Articles Posted in Product Liability

A six-figure jury verdict against the manufacturer of an adhesive product called FM-37 was recently set aside by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The plaintiff sought to recover damages under the Connecticut’s Product Liability Act (CPLA) for the wrongful death of the decedent, claiming negligence and strict liability. The plaintiff contended that the decedent was exposed during his employment to an asbestos-containing product (FM-37) manufactured by the defendant and that the exposure contributed to his contraction of deadly mesothelioma. This type of theory is also relevant to cases brought by Massachusetts wrongful death plaintiffs.

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Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that usually forms on the protective lining of the lungs and abdomen. The disease has no definitive cure, but advancements in conventional treatments along with emerging therapies are helping patients improve their survival rate. Incidence rates still hover around 3,000 new cases each year in the U.S., according to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, scientific research and increased awareness are leading to earlier diagnoses and improved treatments. Exposure to asbestos remains the leading cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos, a mineral fiber, can release toxic chemicals in the air if improperly handled.

Asbestos litigation has been going on for decades, ever since the substance was linked to mesothelioma. Individuals affected by this disease have sued companies that made products containing asbestos. Last month, for example, a Massachusetts developer agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit over accusations that workers improperly removed and disposed of asbestos. According to the lawsuit, unlicensed workers were allowed to remove materials containing asbestos without taking proper safety precautions. The lawsuit also alleged the company threw away unsealed asbestos near apartment buildings.

U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell recently held that Massachusetts gun maker Smith & Wesson was not liable for the accidental discharge of a pistol that caused a Tennessee man to lose his finger.

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Judge Campbell dismissed the case on September 16, based on an order from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville. The plaintiffs Randy and Vicki McNeal sued Smith & Wesson for $75,000 this winter. The complaint claims McNeal was shot in the finger inside a gun store in Murfreesboro, Tennessee — a small city near Nashville. The plaintiffs alleged that the Bodyguard .380 pistol had a loose screw that inhibited the slide from locking correctly.

Gun enthusiasts claim that the .380 pistol is the weapon of choice for people who want security but don’t fit the profile of the typical gun owner, such as urbanites, women, and first-time buyers who are more concerned with easy-access self defense than high performance. The issue is that firearms experts indicate that .380s are difficult to use. Kevin Michalowski of Concealed Carry magazine said:  “Based on size, people will grab a .380. First time buyers see a soft shooter. I think that’s a little bit of a mistake.”

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Leslie Nieder filed suit against Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical and Johnson & Johnson after her 17-year-old daughter, Adrianna Duffy, collapsed in her dorm room and died of a pulmonary embolism. The case alleged multiple causes of action related to Johnson & Johnson’s birth control patch, Ortho Evra. Following a hearing, the lower court judge upheld Johnson & Johnson’s motion for summary judgment and ordered the dismissal of the complaint. The Massachusetts Court of Appeals recently affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the complaint.

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In July 2008, Duffy and her mother met with Duffy’s pediatrician, Sara Nelson, at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Chelsea Clinic to discuss birth control options. Nelson recommended and prescribed an oral birth control. At some point thereafter, Duffy discontinued using birth control pills. In June 2009, Duffy decided she needed a new birth control method. Nieder and she met with Nelson to discuss options. Nelson prescribed the Ortho Evra patch after Duffy inquired about the patch as an easier method of birth control. (Unlike oral birth control pills, which must be taken at the same time each day, the patch is applied to the skin once per week for three weeks.)

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In June 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of deceptive terms such as “mild,” “low tar,” and “light” in the marketing and sale of cigarettes. The FDA reasoned tobacco companies had been promoting a decades-long lie that some cigarettes are less harmful to discourage smokers from quitting. This deception, the FDA explained, has had disastrous consequences for public health. The Surgeon General estimates that smoking and tobacco smoke exposure cause 480,000 premature deaths annually in the U.S.

In 1998, roughly 200,000 Marlboro Lights smokers sued Philip Morris USA for $600 million. Following 17 years of litigation, last month a Massachusetts judge agreed that the plaintiffs were unlawfully tricked into buying what they thought was a safer cigarette. Each plaintiff, however, was awarded only $25 plus interest.

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