Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Products Liability
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The Supreme Court answered in the negative a question posed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit regarding whether Amazon.com is a "seller" under Texas law when it does not hold title to third-party products sold on its website but controls the process of transaction and delivery, holding that Amazon is not a "seller" of third-party products under Texas law.At issue was whether third-party e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Alibaba are strictly liable for defective products manufactured and owned by third parties. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding (1) under the Legislature's definition of "seller" in Chapter 82 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, when the ultimate consumer obtains a defective product through an ordinary sale, the potentially liable sellers are limited to those who relinquished title to the product at some point in the distribution chain; and (2) because the product in this case was sold on Amazon's website by a third party and Amazon did not hold or relinquish title, Amazon was not a seller even though it controlled the process of the transaction and the delivery of the product. View "Amazon.com v. McMillan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's denial of SprayFoamPolymers.com LLC's special appearance contesting personal jurisdiction, holding that the court of appeals erred in dismissing SprayFoam from Plaintiffs' suit for lack of jurisdiction.Plaintiffs built a home in Texas, purchased spray foam insulation services from a Texas-based installation company, and suffered injuries in Texas allegedly arising from the insulation. Plaintiffs sued several defendants, parties in the chain of distribution, seeking to hold them liable for their alleged injuries. SprayFoam, the manufacturer of the insulation, filed a special appearance contesting personal jurisdiction. The trial court denied the special appearance. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to establish either general or specific personal jurisdiction over SprayFoam. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that SprayFoam had sufficient minimum contact with Texas such that the exercise of specific jurisdiction over SprayFoam will not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. View "Luciano v. SprayFoamPolymers.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this products liability action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court against Petitioners, holding that legally sufficient evidence supported the jury's design-defect findings and that the trial court's jury instructions did not cause an improper verdict.An electric terminal manufacturer made two terminals for essentially the same cost, but the older of the two designs was more susceptible to failure. A corporate affiliate of the terminal maker decided to use the older product in manufacturing new air conditioning compressors. When an experienced HVAC technician purchased and installed a compressor containing the older terminal design, the compressor became overheated and the terminal emitted scalding pressurized fluids that ignited and covered the technician. The technician, who received serious burns, brought this action. The jury found that the older terminal design was unreasonably dangerous and that both the design and the failure warn caused the technician's injuries. The court rendered judgment on the jury's verdict. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. View "Emerson Electric Co. v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The users of an aerial lift supporting a worker forty feet in the air attempted to move the machine. The worker fell to the ground and died. This action for wrongful death and survivor damages ensued. Petitioner manufactures and sells the aerial lift. Users of the aerial lift are warned that “attempting to move the machine with the platform raised will tip the machine over and cause death or serious injury.” Petitioner has sold more than 100,000 of its lifts worldwide. There are only three reported accidents like the one in issue. Here, the jury found that a design defect in the lift caused the accident. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that there was legally sufficient evidence to support the jury’s design defect finding. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was little evidence of a safer alternative design for the aerial lift, and there was no evidence in the record that the lift was unreasonably dangerous. View "Genie Industries, Inc. v. Matak" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a warehouse fire in Pasadena, Texas. Plaintiffs, the company that leased the warehouse and the company that stored materials in the warehouse, sued Defendants, the suppliers of the chlorpyrifos that the lessee used in the warehouse, for manufacturing and marketing defect, breach of contract, negligence, and other causes of action. The jury found that the chlorpyrifos was defective and that Defendants breached the parties’ contract. After the trial court entered judgment for Plaintiffs, Defendants moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The trial court granted the motion, concluding that the testimony of all four of Plaintiffs’ experts was unreliable and constituted no evidence of negligence, manufacturing defect, and causation. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that each expert’s individual testimony was reliable, and therefore, the experts’ collective testimony was reliable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the testimony of all four experts was unreliable; and (2) consequently, there was no evidence of an essential element of Plaintiffs’ claims. View "Gharda USA, Inc. v. Control Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two nonresident minors filed suit against Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC, the manufacturer of an allegedly defective tire that failed, causing a rollover that killed the children’s parents. The minors sued by a next friend - their uncle - who was a Texas resident. The residents resided in Mexico with their grandparents, who became the children’s legal guardians. Bridgestone filed a motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens, asserting that the case belonged in Mexico, not Texas. The trial court denied the motion. Bridgestone petitioned for writ of mandamus in the court of appeals. The court denied relief, concluding that because the next-friend was a Texas resident the case may not be dismissed on forum-non-conveniens grounds. Bridgestone subsequently sought mandamus relief in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court conditionally granted Bridgestone’s petition for writ of mandamus and ordered the trial court to dismiss the action, holding (1) Texas law allows minors to sue by next friend when they have a legal guardian who is not authorized to sue in Texas in that capacity; (2) a next friend is not a plaintiff for purposes of the forum-non-conveniens statute’s Texas-resident exception; and (3) therefore, this case must be dismissed as a matter of law. View "In re Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC" on Justia Law

