Articles Posted in Product Defect

trampoline_sports_equipment_sport_1-scaledSometimes, those delightful recreational activities we all enjoy carry an inherent risk. Often, we assume the risk of those injuries when we engage in that potentially reckless conduct. Knowing your legal options following these injuries is necessary, mainly because recovering for these somewhat ordinary injuries can be difficult. What does it look like when a party cannot recover for a recreational injury–here, an injury from a trampoline park visit?

Kurt and Tabitha Perkins visited a Shreveport indoor trampoline park, Air U. Kurt was injured while at Air U, and he was relatively young, had no known or apparent medical issues before the injury, and had done some time with the U.S. Marine Corps. The Perkinses filed a lawsuit against Air U and other parties, namely insurance companies and Air U’s unidentified employees. 

Kurt stated in a deposition that he did not know why his left knee gave out when jumping on the trampoline, as he had no other injuries or treatment to his left leg. The other patrons at the trampoline park, mostly young kids, had no trouble jumping on the trampoline. Kurt and Tabitha stated that they did not notice any defects on the trampoline and that Kurt jumped normally when he was hurt. Tabitha also said that an Air U employee did not call an ambulance because he was not a manager. 

wheelchair_pattern_black_background_44-scaledWhen an injury related to a product occurs, assigning fault can involve multiple parties. In personal injury litigation, crucial legal questions arise regarding whom the plaintiff can seek compensation from, if anyone, and the underlying theory of liability. The following case offers a valuable exploration of common liability theories often encountered in product-related injury cases.

During their stay at a PNK Lake Charles, L.L.C. casino hotel (from now on “PNK”) in July 2015, Anthony Luna, who had limited mobility due to a recent knee surgery, was provided a wheelchair by a PNK employee. While being pushed to their hotel room by one of his children, the wheelchair suddenly stopped, jamming Luna’s foot. Luna inspected the wheelchair but found nothing amiss. However, during another ride, the wheelchair abruptly stopped again, breaking the front left wheel in half and collapsing.

Anthony and Dana Luna and their minor children filed a lawsuit against PNK, alleging negligence and seeking damages under La. C.C.P. art 2315 and La. C.C.P. art 2317. They claimed that PNK’s negligence in providing a defective wheelchair caused injuries to Luna, hindering his recovery following knee surgery.

court_justice_munich_bavaria-scaledA minor is generally unable to bring a lawsuit on their behalf. As seen in the following case, this can lead to disputes about who the proper party is to bring a lawsuit for the minor. 

Shannon Jones and Jennifer Brunelle filed a lawsuit against healthcare providers, the manufacturers of a device used in surgery, and loss of consortium claims for their daughter, Haley Jones. They retained an attorney, Gary Roth, to represent them. They settled the medical malpractice claim against one of the defendants. Brunelle received letters appointing her as natural tutrix for their minor daughter, Haley Jones. They then filed a petition in the medical malpractice lawsuit to approve the settlement, which the court granted. 

Brunelle then discharged Roth as her attorney and retained attorneys at the Gainsburgh firm. With the new representation, they settled with the medical device manufacturer. The settlement was not finalized until months later. Brunelle claimed her attorneys had committed legal malpractice while negotiating the settlement agreement and caused delays in finalizing it. After extensive disputes related to the underlying facts in the case, the trial court eventually granted the Roth defendants summary judgment motion. It dismissed Brunelle’s legal malpractice claims against the Roth attorneys. Brunelle appealed, claiming the trial court erred in dismissing her claims. 

tractor_red_tractor_red-scaledWhen an item is repaired, it is reasonable to expect it to be safe and free of defects upon its return. However, when an injury occurs after a product’s repair, the injured party is entitled to seek damages. For example, Joe McPherson suffered a knee injury after the battery compartment of a tractor, which Ronald Dauzat repaired, fell apart. The question of negligence and responsibility arose, leading to a legal dispute and subsequent appeal.

Dauzat sold his old tractor to McPherson. However, it did not function properly, so Dauzat took it in for repairs. Dauzat notified McPherson the tractor was ready to be picked up. When McPherson arrived at the shop, Dauzat was not there. But two men he assumed were employees permitted him to mount and inspect the tractor. When McPherson tried to demount, the battery compartment fell apart, and he fell and wounded his knee

McPherson filed a lawsuit against Dauzat for his injury. His complaint alleged the defective tractor caused his injuries. He stated that his injury would have been prevented if the battery box had been firmly latched. Dauzat filed an involuntary dismissal and claimed McPherson failed to present evidence that the unlatched box was the cause of his fall. 

detective_crime_scene_dagger-scaledAn important safeguard in the law is the requirement for an accusing party to support its allegations with facts and, ultimately, evidence. There are multiple reasons to have this protection in place. Proceeding with a claim that makes a wrong conclusion against another party would not be particularly fair or just, nor would it be an effective use of court resources.

