Posts Tagged ‘product liability’

Liability roundup

Crime victim can’t sue over pre-trial release algorithm

Can a victim of a later crime use New Jersey product liability law to sue a private foundation over alleged flaws in the alternative-to-bail algorithm it had developed for the state’s use? No, a federal district court has ruled, because 1) the algorithm isn’t a product, 2) proximate causation is lacking; and 3) it’s speech so the First Amendment acts as a bar [Eugene Volokh]

July 10 roundup

  • Hearse driver in HOV lane to highway patrol: you mean I can’t count the corpse as a passenger? [Michelle Lou, CNN]
  • “Caterpillar Now Going After All The Cats For Trademark Cancellations” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt, earlier]
  • Before trying to open a storefront business in San Francisco you might look to this advice from commercial real estate brokers about the city’s zoning and permit hurdles, and please quit using words like “bonkers” or “flabbergasting” [Robert Fruchtman Twitter thread]
  • “Lawyer engaged in ‘sustained campaign of unfounded litigation,’ disbarment recommendation says” [ABA Journal; Waukegan, Illinois]
  • Breaking from two other federal appeals courts, Third Circuit rules that Amazon as a platform can be sued under strict liability principles over defective items sold by third-party vendors on its site [Brendan Pierson, Reuters] Should the ruling stand, implications for online marketplaces are dire [Eric Goldman]
  • New challenges for Mathew Higbee, high volume copyright enforcement lawyer, and his clients [Paul Alan Levy, more, earlier]

Read the label: part N in a series

A Fayette County, Pennsylvania woman whose use of a hair relaxer left her partially bald admitted that she hadn’t read the instructions, but said Optimum Salon Care Defy Breakage No-Lye Relaxer is in any case too dangerous to be allowed on the market. Judge Thomas Hardiman, writing for a Third Circuit panel, rejected her contentions that the product was defective or, in the alternative, that a reasonable consumer would not have heeded the label warning and directions for use. [Matt Miller, PennLive; Nicholas Malfitano, Penn Record; Chandler v. L’Oreal]

“Science Favors J&J in Talcum Powder Lawsuits”

For years lawyers have been suing Johnson & Johnson claiming that its baby powder has caused ovarian cancer, a theory that has mostly met with failure in court. This summer, however, a St. Louis jury found liability and ordered the company to pay $4.69 billion, on a related theory that asbestos contaminants in the product (as opposed to talc itself) caused the disease. On December 14 Reuters followed with a lengthy piece laying out, and implicitly siding with, the plaintiff lawyers’ accusations; the piece drew wide publicity, and the company’s shares sank by about $50 billion. Some analysts have written that J&J’s lawsuit payouts on the issue could reach $20 billion.

Now a leading business columnist has explained why he doubts that outcome. “Why? Because whether or not the company’s talcum powder contains asbestos, and whether or not it hid that fact from the public, the science remains firmly on J&J’s side.” [Joe Nocera, Bloomberg] How so? “There is no evidence that women who use talcum powder are any more likely to get ovarian cancer than women who don’t. In both California and New Jersey, judges have tossed out cases on exactly this basis.” So while plaintiffs make the most of their dark imputations of a cover-up, what they haven’t shown is that women who used the baby powder are any more likely to contract cancer than those who did not. Nocera: “And this is one mass tort where I’m convinced the science is going to win.”

Meanwhile, Mark Lanier, the Texas-based lawyer who won the St. Louis verdict, freely agrees that his efforts have helped affect J&J’s stock price. “It serves my purposes as a litigator to say, ‘Yes, get their attention; keep driving the stock down.'” [Matthew J. Belvedere, CNBC] And: “New York’s specialized court for asbestos lawsuits could become a pivotal battleground for litigation over talcum powder as plaintiff lawyers seek to establish a record of wins in a court system known for liberal rules and big jury verdicts.” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]

“Needless to say, the film-makers employed no such editing maneuvers during the interviews of the plaintiff litigation team.”

Defense lawyer Stephen McConnell reviews the shame-on-business documentary The Bleeding Edge. There were few surprises: “We had been fully warned that the film was a thoroughly one-sided screed against the medical device industry….We also hear from ubiquitous plaintiff expert David Kessler, a former head of the FDA.” And see: our coverage back when of other one-sided documentaries including “The Hunting Ground” (college sexual assault), “Super Size Me,” the one on the (fraud-riddled) banana pesticide litigation, and above all the trial-lawyer-backed “Hot Coffee” (much more on which).

Liability roundup