Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
Articles Posted in Products Liability
In this design-defect product-liability case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the case for Plaintiff's failure to prosecute and to comply with scheduling orders. Plaintiff brought this action against Defendants. Plaintiff served no discovery before the discovery deadline, and Plaintiff’s counsel did not at the outset retain an expert. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the absence of any expert testimony was fatal to Plaintiff’s case. The district court subsequently granted Plaintiff’s request to reopen discovery, set a new expert-disclosure deadline and other requests for time extensions without any sanction. After the extended deadline for filing an opposition to the motion for summary judgment came without Plaintiff’s opposing the motion, the district court dismissed the case for failure to prosecute and failure to comply with scheduling orders. The district court denied Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration. The First Circuit affirmed. View "McKeague v. One World Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
The district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this design defect and failure to warn action. Bernardino Santos-Rodriguez was riding in a boat when a corroded rod end that was part of the boat’s steering mechanism failed, resulting in a loss of steering and ejecting Santos from the boat. Santos sustained extensive injuries. Santos and four relatives sued Seastar Solutions, the manufacturer of the boat’s steering mechanism, alleging a design defect and a failure to warn. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Seastar. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Santos could not prove that any failure to warn or design defect in the steering rod caused his injuries; and (2) because the district court properly granted summary judgment on Santos’s underlying claims, his relatives’ derivative claims cannot succeed. View "Santos-Rodriguez v. Seastar Solutions" on Justia Law
Maribel Quilez-Bonelli died from injuries she received in an automobile accident with a truck used by employees of the Municipality of San Juan. The truck had fitted onto its trash body an underride guard designed by Ox Bodies, Inc. Maribel’s family members (collectively, Quilez) brought suit in federal district court against Ox Bodies, seeking damages for negligence and defective design of the under ride guard. A jury found Ox Bodies strictly liable for defective design and awarded Plaintiffs $6 million in damages. The jury assigned twenty percent of responsibility for the damages to Ox Bodies and eighty percent to the Municipality of San Juan, which was not a party in the suit. The magistrate judge ruled that Ox Bodies should be held responsible for only twenty percent of the damages award. Both parties appealed. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the magistrate judge’s decision to admit the testimony of Quilez’s expert regarding an alternative underride guard design; and (2) as to Quilez’s appeal, certified to the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico the question of the extent of Ox Bodies’ liability for the damages award. View "Quilez-Velar v. Ox Bodies, Inc." on Justia Law
Plaintiff, a helicopter pilot, was forced to land a Bell 407 helicopter when the helicopter’s engine suddenly quit working. Plaintiff sued Defendants, alleging that the flameout was caused by false overspeed solenoid activation (FOSSA). Defendants asserted that Plaintiff’s engine flameout was not caused by FOSSA but by Plaintiff’s failure to adequately clear the helicopter of snow and ice before takeoff. The jury returned a defense verdict. After trial, two defendants issued bulletins applicable to the type of engine in Plaintiff’s helicopter addressing FOSSA. Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial, invoking Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(2) and (3), arguing that the information contained in the bulletins compelled an inference that one or more defendants knew about a “circuit design error” existing at the time of Plaintiff’s accident rendering Bell 407s susceptible to FOSSA but failed to disclose it during discovery or at trial, which failure constituted misconduct. The district court denied Plaintiff’s post-trial motions. The First Circuit vacated in part and remanded, holding that the district judge misconstrued the requirements of the Rule 60(b)(3) burden-shifting inquiry set forth in Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc. Remanded for further proceedings on Plaintiff’s Rule 60(b)(3) motion. View "West v. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc." on Justia Law
In 2008, the decedent was killed in a helicopter crash. The decedent’s widow and children (collectively, Appellants) filed a products liability action against the helicopter’s manufacturer and repair company. The jury returned a unanimous verdict finding that the defendants were not negligent. Approximately eighteen months after the jury returned its verdict, Appellants were allegedly told that the verdict was influenced by the jurors’ improper knowledge of a confidential settlement offer. Appellants filed a motion pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6) seeking an evidentiary hearing to explore the jury taint. The district court denied the motion on the grounds that the filing of the motion was untimely and that the materials filed in support of the motion were insufficient. The First Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the court abused its discretion in denying the motion for 60(b) relief without holding such a hearing. View "Bouret-Echevarria v. Caribbean Aviation Maint. Corp." on Justia Law
Plaintiff filed a complaint against Titeflex Corporation, the manufacturer of Gastite, for an alleged product defect in Gastite corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST). The complaint asserted four causes of action, each based on allegations of Gastite CSST’s vulnerability to lightning strikes. The District Court of Massachusetts dismissed for lack of standing, concluding that Plaintiff’s injury was too speculative. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to allege either facts sufficient to assess the likelihood of future injury or instances of actual damage where it was clear that CSST was the source, and therefore, the alleged risk of harm was too speculative to give rise to a case or controversy. View "Kerin v. Titeflex Corp." on Justia Law
Posted in: Products Liability
Plaintiff suffered a hand injury while operating a hand saw manufactured by defendant, while working at a construction site. A jury awarded plaintiff $1.5 and, although it found plaintiff to be 35 percent at fault, the finding did not reduce the award because it also found breach of implied warranty of merchantability. The First Circuit affirmed, finding the evidence sufficient to support the verdict and rejecting an argument that plaintiff had argued impermissible "categorical liability" rather than presenting an alternative, safer design. Statements by plaintiff's counsel, about "sending a message" and corporate earnings, did not mandate a new trial.
Plaintiff, left paralyzed from the chest down after an accident at work, sued the company that built a specialized trailer for his employer. A jury rejected negligence and implied warranty of merchantability claims. The First Circuit affirmed. The district court acted within its discretion when it instructed the jury that a defendant who manufactures a product according to buyer specifications could not be liable under either a negligence or implied warranty theory unless the design defect was so obvious it would not have been reasonable for the defendant to manufacture according to the design.