Articles Posted in Products Liability

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In 2003, Russell, the sole occupant and pilot of an Agusta 109C helicopter, died after his helicopter crashed in Illinois. Russell, a resident of Georgia, was living in Illinois and working for an Illinois air ambulance service operating in the Chicago area. The helicopter was manufactured in Italy in 1989. The trial court dismissed claims against SNFA, a French company that manufactured a custom tail-rotor bearing for the helicopter, for lack of jurisdiction. The appellate court reversed and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, noting that Agusta and its American subsidiary, AAC, effectively operated as an American distributor for the tail-rotor bearings in the U.S. market and that SNFA custom manufactured the bearings at issue specifically for Agusta. By engaging a business entity located in Illinois, SNFA undoubtedly benefitted from Illinois’ system of laws, infrastructure, and business climate and has the requisite minimum contacts with Illinois for purposes of specific personal jurisdiction. The exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable; Illinois has an indisputable interest in resolving litigation stemming from a fatal Illinois helicopter accident.View "Russell v. SNFA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, injured at work, filed a product liability complaint, identifying himself as “Juan Ortiz,” the name he used at work. Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint, naming additional defendants, identifying himself as “Juan Ortiz.” Plaintiff identified himself as “Juan Ortiz” in discovery documents. In a deposition, plaintiff stated that his birth name was “Rogasciano Santiago,” but that he had also used the name “Juan Ortiz.” The trial court allowed a second amended complaint to identify plaintiff as “Rogasciano Santiago, f/k/a Juan Ortiz.” The appellate court held that, when a plaintiff intentionally files a complaint using a fictitious name, without leave of court pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-401, the court may dismiss with prejudice and that amendment, after expiration of the limitations period, to correct plaintiff’s name, requires dismissal. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. A court has discretion to dismiss with prejudice a complaint filed using a fictitious name without leave of court. Dismissal is justified only when there is a clear record of willful conduct showing deliberate and continuing disregard for judicial authority and a finding that lesser sanctions are inadequate to remedy harm to the judiciary and prejudice to the opposing party. The original complaint is not a nullity, per se, and an amended complaint correcting the name may relate back to initial filing. View "Santiago v. E.W. Bliss Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs' 1993 Lincoln Town Car was hit while stopped. A pipe wrench in the trunk penetrated the gas tank. The car burst into flames. Husband was killed, wife was severely injured. A jury awarded wife compensatory damages totaling $23.1 million and punitive damages of $15 million and awarded compensatory damages to the estate in excess of $5 million. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The duty analysis in a negligent-product-design case encompasses a risk-utility balancing test. Compliance with industry standards (NHTSA) is a relevant, but not dispositive. Plaintiffs presented insufficient evidence that Ford breached its duty of reasonable care on three negligent-design theories. Balancing foreseeable risks and utility factors, plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence that, at the time of manufacture, Ford's conduct was unreasonable or that it had acted unreasonably in failing to warn about the risk of trunk contents puncturing the tank. There was no evidence of a feasible shield that would have prevented this injury. Plaintiffs' fourth theory, premised on a postsale duty to warn, was not cognizable under Illinois law and its voluntary undertakings with respect to law enforcement vehicles did not create a duty to civilian customers. View "Jablonski v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law