Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Products Liability
Salazar v. Target Corp.
After Plaintiff-appellant David Salazar bought Target Corporation’s White Baking Morsels incorrectly thinking they contained white chocolate, he filed this class action against Target for false advertising under various consumer protection statutes. Salazar claimed he was reasonably mislead to believe the White Baking Morsels had real white chocolate because of the product’s label, its price tag, and its placement near products with real chocolate. To support his position, Salazar alleged that the results of a survey he conducted showed that 88 percent of consumers were deceived by the White Baking Morsels’ advertising and incorrectly believe they contained white chocolate. He also alleged that Target falsely advertised on its website that the “‘chocolate type’” of White Baking Morsels was “‘white chocolate,’” and placed the product in the “‘Baking Chocolate & Cocoa’” category. Target demurred to all three claims on the ground that no reasonable consumer would believe the White Baking Morsels contained real white chocolate. Target also argued that Salazar lacked standing to assert claims based on Target’s website because he did not view the website and did not rely on its representations. The court sustained Target’s demurrer without leave to amend and entered judgment for Target. “California courts . . . have recognized that whether a business practice is deceptive will usually be a question of fact not appropriate for decision on demurrer. ... These are matters of fact, subject to proof that can be tested at trial, even if as judges we might be tempted to debate and speculate further about them.” After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal determined that a reasonable consumer could reasonably believe the morsels had white chocolate. As a result, the Court found Salazar plausibly alleged that “‘a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled’” by the White Baking Morsels’ advertising. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. Target Corp." on Justia Law
Hamer v. LivaNova Deutschland GMBH
Hamer underwent open-heart surgery using LivaNova’s 3T Heater-Cooler System. He developed an infection in the incision, which his physicians suspected stemmed from a non-tuberculosis mycobacterium (NTM). The hospital had experienced an outbreak of NTM infections in other patients who had undergone surgery using the 3T System. Hamer’s treatment team never isolated NTM from any of the swabs or cultures. Hamer, alleging that his treatment caused him lasting injuries, filed suit under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) for failure to warn and inadequate design.Hamer’s case was transferred to Multidistrict Litigation case 2816, along with other cases alleging damages from the NTM infection caused by the 3T System. Case Management Order 15 (CMO 15) required plaintiffs to show “proof of NTM infection” through “positive bacterial culture results.” Hamer did not comply but opposed dismissal, claiming he had stated a prima facie claim under Louisiana law and sought remand.The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal. The court could have dismissed Hamer’s claims without prejudice, could have suggested remand, or could have dismissed Hamer’s claims with prejudice, if it found that Hamer had not stated a prima facie case under Louisiana law. .Under the LPLA, Hamer’s facts might state a prima facie case for defective design. Hamer’s allegations may diverge from those of other cases in MDL 2816 in which an NTM infection was verified but stating alternative theories of liability cannot justify foreclosing his claims. View "Hamer v. LivaNova Deutschland GMBH" on Justia Law
Smith v. General Motors LLC
In 2005-2006, GM changed the dashboard used for GMT900 model cars from a multi-piece design to a single-piece design, which made the dashboard prone to cracking in two places. Plaintiffs, from 25 states, alleged that GMT900 vehicles produced in 2007-2014 contained a faulty, dangerous dashboard and that GM knew of the defective dashboards before GTM900 vehicles hit the market. The complaint contained no allegation that any of the plaintiffs have been hurt by the allegedly defective dashboards. The complaint, filed on behalf of a nationwide class, alleged fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment, and violations of state consumer protection statutes and the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. At worst, Plaintiffs suffered only cosmetic damage and a potential reduced resale value from owning cars with cracked dashboards. Although the plaintiffs claimed that routine testing, customer complaints, and increased warranty claims alerted GM to the defective dashboards and accompanying danger, that is not enough to survive a motion to dismiss without specifics about how and when GM learned about the defect and its hazards, and concealed the allegedly dangerous defect from consumers. Even accepting that GM produced defective vehicles, under the common legal principles of the several states, the plaintiffs must show that GM had sufficient knowledge of the harmful defect to render its sales fraudulent. View "Smith v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law
McAdams v. Mercedes-Benz, USA, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Plaintiff had opted out of a class-action settlement that was approved in Seifi v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, holding that McAdams's status as a member of the Seifi class was determined in that case, and therefore, McAdams's claim in this case was barred by res judicata.While the Seifi class action was pending, McAdams filed a complaint against Mercedez-Benz USA, Mercedez-Benz Easton, and Mercedes-Benz of New Rochelle, alleging claims relating to issues with the balance-shaft gear and the transmission conductor plate of her Mercedes. After the judgment in the Seifi class action was issued, the trial court determined that McAdams was bound by the Seifi class action settlement because she had not formally opted out of the class action, and therefore, her balance-shaft-gear claim was barred by res judicata. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that McAdams had opted out of the Seifi class-action settlement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that McAdams's claim that she had not opted out of the class action was barred by res judicata because the federal court determined who had opted out in its entry adopting the Seifi class-action settlement. View "McAdams v. Mercedes-Benz, USA, LLC" on Justia Law
Little v. Kia Motors America, Inc.
