soundness of the experts' materials and methodologies at this stage of the litigation. The Court of Appeals determined that belief was in error, and a prejudicial error. “Sargon applies to expert opinion evidence submitted in connection with a motion for class certification. A trial court may consider only admissible expert opinion evidence on class certification, and there is only one standard for admissibility of expert opinion evidence in California. Sargon describes that standard.” The Court of Appeal directed the trial court to vacate its order granting plaintiffs' motion for class certification and reconsider the motion under the governing legal standards, including Sargon. View "Apple Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Apple, Inc. (Apple) is the defendant in a putative class action filed by plaintiffs and real parties in interest Anthony Shamrell and Daryl Rysdyk. In their operative complaint, plaintiffs alleged that Apple's iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 smartphones were sold with a defective power button that began to work intermittently or fail entirely during the life of the phones. Plaintiffs alleged Apple knew of the power button defects based on prerelease testing and postrelease field failure analyses, yet Apple began selling the phones and continued to sell the phones notwithstanding the defect. The trial court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification but expressly refused to apply Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. University of Southern California, 55 Cal.4th 747 (2012) to the declarations submitted by plaintiffs' experts. The trial court believed it was not required to assess the soundness of the experts' materials and methodologies at this stage of the litigation. The Court of Appeals determined that belief was in error, and a prejudicial error. “Sargon applies to expert opinion evidence submitted in connection with a motion for class certification. A trial court may consider only admissible expert opinion evidence on class certification, and there is only one standard for admissibility of expert opinion evidence in California. Sargon describes that standard.” The Court of Appeal directed the trial court to vacate its order granting plaintiffs' motion for class certification and reconsider the motion under the governing legal standards, including Sargon. View "Apple Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Turley sued multiple defendants, alleging that he has an asbestos-related disease caused by exposure to asbestos-containing products, including valve gaskets, during his 36-year employment at PG&E. Interrogatory responses stated that Turley was exposed to asbestos-containing pipe products supplied by Familian, including “asbestos cement transite pipe, pipe collars, gaskets, elbows, pipe-repair products and other asbestos products.” Familian moved for summary judgment. arguing that plaintiffs could not show exposure to asbestos in a Familian-related product. Turley submitted a declaration from a third-party witness, Scott, who had not been deposed. The court allowed Scott to be deposed. Familian used portions of the deposition in its reply. The court concluded that the deposition testimony “conclusively negates” Scott’s declaration testimony as to exposure, refused to consider it, and granted summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed, stating that ambiguity in the evidence should be resolved at trial. Scott’s testimony established that Familian-supplied asbestos-containing gaskets were frequently used at Turley’s worksite and that Turley used them. That Familian was not the only supplier did not warrant the conclusion that Turley did not establish exposure. There was no direct contradiction between Scott’s declaration and his deposition testimony with respect to several areas, so his testimony should not have been disregarded. View "Turley v. Familian Corp." on Justia Law

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In June 2012, plaintiff-appellant Allen Krizhner leased a Mercedes-Benz from defendant Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC for personal use. The complaint alleged the car came with an express written warranty covering repairs for any defects. During the warranty period, the car allegedly exhibited a variety of defects which caused the navigation system and key fob to malfunction, the steering column adjustment mechanism and power seats to be inoperative, the coolant level warning light to illuminate, and smoke to emanate from the cigarette lighter. After bringing the issues to defendant’s attention, and frustrated with defendant’s supposed failure to abide by its warranty obligations, plaintiff filed suit under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Plaintiff accepted an offer of compromise pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 998, including a restitution provision identical to Civil Code section 1793.2 (d)(2)(B). The court awarded plaintiff over $47,000 in accordance with the 998 offer. Plaintiff appealed, arguing the trial court erred because it denied him recovery of approximately $680 in vehicle registration renewal and certificate of nonoperation fees which he incurred in the years after he first leased the car. The Court of Appeal concluded the court properly determined section 1793.2(b)(2)(B) did not require payment of vehicle registration renewal fees and related costs incurred after the initial purchase or lease. View "Kirzhner v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2015, State Farm filed suit against Watts, alleging subrogated product liability claims against Watts arising from a loss that occurred in November 2012. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of Watt's motion to compel arbitration, finding no basis for any vested right to arbitration under the circumstances of this case, where the parties have agreed to be bound by contractual terms and rules determined by a third party. In this case, the parties signed the AF arbitration agreement some years before 2012. In 2015, the AF arbitration agreement excluded product liability claims from the kinds of claims subject to compulsory arbitration under the agreement. View "State Farm General Insurance Co. v. Watts Regulator Co." on Justia Law

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The State of California prevailed in a representative public nuisance action against ConAgra, NL, and Sherwin-Williams. The trial court ordered the defendants to pay $1.15 billion into a fund to be used to abate the public nuisance created by interior residential lead paint in the ten counties represented by the state. The court of appeal affirmed in part, noting that the absence of a regulation or statute declaring interior residential lead paint to be unlawful does not bar a court from declaring it to be a public nuisance. The court reversed in part, holding that substantial evidence did not support causation as to residences built after 1950, and remanded to the trial court with directions to recalculate the amount of the abatement fund to limit it to the amount necessary to cover the cost of remediating pre-1951 homes, and hold an evidentiary hearing regarding the appointment of a suitable receiver. View "People v. ConAgra Grocery Products Co." on Justia Law

