Tag Archives: product liability

Hall & Wilcox continues national growth with new Brisbane team

Leading independent business law firm, Hall & Wilcox, continues to grow nationally with the hiring of a Brisbane-based insurance team.

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Flash Interview Me Mariella De Stefano

Me Mariella De Stefano is a partner in our insurance department and specializes in the management of complex files in insurance litigation, civil litigation, professional liability and product liability.

MDS

Me De Stefano did not hesitate to participate in our “Flash Interview” serie. Here are her answers to our questions: 

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Comcast Corp. v. Behrend Decision Levels Class Action Playing Field

The Foley Hoag Product Liability Update is a good source of information concerning developments in product liability and related law for product manufacturers and sellers. Published quarterly, the Update is prepared under the aegis of David R. Geiger, the chair of Foley Hoag’s product liability and complex tort practice.

Although any of the six articles in the April 2013 Update are worthy of comment, the Update’s discussion of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426, 2013 WL 1222646 (Mar. 27, 2013) is the most significant. Behrend was filed as a hope-to-be antitrust class action in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

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The Product Liability Dilemma: Product vs. Service.

Courts have long struggled with hybrid fact scenarios that  involve both a product and a service. When a corporate defendant is sued for personal injury, is it more advantageous for the defendant to be characterized as a service provider rather than a product manufacturer? The knee jerk reaction of some defense lawyers is that they would prefer their client to be cast as service providers. After all, who wants their client to be subjected to a strict liability product claim if it could be avoided, right? Not so fast. The answer to this question may be more complicated that it appears at first blush.

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Trademark Licensors As "Apparent Manufacturers" In Product Liability Cases

Although by no means a “hell hole” jurisdiction, it is difficult for a peripheral asbestos defendant to obtain summary judgment in Bridgeport Superior Court in Connecticut. Once summary judgment is denied, many asbestos defendants with questionable liability will often settle out rather than risk the financial exposure of an adverse result in a mesothelioma jury trial.  It is helpful for a company to have a well thought out appellate strategy in mind before selecting a jury in that jurisdiction.  One recent asbestos trial did not turn out well for a trade association defendant..

On August 24, 2012, the Bridgeport Superior Court denied post-trial motions filed by Tile Council of North America (“Tile Council”) in Hannibal Saldibar v. A.O. Smith Corp. The Tile Council is a trade association that developed and patented an asbestos-containing formula for dry set mortar. This jury verdict raises the issue whether a trademark licensor may be held liable under a theory of strict liability as the “apparent manufacturer” despite having never manufactured or sold the product at issue.  The Apparent Manufacturer Doctrine seeks to hold the licensor vicariously liable for defective products manufactured by the licensee.

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Breach Of Warranty & Product Liability Claims Dismissed Against Auto Service Provider

In 2008, the parents of Sean Reeps, brought suit against BMW, Martin Motor Sales and Hassel Motors (“Hassel”), alleging that Sean’s mother, Debra, was exposed to gasoline fumes in the family’s BMW during her pregancy, which resulted in Sean being born with birth defects. The Complaint alleged causes of action in (1) negligence; (2) strict products liability; (3) breach of express warranty; and (4) breach of implied warranty (merchantability) . The timeline of events is as follows:

1991-In March and again in November, Reeps bring their 1989 BMW 525i to Hassel Motors, a licensed BMW dealer, to fix an exhaust odor inside the car.  Dealer fails to identiify an exhaust odor in March, but later identifies problem as a split fuel hose and repairs it under warranty.

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Challenging Plaintiff’s Proof of Reasonable Alternative Design

In the majority of jurisdictions, to establish a claim for design defect in a product liability action, the plaintiff must present some proof of a “feasible alternative design” or “reasonable alternative design.”

In an article published in the IADC Product Liability Committee Newsletter (February 2012), “No Other Alternative: Challenging Plaintiff’s Proof of Reasonable Alternative Design”,  Elbert S. Dorn, a partner at Nexen Pruet, LLC, in South Carolina, provides valuable tips to the defense practitioner concerning how to agressively press legal and factual points to test plaintiff’s proof of reasonable alternative design.   

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