Plaintiff Regina Little asserted claims on her own behalf and on behalf of other New Jersey owners and lessees of 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 Kia Sephia vehicles distributed by defendant Kia Motors America, Inc., alleging that those vehicles had a defective brake system. The central question in this appeal was whether the trial court properly permitted plaintiff’s theory of damages based on the cost of brake repairs to be asserted classwide, supported only by aggregate proofs. The jury determined that defendant had breached its express and implied warranties and that the class had sustained damages. The jury found that the class members had suffered $0 in damages due to diminution in value but that each class member had sustained $750 in damages “[f]or repair expenses reasonably incurred as a result of the defendant’s breach of warranty.” The trial court granted defendant’s motion to decertify the class as to the quantum of damages each individual owner suffered. The parties cross-appealed. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s post-trial determinations, reinstated the jury’s award for out-of-pocket repair costs based on plaintiff’s aggregate proofs, and remanded for an award of attorneys’ fees. The appellate court held that, notwithstanding the jury’s rejection of plaintiff’s diminution-in-value theory, the trial court should have ordered a new trial on both theories of damages, which it found were not “fairly separable from each another.” Although aggregate proof of damages can be appropriate in some settings, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered such proof improper as presented in this case. The trial court erred when it initially allowed plaintiff to prove class-members’ out-of-pocket costs for brake repairs based on an estimate untethered to the experience of plaintiff’s class. The trial court properly ordered individualized proof of damages on plaintiff’s brake-repair claim based on the actual costs incurred by the class members. Thus, the trial court’s grant of defendant’s motions for a new trial and for partial decertification of the class were a proper exercise of its discretion. View "Little v. Kia Motors America, Inc." on Justia Law
Montoya v. Ford Motor Co.
Gabriel Montoya bought a 2003 Ford Excursion in April 2003. A jury found that as of November 30, 2005, he knew it was a lemon. The statute of limitations for breaches of the implied warranty of merchantability was four years. Montoya didn’t sue Ford for another seven-and-one-half years, waiting until June 2013. Yet he was able to obtain a judgment against Ford of almost $59,000 for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. This was roughly an $8,000 return over what he had originally paid for the vehicle 10 years earlier. This was possible because there were two periods during which the statute of limitations was tolled while separate national class actions were pending against Ford, both of which were applied to Montoya’s case. The Court of Appeal determined a second class action filed in this case did not toll Montoya's claim. "The four-year statute of limitations therefore expired no later than 2010. He sued in 2013. His claim for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability was therefore untimely presented." View "Montoya v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law
Palmer, et al. v. Gentek Building Products, Inc.