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To seek redress for an opioid epidemic, characterized by the Court of Appeal as having placed a financial strain on state and local governments dealing with the epidemic’s health and safety consequences, two California counties sued (the California Action) various pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, including the appellants in this matter, Actavis, Inc., Actavis LLC, Actavis Pharma, Inc., Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Watson Laboratories, Inc., and Watson Pharma, Inc. (collectively, “Watson”). The California Action alleged Watson engaged in a “common, sophisticated, and highly deceptive marketing campaign” designed to expand the market and increase sales of opioid products by promoting them for treating long-term chronic, nonacute, and noncancer pain - a purpose for which Watson allegedly knew its opioid products were not suited. The City of Chicago brought a lawsuit in Illinois (the Chicago Action) making essentially the same allegations. The issue presented by this appeal was whether there was insurance coverage for Watson based on the allegations made in the California Action and the Chicago Action. Specifically, the issue was whether the Travelers Property Casualty Company of America (Travelers Insurance) and St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company (St. Paul) owe Watson a duty to defend those lawsuits pursuant to commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policies issued to Watson. Travelers denied Watson’s demand for a defense and brought this lawsuit to obtain a declaration that Travelers had no duty to defend or indemnify. The trial court, following a bench trial based on stipulated facts, found that Travelers had no duty to defend because the injuries alleged were not the result of an accident within the meaning of the insurance policies and the claims alleged fell within a policy exclusion for the insured’s products and for warranties and representations made about those products. The California Court of Appeal concluded Travelers had no duty to defend Watson under the policies and affirmed. View "The Traveler's Property Casualty Company of America v. Actavis, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lyons sued Colgate, alleging that she developed mesothelioma from the use of Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet cosmetic talcum powder. Colgate manufactured Cashmere Bouquet from 1871 to 1985 and continued marketing it until 1995 when the Environmental Protection Agency reported that the presence of asbestos in talc makes it a human carcinogen. The talc used in Cashmere Bouquet came from three different sources. Lyons presented evidence that talc from each of the sites contained some form of asbestos. The court of appeal reversed the entry of summary judgment in favor of Colgate. The trial court failed to comply with Code of Civil Procedure section 437c(g), requiring a written order specifying the reasons for its determination and “specifically refer[ring] to the evidence proffered in support of and, if applicable, in opposition to the motion that indicates no triable issue exists.” Its tentative ruling indicated only its view that “Plaintiff failed to submit evidence to create a triable issue whether she was exposed to asbestos-containing products or materials attributable to defendant.” The record contains substantial evidence creating a triable issue as to whether Cashmere Bouquet contained asbestos that may be found to have been a substantial cause of plaintiff’s mesothelioma. View "Lyons v. Colgate-Palmolive Co." on Justia Law

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Congress has expressed no intent to foreclose tort liability against cigarette manufacturers, even if liability may have some negative impact on the sale of cigarettes. But-for causation does not apply in a case of multiple causes, different combinations of which are sufficient to have caused the harm. In this case, after her husband died of lung cancer, plaintiff filed suit against several cigarette manufacturers, including Lorillard, as well as manufacturers of asbestos to which he had been exposed. All defendants settled except Lorillard. The court held that federal law did not preempt plaintiff's claim; Lorillard was not entitled to an instruction that cigarettes were lawful; the trial court did not err in refusing to instruct on but-for causation; there was sufficient evidence that the defective cigarette design was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff's husband's cancer; the trial court did not prejudicially err in excluding evidence of asbestos exposure and causation; and the trial court did not err in refusing to award prejudgment interest for the time the dismissal agreement was in effect. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment in all respects. View "Major v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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In a products liability case, plaintiffs Kawika and Sandra Demara appealed the grant of summary judgment granted in favor of defendants The Raymond Corporation (Raymond) and Raymond Handling Solutions, Inc. (RHSI). As pertinent to the appeal, Plaintiffs asserted claims for strict liability and negligence based on injuries Kawika suffered allegedly as a result of design defects in a forklift designed by Raymond and sold by RHSI. In granting summary judgment, the trial court ruled, in part: (1) Plaintiffs did not establish a triable issue of material fact as to causation; (2) the consumer expectation test did not apply as a matter of law; and (3) for purposes of applying the risk-benefit test, even if Plaintiffs had shown a triable issue of material fact as to causation, Defendants established the requisite elements for the application of the risk-benefit test, and Plaintiffs did not establish a triable issue of material fact as to whether the benefits of the design outweighed the risks of the design. The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court erred in these rulings: (1) because Plaintiffs' showing as to causation was more than negligible or theoretical, it was sufficient to defeat summary judgment; (2) Defendants did not meet their burden of establishing as a matter of law that the consumer expectation test does not apply to Plaintiffs' claims; and (3) in applying the risk-benefit test, Defendants failed to present sufficient evidence to shift the burden to Plaintiffs to show a triable issue of material fact. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment and remanded with instructions to deny Defendants' motion. View "Demara v. The Raymond Corp." on Justia Law