Sunday, March 24, 2019

How the Cosmetics Industry Got to Regulate Itself and Downplayed Cancer Risks

Interesting article related to products' regulation, and possible liability.  Take a look here.

Devin Nunes files lawsuit for $250 million against Twitter; does it violate the rules against frivolous suits?

By now, I am sure you have heard all the jokes about the lawsuit filed by Rep. Devin Nunes.  If not, here is the bottom line: Rep. Devin Nunes has sued Twitter, some satire Twitter accounts, and a real political commentator for a variety of "offenses" including defamation based on allegations that anyone with a basic understanding of the law should know would not support a claim for defamation.  He is asking for $250 million in compensation.  The defamation claim is frivolous.

Of course, frivolous lawsuits are not new, but this is the same Devin Nunes who co-sponsored the Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act and who once voted for a House Amendment "to express a sense of Congress that free speech should be protected."

For a detailed analysis of the complaint, go to TechDirt.

You can read more comments in ABA Journal, and The Daily Beast.

For the jokes I mentioned above, you can go here, and here for some examples.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Connecticut Supreme Court reverses lower court allowing case against gun manufacturer to go forward -- UPDATED

In a 4-3 opinion issued on March 14 (available here), the Connecticut Supreme Court has cleared the way for families of children killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School to proceed with a lawsuit against Remington, which manufactured the AR-15 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that was used during the school shooting. 

The court held that Remington can be sued over its marketing practices under a Connecticut state law, despite protections offered to gun manufacturers by federal law.  Specifically, the court held that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects gun manufacturers and sellers from liability for the acts of people who use their weapons, but not from a claim under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act based on allegations that Remington and other defendants were involved in the selling of a weapon that was designed for military use, knowing it had no legitimate civilian purposes and could only be effectively used by civilians for criminal activity.

You can read more details on the story in NPRAboutLawsuits, Jurist, Courthouse news, the Legal Profession blog and The ABA Journal.

UPDATE (3/19/19):  TortsProf blog has posted a comment here.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

NJ Supreme Court to decide whether defendant has a duty to warn about asbestos exposure due to a replacement part in its product

The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal that will decide a manufacturer’s liability for asbestos-containing replacement parts that it did not manufacture or sell.  The Supreme Court granted certification after the Superior Court, Appellate Division, held that a manufacturer has a duty to warn of risks not just from the products it manufactures or sells, but also from asbestos-containing replacement parts necessary for its products to function.  You can read the lower court opinion here.

Here is a link to a short article that summarizes the possible approaches to the question and the issues involved.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Article proposing changes to the view that suicide is a superseding cause

As you may know, courts often rule that a person's decision to commit suicide operates as a superseding cause which results in dismissing wrongful death claims against defendants whose conduct allegedly drove the decedent to commit suicide.

A few years ago, I commented how this approach to the issue has resulted in a confused state of the law in Illinois.  See here.    I have also argued that the analysis has never made much sense to me because, by definition, a superseding cause is superseding only if it is unforeseeable and suicide is not always unforeseeable. 

However, for some, the act of committing suicide is still so inconceivable that for them it should always be considered to be unforeseeable.  Perhaps this is based on the notion that life, however bad it might be, is always preferable to death, and therefore it is inconceivable that someone might prefer to die.  This categorical approach, however, fails to consider the many possible reasons and circumstances that might lead someone to consider suicide.

Thus I have argued that the analysis in suicide cases should be exactly the same as that in all other cases that involve intervening causes:  is the injury a foreseeable consequence of the risk created by the negligent conduct?  Two years ago, I reported on a case that agreed with my view.  See here.

I am writing about this today because I just saw a new article on the subject.  It is called  Abolishing the Suicide Rule, and here is the abstract:
Suicide is increasingly recognized as a public health issue. There are over 40,000 suicides a year in the U.S., making suicide the tenth-leading cause of death in the country. But societal attitudes on the subject remain decidedly mixed. Suicide is often closely linked to mental illness, a condition that continues to involve stigma and often triggers irrational fears and misunderstanding. For many, suicide remains an immoral act that flies in the face of strongly held religious principles. In some ways, tort law’s treatment of suicide mirrors the conflicting societal views regarding suicide. Tort law has long been reluctant to permit recovery in a wrongful death action from a defendant who is alleged to have caused the suicide of the decedent. In many instances, courts apply a strict rule of causation in suicide cases that has actually been dubbed “the suicide rule” in one jurisdiction. While reluctance to assign liability to defendants whose actions are alleged to have resulted in suicide still remains the norm in negligence cases, there has been a slight trend among court decisions away from singling out suicide cases for special treatment and toward an analytical framework that more closely follows traditional tort law principles. This Article argues that this trend is to be encouraged and that it is time for courts to largely abandon the special rules that have developed in suicide cases that treat suicide as a superseding cause of a decedent’s death.
You can find the full article in SSRN, here.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Shooting victims argue on appeal to revive case against social media platforms

