Justia Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Products Liability
Coffman v. Armstrong International, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the manufacturers of certain equipment (Equipment Defendants) in this product liability action, holding that, on the facts and applicable law, the Equipment Defendants had no duty to warn of the dangers associated with the post-sale integration of asbestos-containing materials manufactured and sold by others.Plaintiffs asserted claims against the Equipment Defendants under the Tennessee Products Liability Act, Tenn. Code Ann. 29-28-101 through -108, for failing to warn of the dangers of exposure to asbestos-containing products that the Equipment Defendants did not manufacture or sell. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Equipment Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the Equipment Defendants owed a common law duty to warn about the post-sale integration of asbestos-containing products manufactured and sold by others. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the language of the Act, the Equipment Defendants could not be held liable for injuries resulting from products that they did not make, distribute, or sell. View "Coffman v. Armstrong International, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Products Liability
Becker v. Ford Motor Co.
On July 28, 2012, Michael Becker was injured when a Ford truck driven by his son, Phillip Becker, struck a light pole. Michael and his wife filed suit against Ford Motor Company. On August 26, 2013, Ford filed an answer claiming that the accident was caused by a person other than Ford. On October 1, 2013, the Beckers filed a motion to join Phillip as a party to whom fault could be apportioned and a motion to file an amended complaint. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether, after a defendant asserts a comparative fault claim against a non-party tortfeasor who was known to the plaintiff when the original suit was filed, Tenn. Code Ann. 20-1-119 permits the plaintiff to amend its complaint to assert a claim directly against the tortfeasor named by the defendant. The Court held (1) application of section 20-1-119 is not restricted to tortfeasors who were unknown to the plaintiff when its original complaint was filed; and (2) therefore, the statute permits a plaintiff to file an amended complaint against the tortfeasor named by the defendant within ninety days after the filing of the answer in which the defendant first asserts a comparative fault claim against the tortfeasor. View "Becker v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law
Lake v. The Memphis Landsmen, LLC
A concrete truck collided with a shuttle bus used to transport passengers between an airport and a rental car facility. A passenger who was injured during the collision and his wife filed an action against the bus owner, bus manufacturer, manufacturer of the bus windows, and franchisor of the rental car business. Plaintiffs based their claims in negligence and products liability, arguing that the bus was unsafe because it did not have passenger seatbelts, had windows made of tempered glass, and provided perimeter seating instead of forward-facing rows. A jury found Plaintiffs had sustained damages but assessed 100 percent of the fault to the corporate owner of the concrete truck, which had previously settled with Plaintiffs. On appeal, the court of appeals held that federal law preempted the seatbelt and window-glass claims and ruled that the trial court erred by failing to grant a directed verdict on the perimeter-seating claim. The Supreme Court remanded. On remand, the court of appeals affirmed its prior judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the seatbelt and window-glass claims were not preempted by federal law; and (2) the evidence sufficiently demonstrated causation in fact as to the perimeter-seating claim. Remanded. View "Lake v. The Memphis Landsmen, LLC" on Justia Law
Lind v. Beaman Dodge, Inc.
Plaintiff, who had purchased a truck from an automobile dealership, filed a products liability suit in 2007 against the manufacturer and the dealership, as Seller. Later, Plaintiff entered a voluntary nonsuit as to Seller and proceeded only against the manufacturer. Over one year later, the manufacturer declared bankruptcy. In 2009, Plaintiff again sued Seller, alleging negligence and strict liability in tort. Seller filed a motion to dismiss, contending that the suit was barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals denied the appeal. The Supreme Court granted Seller's application for permission to consider the application of the saving statute to the circumstances. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiff could proceed under the strict liability claim because that cause of action did not accrue until the manufacturer was judicially declared insolvent; and (2) because the second suit alleged acts of negligence on the part of Seller, an exception to the statutory rule prohibiting products liability suits against sellers, and could have been brought in 2007, the statute of limitations was a bar to recovery under that theory. Remanded for trial. View "Lind v. Beaman Dodge, Inc." on Justia Law
Nye v. Bayer Cropscience, Inc., et al.
Evelyn Nye sought compensation for the death of her husband caused by exposure to asbestos at his workplace. The widow sued the company that sold products containing asbestos to her husband's employer, basing her claim on strict liability and alleging the seller failed to warn her husband of the products' health risks. The jury found the seller was at fault but that the husband's employer was the sole cause of his injury. The court of appeals reversed and remanded. On review, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court, holding the trial court erred by instructing the jury that the seller could not be held liable for failure to warn if the jury found that the consumer, identified as the employer, was already aware of danger in connection with the use of the products or if the employer had been given adequate warnings. The instruction was erroneous because (1) it incorrectly applied the learned intermediary doctrine, and (2) it misidentified the consumer as the employer when the consumer who was required to be warned was the employee, Mr. Nye. Because the error more probably than not affected the judgment of the jury, the case was remanded. View "Nye v. Bayer Cropscience, Inc., et al." on Justia Law