Louisiana courts entitle a party to move for summary judgment to press the opposing side to demonstrate there is a genuine dispute to resolve. La. Code Civ. P art. 966. If, for example, a plaintiff makes a claim that requires the support of physical evidence that they cannot produce, summary judgment will be granted. The following case out of Washington Parish, Louisiana, shows why, if you are considering a lawsuit, you should never discard evidence critical to your case. 

Robert D. Byrd used a home-based oxygen machine provided by Pulmonary Care Specialists, Inc. (PCS). He was hospitalized for respiratory failure after being found unconscious by his mother, who reported that the machine was running at the time. Byrd’s machine did not undergo maintenance or repair before the incident. However, his mother did request service one day earlier. Byrd’s mother subsequently set the oxygen machine out with the trash, preventing follow-up testing or inspection. 

wheelchair_pattern_black_background_4Recovering from an automobile collision is already a difficult journey. Sometimes physical recovery does not occur in a straight line, and intermediate accidents can complicate the process. This was especially true for Alexandria resident Mr. Maricle. 

During his recovery from injuries due to a car crash, Mr. Maricle sustained further injuries due to a defective wheelchair supplied by Axis. Maricle filed a lawsuit in 2013 against Axis. In 2014, a trial court denied Axis’s motion for summary judgment; Axis appealed this denial and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order. Significantly, the Court of Appeals held that the only issue left was determining whether Axis failed to inspect the wheelchair. Based on that holding, the trial court denied the Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion and granted Axis’ summary judgment because there were no visible defects prior to the wheelchair’s delivery to Maricle. 

Maricle presented numerous issues on appeal. The first issue was that La.Civ.Code art. 2317.1, used by the trial court to grant summary judgment, does not apply because that provision is only for owners or custodians of the defective item. Liability as an owner or custodian requires proof “that the thing was in the defendant’s custody and control.” Davis v. Am. Legion Hosp. Instead, Marcile argued that La.Civ.Code arts. 2696-97, which applies to lessors of an item and specifies a warranty that attaches to the lease, should apply because Axis was strictly liable as the lessor of the wheelchair. 

clock_time_dead_broken-scaledBefore taking on one of the nation’s largest, leading automotive manufacturing companies, it is essential to consult an excellent attorney with knowledge of the Federal Court system.  The importance of following the deadlines set by the Court in that system cannot be understated. Unfortunately, the lesson of how critical it is to follow court deadlines came to bear a harsh reality for the children of two deceased car accident victims in the following case.

 Sandra, Carnel, Darnell, Gregory, and Lashawn Joseph (collectively “the Josephs”) sued GM after the car their parents, George and Jeanette Joseph, were passengers in caught fire and crashed into the guardrail, causing their parents’ fatal injuries. In trying to gather evidence to support their claims against GM at the District Court, the Josephs sought expert testimony. Still, they failed to identify expert witnesses or produce expert reports before the District Court’s scheduled deadline passed. Therefore, the District Court denied the Josephs’ motion to reschedule the deadlines based on their failure to show good cause for not meeting the deadline. 

The Josephs did not object to this denial, and GM moved for summary judgment. The summary judgment argued that because Josephs had no experts to prove their claims, they had no case to go forward with. The Josephs attempted to admit expert testimony to challenge GM’s motion. However, the District Court neither allowed the testimony because the Josephs missed the previously scheduled deadlines nor allowed the Josephs extra time for discovery. As a result, the District Court ruled in favor of GM on the motion for summary judgment. The Josephs subsequently appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

La. R.S. 30:29 (“Act 312”) was in enacted in 2006 and became effective in June of that year. Act 312 provides a procedure for the remediation of oil field sites as well as oil exploration and production sites. Generally, remediation is “the action of remedying something, in particular of reversing or stopping environmental change.” Before the Louisiana legislature enacted Act 312, most remediation requirements were through private party contracts; therefore, Act 312 did not change the normal trial procedures established by the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure.

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently discussed Act 312 at length, explaining what it did change, in a case involving the Vermilion Parish School Board. The Court explained that Act 312 was enacted because of serious concerns with the state of the land and ground water after an area was used for oil exploration and production. Parties would use the land and ground water under a mineral lease for several years, and leave the property in terrible shape by the time that they were done. Mineral leases allow the parties to contract for only the minerals or the potential oil that is located on that property. The party with the mineral lease, then, does not rent the entire property, but just the ability to find minerals or oil within or upon that property.

