Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Products Liability
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In June 2011, a fifteen-year-old shot his brother, an eleven-year-old, with a Remington Model 700 rifle equipped with an X-Mark Pro trigger. The boy and his parents (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) sued Remington, the retailer that sold the rifle, and Remington’s predecessors in interest (collectively, “Defendants”) in Mississippi state court. Plaintiffs emphasized that Remington had in April 2014 recalled all Model 700 rifles with X-Mark Pro triggers because the rifles “can and will spontaneously fire without pulling the trigger.” They brought state-law claims for product liability, failure to warn, negligence, and gross negligence.   Defendants moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). In their response to that motion, Plaintiffs asked to file a federal-court complaint to allege additional facts related to the statute of limitations. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court’s subject-matter jurisdiction was based on diversity of citizenship. The court, therefore, applied “federal procedural and evidentiary rules and the substantive laws of the forum state.” Mississippi has a general three-year statute of limitations. For “non-latent injuries” like the one alleged here, the cause of action accrues on the date of the injury. But Plaintiffs, who filed suit in March 2018, argue that the statute of limitations was tolled by Defendants’ fraudulent concealment. The district court rejected that argument. The Fifth Circuit agreed, finding that Plaintiffs failed to meet Rule 9(b)’s requirements. View "Stringer, et al v. Remington Arms, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Defendants, C.R. Bard, Inc. and Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc. (“Bard”), due to complications Plaintiff experienced after implantation of a filter used as a medical device. The Plaintiffs now appeal the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Bard on their failure to warn and design defect claims.The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that n a failure-to-warn case, a plaintiff must show by the preponderance of the evidence that the product was defective because it failed to contain adequate warnings or instructions, the defective condition rendered the product unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer, and the defective and unreasonably dangerous condition of the product proximately caused the damages for which recovery is sought.Here, Bard’s warning label warned in two different locations that Filter fracture and migration were “known complication[s].” Plaintiffs have thus failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to their failure to warn claim.Further, the court wrote that Plaintiffs make broad statements throughout their brief that presume a design defect must have caused Plaintiff’s complications. But actual evidence had to be identified to the district court in order to advance beyond the summary judgment stage for a design defect claim. View "Nelson v. C. R. Bard, Incorporated" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs seek to hold Bodum USA, Inc., responsible for an alleged manufacturing defect in one of its French press coffee makers (“the Press”) that they claim caused it to malfunction and injure their young child. The district court granted summary judgment for Bodum, concluding that no reasonable jury could find that the Press deviated from its intended design.The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court explained that a manufacturing defect may be established exclusively through circumstantial evidence and plaintiffs must allege a specific deviation from the product’s intended design that allegedly caused the injury. Here, Plaintiffs show the alleged defect was present when the Press left Bodum’s control, Plaintiffs point to French press coil assemblies advertised on Bodum’s website that also contain an outwardly protruding coil. Moreover, the court wrote that the following evidence creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Press contained a manufacturing defect: (1) testimony from Plaintiffs that they purchased their Press in brand-new condition; (2) a specific alleged defect consisting of a metal coil protruding beyond its mesh enclosure; (3) the district court’s finding that “the metal mesh was intended to completely engulf the metal coil,” which is corroborated by expert testimony; (4) an expert witness who examined the Press, tested it, compared it with two exemplars, and opined that the protruding metal coil deviated from the Press’s intended design, and caused the glass to fracture and ultimately shatter; and (5) the shattering of the Press’s glass carafe allegedly during ordinary use, albeit by a five-year-old child. View "Norman v. Bodum USA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was severely burned when the landing gear on a tanker-trailer detached from its tractor and sank into a gravel surface, causing the tanker-trailer to tip over and spill scalding water on him. Plaintiff brought a premises liability claim against the owner of the property and product liability claims against the owner of the tanker-trailer and three related companies. The district court dismissed his product liability claims on the pleadings and his premises liability claim on summary judgment.