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Bill Head, who owns and operates the Silver Spur Truck Stop in Pharr, Texas, hired Petroleum Solutions, Inc. to manufacture and install an underground fuel system. After the discovery that a major diesel-fuel release leak had occurred, Head sued Petroleum Solutions for its resulting damages. Petroleum Solutions filed a third-party petition against Titeflex, Inc., the alleged manufacturer of a component part incorporated into the fuel system, claiming indemnity and contribution. Titeflex filed a counterclaim against Petroleum Solutions for statutory indemnity. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Head and in favor of Titeflex. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court (1) reversed as to Head’s claims against Petroleum Solutions, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by charging the jury with a spoliation instruction and striking Petroleum Solutions’ defenses, and the abuse of discretion was harmful; and (2) affirmed as to Titeflex’s indemnity claim, holding that Titeflex was entitled to statutory indemnity from Petroleum Solutions and that any error with respect to the indemnity claim was harmless. View "Petroleum Solutions, Inc. v. Head" on Justia Law

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Ezequiel Castillo and other occupants of his Ford Explorer sued Ford Motor Company for injuries sustained in a roll-over accident, asserting design defects in the Explorer. During the jury’s deliberations, Ford Motor Company agreed to settle the case with one of Castillo’s attorneys for $3 million. Later, in its defense to the settlement, Ford asserted fraudulent inducement, unilateral mistake, and mutual mistake. After hearing all of the evidence, the jury found the settlement agreement invalid due to fraudulent inducement and mutual mistake. The trial court rendered a take-nothing judgment. Castillo appealed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury’s verdict. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the evidence was legally sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. View "Ford Motor Co. v. Castillo" on Justia Law

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Timothy Bostic died from mesothelioma, which can be caused by asbestos. Plaintiffs, Bostic’s family members, sued Georgia-Pacific Corporation and thirty-nine other defendants, alleging that Bostic had been exposed to asbestos as a child and teenager while using Georgia-Pacific drywall joint compound. A jury found Georgia-Pacific liable under negligence and marketing defect theories and awarded Plaintiffs $6.8 million in compensatory damages and $4.8 million in punitive damages. The court of appeals held that the causation evidence was legally insufficient and rendered a take-nothing judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the standard of substantial factor causation established in Borg-Warner Corp. v. Flores, an asbestosis case, applies to mesothelioma cases; (2) Plaintiffs were not required to prove that but for Bostic’s exposure to Georgia-Pacific’s asbestos-containing joint compound, Bostic would not have contracted mesothelioma; and (3) the evidence of causation was legally insufficient to sustain the verdict in this case. View "Bostic v. Georgia-Pacific Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Ford Motor Company for injuries they sustained in a roll-over accident. The case was submitted to a jury. After the jury began its deliberations, the parties agreed to settle the case. Ford, however, later refused to pay the settlement amount to Plaintiffs, and Plaintiffs sued for breach of contract. After hearing all of the evidence, the jury found the settlement agreement was invalid because of fraudulent inducement and mutual mistake. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s take-nothing judgment, concluding that the circumstantial evidence of fraud in the case was legally insufficient. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding that the circumstantial evidence was legally sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. View "Ford Motor Co. v. Castillo" on Justia Law