Gentek Building Products, Inc. appealed after a jury awarded Richard and Angela Palmer damages of $10,791, plus interest. Gentek also appealed an order awarding attorney fees of $80,379 to the Palmers, and taxation of costs and disbursements. In 2003, the Palmers purchased and installed “Driftwood” steel siding from Gentek on their home in Williston. Gentek provided a lifetime limited warranty for the siding. In September 2011, the paint began to peel on the siding installed on the south side of the home. In January 2012, the Palmers submitted a warranty claim to Gentek. Gentek offered the Palmers the option of either a cash settlement or replacement with a substitute siding under the warranty, since Gentek had discontinued producing the type of siding originally installed. While the Palmers opted to have their siding replaced with a substitute, Gentek had difficulty finding a contractor willing to perform the warranty work due to the oil boom in the area. Thousands of others also experienced delaminated pain on their siding and filed warranty claims with Gentek, resulting in a class action lawsuit filed in federal district court in Ohio. The federal district court entered a final order and judgment approving a class action settlement. In 2014, the Palmers filed this suit against Gentek, alleging breach of warranty by failing to replace the defective siding. Gentek defended by arguing the Palmers were bound by the federal court's final class action settlement. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the North Dakota district court did not err in holding the Palmers were not bound by the federal district court’s final order and judgment approving a class action settlement. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded that the court erred in its award of attorney fees and in not ruling on Gentek’s objection to costs and disbursements. The order awarding attorney fees and taxation of costs and disbursements was reversed, however, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Palmer, et al. v. Gentek Building Products, Inc." on Justia Law
Apple Inc. v. Superior Court
Petitioner Apple, Inc. (Apple) is the defendant in a putative class action filed by plaintiffs and real parties in interest Anthony Shamrell and Daryl Rysdyk. In their operative complaint, plaintiffs alleged that Apple's iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 smartphones were sold with a defective power button that began to work intermittently or fail entirely during the life of the phones. Plaintiffs alleged Apple knew of the power button defects based on prerelease testing and postrelease field failure analyses, yet Apple began selling the phones and continued to sell the phones notwithstanding the defect. The trial court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification but expressly refused to apply Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. University of Southern California, 55 Cal.4th 747 (2012) to the declarations submitted by plaintiffs' experts. The trial court believed it was not required to assess the soundness of the experts' materials and methodologies at this stage of the litigation. The Court of Appeals determined that belief was in error, and a prejudicial error. “Sargon applies to expert opinion evidence submitted in connection with a motion for class certification. A trial court may consider only admissible expert opinion evidence on class certification, and there is only one standard for admissibility of expert opinion evidence in California. Sargon describes that standard.” The Court of Appeal directed the trial court to vacate its order granting plaintiffs' motion for class certification and reconsider the motion under the governing legal standards, including Sargon. View "Apple Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Duran v. Obesity Research Institute
Fred Duran filed a putative class action complaint against Obesity Research Institute, LLC (ORI) and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart) (collectively, defendants). Duran alleged defendants falsely claimed that ORI's products, Lipozene and MetaboUp, had weight loss benefits. The court approved a claims-made settlement providing that class members submitting a claim without proof of purchase would receive $15, and those submitting receipt(s) would receive one refund of double the unit price paid. The settlement also provided that ORI would cease making certain assertions in product advertising. Defendants also agreed to not oppose a motion seeking $100,000 in attorney fees to class counsel. Objectors, class members DeMarie Fernandez, Alfonso Mendoza, and Brian Horowitz appealed, contending the settlement was the product of collusion. Objectors claimed the class did not receive sufficient notice of settlement, and the settlement was unreasonable and inadequate. They also contended the attorney fee award was excessive. The Court of Appeal reviewed the case and concluded that the trial court's judgment had to be reversed because the class notice failed in its fundamental purpose, to apprise class members of the terms of the proposed settlement. "The erroneous notice injected a fatal flaw into the entire settlement process and undermines the court's analysis of the settlement's fairness." View "Duran v. Obesity Research Institute" on Justia Law
Helmer v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber
David Helmer and Felicia Muftic were lead plaintiffs representing a certified class of homeowners who contended a radiant-heating hose, the Entran 3, manufactured by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (“Goodyear”) suffered design defects leading to cracks and leaks (the hose was used to convey hot fluid to provide heating for homes, installed permanently in walls, under flooring and in ceilings and concrete. At trial, Goodyear argued the leaks were caused by third parties’ improper installations. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Goodyear, concluding the Entran 3 was not defectively designed. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that insufficient evidence supported the district court’s instruction on nonparty fault. They further argued that the district court failed to require proof of a necessary fact before instructing the jury regarding Colorado’s presumption that a product was not defective if ten years have passed since it was first sold. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that any error in the third-party liability instruction was harmless, and the inclusion of the instruction as to the presumption was proper. View "Helmer v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber" on Justia Law