Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Products Liability
Cisson v. C. R. Bard, Inc.
This appeal stems from multi-district litigation involving transvaginal mesh medical devices used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and other pelvic issues. The jury awarded plaintiff $250,000 in compensatory damages, and the punitive damages award was split pursuant to a Georgia statute, with seventy-five percent going to the State of Georgia and twenty-five percent going to plaintiff. Both parties appealed. The court affirmed the district court's exclusion of evidence that Bard had complied with the FDA's 510(k) product safety process under F.R.E. 402 for lack of relevance; affirmed the district court's decision to admit evidence of a material data safety sheet pertaining to polypropylene, a material used in the construction of the Avaulta Plus implanted in plaintiff's body, as non-hearsay, finding that any use of the evidence by plaintiff that went beyond the limited purpose for which it was admitted as non-hearsay resulted in harmless error and was not prejudicial to Bard’s defense; and concluded that the district court did not err in giving the Georgia pattern jury instruction, in denying Bard’s request for a modified instruction, or in upholding the jury’s causation finding. The court also concluded that the punitive award was not constitutionally excessive. In regard to plaintiff's challenges, the court affirmed the district court's conclusion that Georgia's split-recovery statute garnishing seventy-five percent of any punitive damages award arising from a product liability judgment does not violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cisson v. C. R. Bard, Inc." on Justia Law
Nemphos v. Nestle Waters North America
After plaintiff's daughter developed a condition known as dental fluorisis, plaintiff filed suit against the manufacturers of bottled water, infant formula, and baby food that her daughter consumed. At issue was whether federal law, which provides uniform labeling standards for the products at issue, preempts plaintiff's state-law claims. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action, holding that federal law preempts plaintiff's bottled water claims and that her complaint as to the infant formula and baby food products fails to satisfy the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). View "Nemphos v. Nestle Waters North America" on Justia Law
Company Doe v. Public Citizen
Company Doe filed suit to enjoin the Commission from publishing in its online, publicly accessible database a "report of harm" that attributed the death of an infant to a product manufactured and sold by Company Doe. Consumer Groups filed a post-judgment motion to intervene for the purpose of appealing the district court's sealing order as well as its decision to allow Company Doe to proceed under a pseudonym. The court held that Consumer Groups' notice of appeal deprived the district court of jurisdiction to entertain Consumer Groups' motion to intervene, and, therefore, the court vacated the district court's order denying intervention; Consumer Groups were able to seek appellate review of the district court's orders because they met the requirements for nonparty appellate standing and have independent Article III standing to challenge the orders; and, on the merits, the district court's sealing order violated the public's right of access under the First Amendment and the district court abused its discretion in allowing Company Doe to litigate pseudonymously. Accordingly, the court vacated in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions.View "Company Doe v. Public Citizen" on Justia Law
Drager v. PLIVA USA, Inc.
Shirley Gross filed suit against PLIVA after her long-term use of the generic drug metoclopramide, produced by PLIVA, caused her permanent injuries. On appeal, plaintiff, as the personal representative of the estate of Gross, challenged the district court's denial of Gross's request to amend her complaint and her state common law tort claims against PLIVA for injuries sustained as a result of her use of a drug it manufactured. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, 21 U.S.C. 301 et seq. The court affirmed the district court's denial of leave to amend and held that none of plaintiff's claims regarding PLIVA's alleged failure to update its warnings were before the court on appeal; the court found that the complaint did not allege any violation of the federal misbranding laws or parallel state duties, and to the extent these claims were made on appeal, they were waived; and all of Gross's causes of action were preempted by the FDCA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Drager v. PLIVA USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Fontenot v. Taser Int’l, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a products liability action against TI after her son died from cardiac arrest when he was struck by a taser. A jury found in favor of plaintiff, awarding her $10 million in compensatory damages, which the district court remitted to about $6.15 million before deducting certain offset amounts received by plaintiff, resulting in a final award of about $5.5 million. TI appealed. The court held that the district court did not err in entering judgment in favor of plaintiff on the liability aspect of the negligence claim in accordance with the jury's verdict. However, the damages award was not supported by the evidence and the court remanded on that issue. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fontenot v. Taser Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law
E.D. v. Pfizer, Inc.
This case arose when nineteen plaintiff families sought to file a single complaint, raising products liability and negligence claims against the Pharmaceutical Companies. On appeal, the Pharmaceutical Companies challenged the district court's decision to remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction to the Circuit Court of Wayne County, West Virginia. The court concluded that it did not have the authority to review the remand order because the Pharmaceutical Companies have failed to establish that an exception should apply here, and because the plain language of 28 U.S.C. 1447(c) barred the court's review of the case. View "E.D. v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law
ESAB Group, Incorporated v. Zurich Insurance PLC
The issue before the Fourth Circuit concerned commercial arbitration of insurance disputes in foreign tribunals. Appellant-Cross-Appellee ESAB Group, Inc. contended that South Carolina law "reverse preempts" federal law (namely, a treaty and its implementing legislation) pursuant to the McCarran-Ferguson Act. ESAB Group faced numerous products liability suits arising from alleged personal injuries caused by exposure to welding consumables manufactured by ESAB Group or its predecessors. These suits presently were proceeding in numerous state and federal courts in the United States. ESAB Group requested that its insurers defend and indemnify it in these suits. Several, including Zurich Insurance, PLC (ZIP), refused coverage. As a result, ESAB Group brought suit against its insurers in South Carolina state court. The district court then found that ZIP had the requisite minimum contacts with the forum to permit the exercise of personal jurisdiction and that the exercise of jurisdiction over ZIP was otherwise reasonable. Because it had referred to arbitration all claims providing a basis for subject-matter jurisdiction, the district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims. ESAB Group timely appealed the district court's exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction. ZIP filed a cross-appeal, challenging the district court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction and its authority to remand the nonarbitrable claims to state court. Upon review, the Fourth Circuit affirmed as to the district court’s exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction, and found no error in the district court's order compelling arbitration. Likewise, the Court rejected ZIP's arguments that the district court erred in exercising personal jurisdiction over it and in remanding nonarbitrable claims to state court. View "ESAB Group, Incorporated v. Zurich Insurance PLC" on Justia Law