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not apply the proper standard for evaluating the plausibility of George’s pleadings under Federal R. of Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). Further, the court held that the district court erroneously concluded that Chapter 95 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code governed Plaintiff's premises liability claim. Thus the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "George v. SI Grp, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured while she, her father, and others were tracking a wounded deer at night in the woods. Her father’s Remington Model 710 rifle accidentally discharged and injured her. Plaintiff and her family members filed suit in the district court.At issue before the circuit court is whether the district court erred when it held that Section 60 of the LPLA did not bar her from bringing a claim under Section 56 of the LPLA, which is a general section applicable to design-defect claims.The LPLA “establishes the exclusive theories of liability for manufacturers for damage caused by their products.” LA. STAT. ANN. Sec. 9:2800.52. The court found is that Section 60(B) unambiguously bars design defect claims. Plaintiff argues that because Section 60(C) precludes claims against manufacturers for improper use of firearms, that part of the statute is superfluous if Section 60(B) had already precluded all non-Section 55 manufacturing-defect claims against manufacturers.The court found Section 60(C) precludes claims based on conduct by a broader category of actors than Section 60(B). Further, the court disagreed with plaintiff’s argument that Remington’s interpretation would render Section 60(D) Section 60(E) superfluous. Section 60(B) does not block all failure-to-warn claims but only those based on harm resulting from a shooting injury by a specific actor subset. Finally, the court found that the plain text leads to preventing a meaningful category of potential claims against the manufacturers of firearms. The court reversed and rendered judgment for defendant. View "Seguin v. Remington Arms" on Justia Law

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Earnest sued Sanofi as part of the multidistrict litigation over several pharmaceutical companies’ alleged failure to warn users of Taxotere (generically docetaxel), a chemotherapy drug, of the risk of permanent alopecia or hair loss. At trial, Sanofi elicited testimony from two medical doctors: Dr. Glaspy was accepted as an expert witness under Federal Rule of Evidence 702; Dr. Kopreski was offered as Sanofi’s designated corporate representative under FRCP 30(b)(6). As a general matter, both testified that little medical evidence linked Taxotere to permanent hair loss. On appeal Earnest challenged the admission of Dr. Kopreski’s testimony, arguing it was actually expert testimony admitted in contravention of Rule 702 and “Daubert” and that because Dr. Glaspy’s testimony relied in relevant parts on Dr. Kopreski’s testimony, it also should not have been admitted.The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded for a new trial. Sanofi’s maneuvers in cloaking Dr. Kopreski’s quasi-expert testimony as “lay witness” opinion testimony under Rule 701, and then using Dr. Glaspy to repeat it as expert analysis, effected a concerning end-run around Rule 702. Because this strategy allowed Sanofi to shoehorn inadmissible opinion testimony into evidence and then emphasize those “expert” conclusions in closing arguments to the jury it significantly prejudiced Earnest’s case. View "Earnest v. Sanofi US Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the estate and surviving parents of thirteen-year-old Gabriel Miranda, Jr., filed a products liability action against Navistar for the wrongful death of their son. Gabriel fell to his death after opening the rear emergency exit of a school bus while it was travelling at highway speed.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court correctly dismissed this suit on the ground that a federal regulation promulgated by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 217 (FMVSS 217), conflicts with and therefore preempts a state common law duty to include an automatic lock. The court agreed with the district court's reading of FMVSS 217 that a school bus manufacturer must outfit school buses with rear emergency exits that can be opened in only one way: by operating a manual release mechanism. Therefore, the court reasoned that it would be impossible to comply with the regulation while implementing the electronic locking mechanism change argued for by plaintiffs. View "Estate of Gabriel Miranda, Jr. v. Navistar, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit certified a question to the Louisiana Supreme Court: Does Section 9:2800.60(B) of the Louisiana Products Liability Act bar an individual, who is shot and injured by a third-party, from bringing a design defect claim under Section 9:2800.56 against a firearm manufacturer or seller? View "Seguin v. Remington Arms Company, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Texas: May Amazon be held liable as a "seller" under Texas products-liability law for third-party products sold on Amazon's website and handled through Amazon's Fulfillment by Amazon program? The Supreme Court of Texas has now answered the question, holding that "potentially liable sellers are limited to those who relinquished title to the product at some point in the distribution chain." Because third-party sellers do not relinquish their title to their products, "Amazon is not a 'seller'" of those "products under Texas law." Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's conclusion that Amazon is a "seller" under Texas law with instructions to grant Amazon's motion for summary judgment in full on remand. View "McMillan v. Amazon.com" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's failure-to-warn claim asserted against the manufacturers of Taxotere, a chemotherapy medication. Plaintiff argues that Taxotere's manufacturers failed to provide an adequate warning of potentially permanent hair loss, which caused her injuries.The court concluded that, under Louisiana law, plaintiff cannot establish causation where, on this record, it is beyond any genuine dispute that a warning of the risk of permanent hair loss—as opposed to temporary hair loss—would not have affected the prescribing physician's decision to prescribe Taxotere. Therefore, plaintiff's claim fails as a matter of law. View "Phillips v. Sanofi U.S. Services, Inc." on Justia Law