Articles Posted in Products Liability

by
In July 2003, plaintiff Andrew McCarrell filed a products-liability action alleging that Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. (Roche) had failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks and side effects associated with taking Accutane. Plaintiff timely filed this products-liability action within New Jersey's statute of limitations, but Alabama's limitations period had expired by the time of the filing. The issue is which state's statute of limitations applied under New Jersey s choice-of-law jurisprudence. Roche moved for summary judgment, citing Alabama's two-year statute of limitations. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the governmental-interest test set forth in "Gantes v. Kason Corp.," (145 N.J.478 (1996)), directed that New Jersey's statute of limitations governed the case. The jury found in favor of McCarrell on the failure-to-warn claim, but the Appellate Division reversed based on evidentiary issues. The Appellate Division approved the trial court's application of New Jersey's statute of limitations to the case, however, and the Court denied Roche's petition for certification. After a new trial, a jury found Roche liable for failure to warn, awarding McCarrell $25,159,530. Roche challenged the verdict on the ground that the governmental-interest test had been supplanted by the most-significant-relationship test of sections 146, 145, and 6 of the Second Restatement of Conflicts of Law and argued that, under this test, Alabama's statute of limitations applied. The trial court denied the challenge as untimely. An appellate panel expressly declined to apply section 142 of the Second Restatement, vacated the jury's verdict and award, dismissed McCarrell's complaint as untimely, and did not reach the remaining issues raised by Roche on appeal. McCarrell's petition for certification was granted. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the jury's verdict and award. Analysis under section 142 of the Second Restatement lead to the conclusion that New Jersey's statute of limitations was properly applied to this action. The matter was remanded to the Appellate Division for consideration of unaddressed issues remaining on appeal. View "McCarrell v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Jamie and Rebecca Gannon, maintained that plaintiff Jamie Gannon developed a form of brain cancer because of a series of polio vaccines he was given as a child. Plaintiffs pursued various forms of relief in both federal and state courts. In the federal court action, they sought relief from the United States pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, contending that the federal government was negligent in permitting the polio vaccine to be sold to the public. Plaintiffs' federal action was dismissed following a partial bench trial, based on the government's motion for judgment on partial findings, and that judgment was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Proceeding on a parallel track, plaintiffs sought relief in New Jersey state courts. In the state court action, they raised product liability claims against defendants American Home Products, Inc., American Cyanamid Company, Lederle Laboratories, and Wyeth-Lederle Vaccines, which they asserted were the entities that had manufactured or distributed the polio vaccine given to plaintiff Jamie Gannon. In the state court litigation, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants based on two grounds: (1) the trial court concluded that plaintiffs lacked sufficient evidence to prove the identity of the manufacturer of the polio vaccine that plaintiff Jamie Gannon was given; (2) the trial court concluded that plaintiffs were collaterally estopped from bringing the cause of action based on the prior judgment entered in federal court. The Appellate Division reversed both aspects of the trial court's judgment and remanded the matter for further discovery and for trial. The panel first concluded that the trial court had utilized an incorrect standard in evaluating the sufficiency of the product identification evidence because it failed to afford plaintiffs the benefit of the inferences to which they were entitled as the non-moving parties in the context of a summary judgment motion. The panel then concluded that there were equitable considerations that militated against granting collateral estoppel effect to the judgment of the federal court, including the status of discovery in the state court matter and the pendency of similar state court litigation involving other plaintiffs. Because the Supreme Court concluded that the Appellate Division’s collateral estoppel analysis was in error, the Court reversed. View "Gannon v. American Products, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2004, Billie Cornett received a drug-eluting stent to treat coronary artery disease. Five months later, a blood clot formed near the site of the stent and Cornett suffered a subacute stent thrombosis. Eleven days later, he died. In 2008, his widow, Vonnie Cornett, filed suit in New Jersey seeking damages for the injuries suffered by her husband and his estate. The issue presented to the Supreme Court centered on whether Vonnie Cornett filed her complaint within the statute of limitations, which required the New Jersey Court to determine whether the law of Kentucky or New Jersey applied to this case. The stent used in this case is a Class III medical device that was subject to the rigorous pre-market approval (PMA) process of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, another issue for the Court to decide was whether the various state statutory and common law claims are preempted by federal law governing approval of this medical device. Upon review, the Court concluded that the Kentucky statute of limitations governed this case and that Kentucky applies a discovery rule to product liability actions involving latent injuries and illnesses, but Cornett did not timely file her complaint. The Court also concluded that the great bulk of the state statutory and common law claims were preempted by federal law. View "Vonnie Cornett v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

by
The issue before the Supreme Court was whether Plaintiff Kaime Kendall's lawsuit against the developers and marketers of the prescription drug Accutane, Hoffman-LaRoche, was barred by a two-year statute of limitations. Plaintiff was first prescribed Accutane in January 1997, when she was twelve years old. By that time, the information provided to physicians began to warn of a possible link between Accutane and irritable bowel syndrome (IBD). The information provided to patients warned to stop taking the drug and consult a doctor if stomach pain, diarrhea and rectal bleeding occurred. In 1998 and 2000, the physician warnings were strengthened with regard to IBD. When Plaintiff was first prescribed Accutane, her doctor did not mention the risk of IBD because he was not aware of it. In 1999 at a period in which Plaintiff had stopped taking Accutane, she was hospitalized for abdominal pain later diagnosed as ulcerative colitis. Plaintiff filed suit against the company in 2005, alleging that Hoffman-LaRoche was liable because the warnings were inadequate. The Company moved to dismiss the lawsuit, asserting that the statute of limitations had expired. The trial court noted that at the time Plaintiff began taking Accutane, warnings focused primarily on preventing pregnancy and suicide. The judged then concluded that by December 2003, Plainitff did not know her ulcerative colitis would be caused by Accutane, and that a reasonable person in her circumstances would not have known either. Hoffman-LaRoche appealed the jury verdict in Plaintiff's favor. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that because a reasonable person in Plaintiff's situation would not have known by 2003 of the relationship between Accutane and ulcerative colitis, her lawsuit against the drugmaker was timely. View "Kendall v. Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc." on Justia Law