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Articles Posted in Product Liability Cases

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pexels-anna-shvets-3987150-200x300Following the initial COVID-19 outbreak in the United States earlier this year, thousands of Americans flooded stores in search of hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies. Many stores were completely wiped out from the start of the pandemic of such supplies and have taken several months to restock these products because of demand. In preparation for the uncertainty associated with the pandemic, many Texans purchased large quantities of these products. However, recent FDA recalls indicate that some of these sanitizing products may be causing members of our community to become ill. These recalls may be the basis for a Texas product liability claim.

According to a recent article, federal regulators from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been urging consumers to avoid more than 130 hand sanitizers that were previously available through stores such as Walmart and other national major retailers. The agency has cited that many of these products lack the sufficient level of alcohol necessary to effectively kill germs or that the products contain dangerous and potentially deadly levels of wood alcohol.

With hand sanitizer demand skyrocketing during COVID-19, a new rush of brands manufacturing hand sanitizer has entered the market. However, while many of these products claim to contain ethanol (otherwise known as ethyl alcohol), FDA tests have shown that they actually contain methanol, or wood alcohol. Methanol can potentially be toxic when absorbed through the skin and could even cause blindness or death if consumed. Because many products have been mislabeled, consumers would be unable to tell which items actually contain methanol. The FDA has kept an updated list of recalled products on its website for easy reference.

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food-healthy-dinner-lunch-128401-300x200Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that La Bodega Meat is recalling over 80,000 pounds of raw beef products. According to the press release, the products did not receive a re-inspection when entering the United States. Individuals can suffer severe injuries if they consume recalled meat in Texas. These individuals should seek medical attention and legal assistance if they experience adverse reactions to defective food products.

The recalled beef products included ribeye rolls, flank steaks, boneless brisket, inside skirt, flap meat, sirloins, peeled knuckle, rounds, and other similar meat pieces. The meat entered the United States in early June and was shipped to distributors in Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas. Although there have not been any confirmed cases of serious adverse reactions, the FSIS believes that some products may still be frozen in distributors’, retailers’, and other customers’ freezers. Distributors, retailers, and consumers are urged not to distribute, sell, or consume these products.

The USDA classifies recalls into three classes, Class I, Class II, and Class III. Class I recalls, such as the one above, are reserved for products that may cause a severe health hazard, and there is a high probability that using the product will result in serious health consequences such as death. Class II recalls occur in situations where the product presents a remote likelihood of an adverse health consequence. Finally, Class III recalls are issued when the product will not cause serious adverse health consequences.

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medical-tools-placed-on-tray-in-modern-clinic-3884085-300x200A recent case provides insight for Texas plaintiffs suing manufacturers for injuries caused by their products. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured after her dentist inappropriately used a product to clean her dentures. The plaintiff later suffered significant injuries when the dentures were placed in her mouth. After suing the dentist and the product’s manufacturer, the plaintiff’s claim against the manufacturer was dismissed by the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The plaintiff’s claim against the manufacturer was based on a failure to warn. The theory underlying failure to warn claims is that a product’s manufacturer has a responsibility to warn users of harmful effects. As one court explained, “in a failure-to-warn case, the plaintiff must show that the warning was defective and that this…was the producing cause of the plaintiff’s injury.” These cases typically come down to a question of whether the warning was adequate. In other words, a plaintiff will generally be able to recover if the judge or jury believes that the manufacturer’s warning was not sufficient to warn the plaintiff against the type of injury that occurred.

In this case, the plaintiff’s claim was unsuccessful because the product’s label contained language warning against using the product in the manner that caused the plaintiff’s injury. The warning label on the product stated that it was not to be used to disinfect dentures or the surface of any other instrument that would come into contact with mucous membranes. By instructing his assistant to soak the dentures in the product for fifteen minutes before placing the dentures back in the plaintiff’s mouth, the dentist caused the plaintiff’s injury by using the product in the exact manner that the warning label prohibited. When a product’s warning warns against the very activity that causes injury, the warning is deemed adequate as a matter of law, and the plaintiff’s claim automatically fails. For this reason, the plaintiff’s claim was unsuccessful.

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(NATIONAL RECALL: February 2020) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a recall for an insulin pump that thousands of people use with Type 1 diabetes. The recall is centered around certain Medtronic MiniMed 600 series insulin pumps.

One person has died, 2,175 people have received injuries and there have been more than 26,000 complaints, according to a statement released by the FDA.

Medtronic is recalling the specified insulin pumps due to a missing or broken retainer ring. That ring helps lock the insulin cartridge into place, according to the FDA.

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Bryan, Texas, February 8, 2020:  A  second explosion happened at one of Chesapeake Energy’s oil wells in the Eagle Ford Shale just two weeks after a Jan. 29 deadly explosion at a Chesapeake Energy oil well site in nearby Burleson County. Three men were killed and one man was left hospitalized in the Burleson incident. Bryan Maldonado, 25, and Windell Beddingfield died in what is the deadliest oilfield accident since January 2018.

