Product Liability Update -- January 2012

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In This Issue:

*First Circuit Upholds Design Defect Verdict Involving Table Saw, Holding Plaintiff Adequately Proved Availability of Feasible Alternative Design Despite Weight and Price Differences From Existing Saw, and Hence Verdict Also Did Not Impermissibly Ban Entire Category of Product

*Massachusetts Superior Court Finds Personal Jurisdiction Over Foreign Ski Manufacturer Where Plaintiff Purchased Allegedly Defective Skis in Massachusetts from Store Located Through Search Function on Manufacturer’s Website

*Massachusetts Federal Court Holds Trademark Licensor that Substantially Participated in Design of Excavating Machine Liable as “Apparent Manufacturer” Even Though Licensor Did Not Participate in Machine’s Sale

*Massachusetts Federal Court Holds Plaintiffs in Class Actions Arising Out of Lead in Fruit Products Lacked Injury in Fact, and Hence Standing, Where Products Had Harmed No One and Complied with Federal Standards; Threat of Future Physical Injury Too Speculative, and Plaintiffs Did Not Allege Diminished Value That Could Constitute Economic Injury

*Massachusetts Federal Court Finds Testimony of Frequent Plaintiff’s Expert on Design of Stove Burner Knob Admissible Because Expert Was Qualified as Licensed Mechanical Engineer, and Methodology of Relying on Personal Inspection, Fire Investigator Findings and Prior Incident Reports Was Reliable; Potential Bias Was Matter for Cross-Examination

*Massachusetts Federal Court Holds Expert Testimony Supporting Causal Link Between Infant Formula and Plaintiff’s Injuries Required to Prevail on Claims; Court Stays Discovery and Dismisses Without Prejudice for Failure to Produce Expert Report or Affidavit

Excerpt from First Circuit Upholds Design Defect Verdict Involving Table Saw, Holding Plaintiff Adequately Proved Availability of Feasible Alternative Design Despite Weight and Price Differences From Existing Saw, and Hence Verdict Also Did Not Impermissibly Ban Entire Category of Product

In Osorio v. One World Technologies, Inc., -- F. 3d --, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 20174 (1st Cir. Oct. 5, 2011), the plaintiff construction worker was severely injured when his hand slipped into the blade of a table saw manufactured by defendant. The saw – a small, lightweight and inexpensive “benchtop” model – had been purchased by plaintiff’s employer at Home Depot for only $179. Plaintiff sued in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts for negligence and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability (the Massachusetts near-equivalent of strict liability), alleging the saw should have incorporated a novel technology known as “SawStop” that causes a saw blade to immediately stop and retract when it contacts human flesh. After an eight-day trial, the jury returned a $1.5 million verdict for plaintiff. Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law, arguing, among other things, that plaintiff failed to present evidence of a feasible alternative design because the proposed “SawStop” design would be significantly heavier and far more expensive (more than twice the cost), and that the jury verdict effectively imposed “categorical liability” by banning the sale of lightweight, inexpensive table saws. The court denied defendant’s motion.

Please see full update below for more information.

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Published In: Civil Procedure Updates, Civil Remedies Updates, Intellectual Property Updates, Products Liability Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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