Tuesday, February 28, 2012
I am submitting an article on products liability for publication in the South Carolina Defense Trial Attorneys Association's ("SCDTAA") publication, The Defense Line. My deadline for my submission is May 15, 2012. I still have not settled on a topic, but I have some ideas. I may summarize some of the law from my holiday food series in article format. Or, I have recently been dealing with some products liability indemnification issues, and issues relating to proof of defect through circumstantial evidence. Any of these topics would make a good article, but if anyone has any suggestions please let me know! I am always looking for good article or blog topics.
And in between all of the above? Working with great clients in my law practice and juggling life and family. Sometimes it can be tough, but it is a great "problem" to have! I hope your 2012 is shaping up to be a good one.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
FACTUAL BACKGROUND: Plaintiff won four tires in a raffle by Defendant tire company. 275 S.C. at 544, 273 S.E.2d at 769. Defendant installed the tires. Id. During part of the installation, a deteriorated valve stem, which was not part of the tire, was left on the wheel. Id. Plaintiff sustained injuries when the valve stem ruptured and he lost control of his car. Id.
PROCEDURE: Plaintiff sued Defendant and alleged negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability in tort. 275 S.C. at 544, 273 S.E.2d at 769. Significantly, Plaintiff withdrew the causes of action for negligence and warranty and proceeded solely on strict liability in tort. Id. Defendant moved for a directed verdict at trial on strict liability, and the trial court denied the motion, finding services included within the scope of South Carolina's strict liability statute. Id. The sole issue submitted to the jury was whether Defendant was liable under a strict liability theory for failing to install a new valve stem or not warning Plaintiff of the deteriorated condition of the one on the wheel. Id. The jury returned a verdict for Defendant. Id. Plaintiff moved for a new trial because Defendant's closing argument was improper and prejudicial. Id. This motion was granted, and Defendant appealed. Id.
ISSUE(S): (1) Whether the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion for directed verdict was erroneous, and (2) whether Plaintiff should have been granted a new trial. 275 S.C. at 544, 273 S.E.2d at 769.
DISPOSITION: The trial court erred in granting a new trial because Defendant was entitled to a directed verdict as a matter of law, and any prejudice from Defendant counsel's closing argument was harmless. 275 S.C. at 545-46, 273 S.E.2d at 769-70.
RULES AND OPINION: Defendant moved for a directed verdict on the issue of strict liability because there had been no "sale" to bring the transaction within S.C. Code § 15-73-10. 275 S.C. at 544-45, 273 S.E.2d at 769. The statute imposes liability upon sellers of defective, unreasonably dangerous products. Id. at 545, 273 S.E.2d at 569. The court refused to expand the statute to include negligent installation of a non-defective product (e.g., the tire). Id. The alleged defect was already present when Defendant performed his service. Id. Defendant neither supplied nor used a defective product in conjunction with mounting the tires on Plaintiff's car. Id. As stated by the court:
The actionable conduct, if any, resulted from his negligence in not examining the value stem. We conclude this action does come within to scope of § 15-73-10, supra. We decline to expand the scope of strict liability in South Carolina to include the negligent installation of a non-defective product.Id. As a result, the trial court should have directed a verdict, and there was no issue for the jury to decide. Any prejudice from the closing argument was harmless (and moot). 275 S.C. at 545-46, 273 S.E.2d at 769-70.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
The Defense Research Institute is holding their Products Liability Conference at the Venetian Palazzo in Las Vegas this year on April 11-13, 2012. This is a great conference. I went to the 2011 conference in New Orleans and the 2010 conference that was also in Las Vegas. The theme for this year's conference is "Product Liability Litigation in the 21st Century: The Future is Now." This is a "must-attend" event if you do products liability defense work, and I try to go every year. This year I am serving as the Vice-Chair of the "Agricultural/Construction/Mining/Industrial Equipment" ("ACMIE") Specialized Litigation Group. I will be helping with our breakout session, which is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday morning.
For our breakout session, we are doing two panel discussions. The first discussion is entitled "What Keeps Me Up at Night: A Roundtable Discussoin of In-House Counsel's Expectations and Challenges, and How Outside Counsel Can Address Them." It will include both in-house counsel from some large equipment manufacturers and outside counsel representatives. The second discussion is entitled "'Age Ain't Nuthin' But a Number': The Challenges of Legacy Equipment." The panelists for this discussion will talk about products liability claims involving older equipment (which is pretty common in ACMIE cases). Finally, we will wrap up with the annual "ACMIE Top 10 Cases," which is a survey of the previous year's most interesting and most significant ACMIE cases. If ACMIE is not your interest, then there are many other groups that will also do breakout sessions (ranging from recreational equipment to fire/casualty, mass torts, class actions, and everything in between).
All the details for the conference, including a brochure of the agenda, registration, etc., can be found here.
A cut and paste of the information from DRI's website follows:
DRI’s Product Liability Conference is indispensible for anyone who defends product liability litigation. Attendees will learn about the latest trends and decisions affecting product liability cases and get valuable practice tips, strategies and trial techniques to gain an advantage in defending the modern product liability case. Main stage speakers include experienced and well known product liability defense trial lawyers, in-house counsel and government lawyers.
The specialized litigation group (SLG) sessions will offer detailed analysis in 18 different product practice areas. A concurrent session on Wednesday presented by the Young Lawyers Committee offers an alternative track for lawyers of any age looking for high quality nuts-and-bolts presentations. The Corporate Counsel Committee invites in-house lawyers to a program and roundtable discussion on Thursday afternoon on issues unique to corporate counsel.
REGISTRATION RATESAdvanced Registration Cutoff Date: 3/22/2012
Online Registration Cutoff Date: 4/10/2012
|Member In-House *||$0.00|
|Non Member In-House||$0.00|
I look forward to meeting anyone who plans to be there. If you plan on attending, shoot me a comment or email and maybe we can organize a dinner of attendees or meet up at one of the receptions.