Authorities are investigating the accident which occurred about 1 a.m. Saturday at a storage tank on the company’s Luther lease off Sandy Point and Old San Antonio Roads in a rural area of Brazos County about eight miles northwest of Bryan.

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Earlier this month, the federal circuit court overseeing the federal district courts in Texas issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing several pertinent issues for Texas product liability plaintiffs. The case required the court to determine if a jury’s $3.4 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff was supported by sufficient evidence. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s evidence did support the jury’s verdict, and thus the verdict was affirmed on appeal.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, through his wife, filed a product liability lawsuit against his employer as well as the manufacturer of a crane that the plaintiff was operating at the time of his accident. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered a serious injury when the counterweights attached to a crane he was operating slid into the operator’s cab, knocking the plaintiff out of the cab and sending him head-first onto the concrete eight feet below.

The plaintiff claimed that the crane manufacturer was liable under a “failure to warn” theory. Essentially, the plaintiff’s argument was that the manufacturer’s included warnings failed to fully inform users of the risks involved with the crane tipping over. Additionally, the plaintiff argued that alternative warnings would have better informed him and may have prevented the accident.

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In re Michelin North America, Inc. is a recent product liability case. The case arose when a woman driving a 2013 Ford Explorer was hit by Robert Coleman’s Ford F250 pickup. The pickup crossed the center line when its left front tire failed, and it crashed into the Explorer, killing the woman. The driver of the pickup and his passengers were seriously injured.

The woman’s heir filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging negligence and strict product liability against Michelin and a negligence claim against the driver of the pickup. The pickup driver filed a petition to intervene in the wrongful death lawsuit against Michelin.

The tire at issue was manufactured at a Michelin plant in 2011. The pickup driver claimed the tread peeled off the left front tire, and it lost air quickly because of tread separation, resulting in the pickup driver losing control. Before filing suit, the pickup driver’s attorney asked that specified evidence be preserved. The pickup driver’s attorney made several discovery requests to Michelin, which objected and claimed trade secret privilege, among other things. The court granted the pickup driver’s motion to compel access. The order allowed videotaping, limited to an hour.

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In Verticor, Ltd. v. Wood, an appellate court considered whether personal injury lawsuits against a medical device manufacturer count as health care liability claims for the purposes of the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA). The case arose when a surgeon treated a herniated disc in the plaintiff’s lumbar spine by using a device called the “Eclipse Sphere,” which was manufactured by the defendant. After suffering complications, the plaintiff sued the doctor and the manufacturer.

The plaintiff argued that the surgeon had used the device in a non-fusion procedure, although it was only approved by the FDA for use in fusion procedures in the lumbar region. The FDA had also required that the device’s packaging and manuals include a warning about how its safety in non-fusion procedures hadn’t been established yet.

The plaintiff argued that the doctor was professionally and grossly negligent in using the device in an off-label, experimental fashion and not getting his informed consent for it. He also claimed that the manufacturer had solicited the off-label use, alleging strict liability theories of failure to warn, negligent marketing, a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, and fraud. The manufacturer claimed as an affirmative defense that it is a health care provider as defined by the TMLA.

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The Texas Supreme Court recently decided Genie Industries, Inc. v. Ricky Matak, a product liability case. In Texas, manufacturers are not liable for design defects unless there is a safer alternative design and the defect makes the product unreasonably dangerous such that its risks outweigh its usefulness.

The case arose when a worker was supported 40 feet in the air by an aerial lift made by the defendant. The base of the lift was small and on wheels, and an electromechanical interlock prevented the platform from being elevated unless all outriggers were in place and leveling jacks were pressed to the ground. Others tried to move the lift with the worker on it. There were signs on the machine and instructions in the user manual that warned the machine could tip over, causing the worker to fall from a great height. The worker in this case did fall and died of massive head injuries. There have been only three reported accidents like the one in this case.

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In some Texas personal injury cases, it is difficult to know which theory of recovery to pursue. In Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation v. Mansfield, a manufacturer appealed from a judgment in a product liability case that on the surface might have looked like a slip and fall. A jury had found that the product, which was a bag of frozen chicken, had a manufacturing defect when it was sold to a retail grocer.

While shopping at the retail grocer, a customer slipped and fell on liquid that leaked through the defective bag of chicken. The store manager helped her get up, and she stated she thought she was okay and wouldn’t need an ambulance. The manager filled out an accident report on the store form, noting that the customer had slipped on blood that came through a leak in the bag of chicken while she was pushing her grocery cart.

At trial. the store manager testified that he noticed there was a trail of liquid spots behind the plaintiff’s cart just after the accident, and that he’d inspected the bag as well. He took the bag to the meat department, noticing that the bag was open, not just torn or cut. The meat department manager and his assistant also noticed that the corner of the bag was unsealed. The manager testified there was an opening at the bag’s seam, a defective seal, which allowed the liquid to leak.

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