In a recent oral argument before the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, attorneys for some victims and family members of those killed during the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando argued that the court should reverse a lower court decision dismissing a complaint against Twitter and other social media platforms.

In the original lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that but for the postings of a radical group using defendants’ social media platforms, the shooter would not have engaged in his attack on the Pulse nightclub.  They alleged Twitter, Google and Facebook knew their sites and platforms were being used by terrorist organizations to raise money and recruit new members, but did nothing to curb or end the activity.

The lower court judge, however, ruled in favor of the defendants and granted their motion to dismiss in March 2018.

You can read a summary of the argument here

I confess I have not been following this story and do not know the details of the allegations or the lower court opinion; but from what I can gather from the summary, it seems to me the plaintiffs will have a hard time winning the argument.  It is not easy to hold the media responsible for the criminal conduct of others who read or react to what is published in the media platforms.

Lawsuit Blames Sorority Hazing for Athlete's Suicide

I recently published a short article on two recent cases on whether universities have a "duty to help" students by preventing injuries caused by other students or by protecting students from injuring themselves (including by attempting to commit suicide).  You can read it here.

With this in mind, I found it interesting to read that FindLaw is reporting that the mother of a Northwestern University basketball player that took her own life in early 2017 has filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois court alleging that Jordan's sorority's hazing motivated her suicide.

I have not seen the complaint itself so I am not sure of the details, but from the stories I have read in the press, it appears the lawsuit is against the sorority and not against the University.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Supreme Court hears oral argument on FDA preemption claim

A couple of days ago, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the most recent case on whether claims against prescription drug manufacturers are preempted by FDA regulations.  The case is called Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht.

The SCotUS blog has a good short summary of the case here and an analysis of the oral argument here.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Court of Appeals finds Tennessee punitive damages cap unconstitutional

A divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently held that the Tennessee statute capping punitive damages is unconstitutional.  Courthouse News Services has the story here.

FDA No Longer Pursuing Rule Update to Require Generic Drug Makers To Warn Of Known Side Effects

Back in November, 2013, I posted that the FDA proposed a new regulations that would allow (and presumably encourage) generic drug manufacturers to add or update the safety warnings on their products.  In a nutshell, the key is that generics are required to use the exact same label and warnings as the brand name manufacturers.  They can't deviate and update the warnings on their own. 

You would think that manufacturers interested in making sure their products are safe would welcome the new rule.  However, because the current system works to immunize generics manufacturers, a change that would work to make the products safer would also open the door to possible liability.  Thus, as you would expect from those who are more interested in profits than safety, the manufacturers hired a consulting firm  to conduct a cost-beneift analysis of the consequences of the new rule.  And, not surprisingly, the analysis concludes that the change is not good for consumers.  You can read the report here.  Then, go here for a report by Center for Justice & Democracy (called "America’s Unaccountable Generic Drug Industry; How Legal Immunity Could Be Making You Sick") which explains how deficient the current system is. You can then form your own opinion.  For more on this issue go here, here, here, here and here (video).

In April 2015, the New York Times published story stating that
The pharmaceutical industry mounted a new challenge on Friday to a federal plan that would require generic drug companies to take the initiative to update their labels to warn consumers whenever health risks were discovered, a shift that would expose the companies to legal liability.

During a public meeting at the Food and Drug Administration, the industry proposed instead that the F.D.A. itself should decide whether new warnings on drug labels are required and, if so, order companies to make the changes. But consumer advocacy groups said the companies were trying to shift responsibility to an agency that lacks the resources to track the vast array of drugs on the market.
Not much has happened since. The rules were supposed to have been finalized in December 2015, but the FDA delayed taking action until July 2016.  Yet, no action was taken, and two weeks ago, despite years of work, and calls from both inside and outside of the agency to ensure accurate and up-to-date warnings are provided to consumers by generic drug manufacturers, the FDA posted a notice announcing the withdrawal of the proposed rule involving label changes.

AboutLawsuits has the story here.