Before Act 312, parties could still sue if one party left the land in terrible shape. Occasionally, however, it does not make sense economically to force a party to fix the land they damaged. Instead, the renting party would have to give the “landlord” the difference between the value of the land when they received it and the value of the land when it was returned after the lease, under a tort law theory. However, the person who owned the land, the “landlord,” was not required to use the funds to fix damage done to the land. As a result, property that had serious environmental problems often went without remediation because the landlord was not required to fix it. This creates health and safety concerns for the general public.

Although the law requires that all motorists obtain liability coverage, when pressed with financial difficulty and confronted with rising insurance premiums, some individuals voluntarily accept the risk of large fines and choose to forego liability insurance. Despite all attempts at exercising reasonable care, a fraction of these drivers inevitably end up causing accidents. And when they do, the lack of resources that led them to risk driving without insurance becomes the problem of the other driver who cannot recover for personal injury or property damage resulting from the accident.

This scenario led many states, Louisiana among them, to enact laws designed to encourage motorists to obtain Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. The State of Louisiana is among the most aggressive in encouraging uninsured motorist coverage. Louisiana law requires that all policies contain underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage sufficient to pay damages for bodily injuries resulting from an accident. This is known as Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage (“UMBI”). In addition to the required UMBI coverage, insurers offer Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage (“UMPD”).

Under Louisiana law, therefore, all policies implicitly contain UMBI coverage unless the insured specifically “rejects” such coverage pursuant to a state-prescribed form. Even in states permitting the insurer to draft the UMBI waiver form, courts have developed a policy of construing these documents strictly against the drafter, in order to promote the public policy of obtaining such coverage.

In a recent case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the lower court’s application of the “law-of-the-case” and “waiver” doctrines. Both of these doctrines are important rules that express the ultimate power of an appellate court in reviewing issues of law. Generally, an issue of law is a question regarding the application of law to a case. Therefore, in pursuing any civil suit, it is imperative to understand the implications and ramifications of an appellate court’s power to change the ruling in your case.

In Bayou Steel Corp. v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Fifth Circuit Court reviewed an insurance dispute that concerned the apportionment of liability for a severe leg injury that was suffered by a worker who was unloading steel bundles. In a complicated fact scenario, Ryan Campbell was injured, in 2002, while unloading steel bundles owned by Bayou Steel Corp. on a barge that was owned by Memco Barge Lines, Inc. Shortly before this incident occurred, Bayou Steel Corp. had contracted with Memco to transport the steel from LaPlace, Louisiana, to Chicago, Illinois. At the time of his injury, Ryan Campbell was working for Kindra Marine Terminal, a stevedoring company that was assigned to unload the steel bundles in Chicago. After the suit involving Ryan Campbell was settled, Bayou Steel Corp. brought suit seeking a declaration of coverage and reimbursement from National Union Fire Insurance.

After a series of appeals, the district court used the law-of-the-case doctrine to determine that Kindra was not a sub-contractor of Bayou Steel. Therefore, Campbell’s injuries fell within the language of the insurance policy that Bayou Steel held. Thus, the lower court entered summary judgment for National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

According to the law-of-the-case doctrine, “when a court decides upon a rule of law, that decision should continue to govern the same issue in subsequent stages in the same case.” Thus, an issue of law “decided on appeal may not be reexamined by the district court on remand or by the appellate court on a subsequent appeal.” Accordingly, the Fifth Circuit agreed with the district court that that fact that Campbell did not fall within the exclusion in the policy held by Bayou Steel was part of the law of the case and subsequently held that this issue had been resolved on an earlier appeal.

The waiver doctrine “holds that an issue that could have been raised on appeal but is forfeited and may not be revisited by the district court on remand.” Id. Like the law-of-the-case doctrine, the waiver doctrine “serves judicial economy by forcing parties to raise issues whose resolution might spare the court and parties later rounds of remands and appeals.” However, the waiver doctrine “arises as a consequence of a party’s inaction, [and] not as a consequence of a decision on [the part of the Court of Appeals].” Thus, the Court of Appeals agreed that Bayou had waived their argument about the language of the policy by failing to raise it on remand after the first appeal or during the second appeal … “[b]ecause they failed to raise it during that period, the issue could not [have been] revisited by the district court on remand.”

In its decision, the Fifth Circuit ruled that the lower court had properly applied the law-of-the-case and waiver doctrines and that summary judgment in favor of National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was appropriate.

All of these matters are inherently complicated and show that knowledge of the exact law is necessary to reach a successful outcome. While questions and issues of law must be decided by the court, your legal representative should be aware of the foregoing doctrines and should be able to adequately present your case.

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