Alan Lazarus

Alan J. Lazarus is a Products Liability Partner residing in our San Francisco, California, office. Alan is an experienced trial and appellate attorney with a focus on products liability, consumer protection, toxic substances and environmental litigation. Alan writes and lectures frequently on products liability and appellate practice topics.

View the full bio for Alan Lazarus at the Faegre Drinker website.

Articles by Alan Lazarus:


Another Brick in the Wall: The District Court Finds Preemption in Fosamax Case After Remand From the Supreme Court

We have written before about the Supreme Court’s impossibility preemption decision, Merck Sharpe & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht, 139 S. Ct. 1668 (2019) (Albrecht) (here, here, here, and here), highlighting some open questions and uncertainties that might come into play on remand. Albrecht held that impossibility preemption is a question of law for the court, not for the jury, “elaborated” on the “clear evidence” standard arising from Wyeth v. Levine, 555 U.S. 555 (2009) (Wyeth), and remanded to the Third Circuit for determination of the preemption issue. That court in turn remanded to the District of New Jersey and further directed the district court “to determine the effect of the FDA’s Complete Response Letter and other communications with Merck on the issue of whether the agency actions are sufficient” to find preemption.

We predicted that the decision on remand would be “interesting” and opined that the case for preemption was “strong.” We now have that decision, In re Fosamax (Alendronate Sodium) Prod. Liab. Litig., 2022 WL 855853 (D. N.J. Mar. 23, 2022) (Fosamax), and we were right on both counts.

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The California Supreme Court Shrugs Off a Settlement to Provide Important Guidance on Admissibility of Former Deposition Testimony by Company Witnesses

We reported back in December [California Supreme Court Set to Decide How Defense Counsel Approach Defending Company Witness Depositions] on a case then pending before the California Supreme Court, Berroteran v. Superior Court. The case involves the former testimony exception to the hearsay rule, Evidence Code section 1291(a)(2), as applied to the deposition testimony of company witnesses taken in prior litigation. [Disclaimer: I wrote an amicus brief in support of the petition for review and another on the merits.]

Oral argument did not go well for the plaintiff. Consequently, it was not surprising that within a few days the parties notified the Court that they had reached a settlement. The Supreme Court could have dismissed the appeal at that point and left the issue unresolved. But because its core mission is “to secure uniformity of decision” and to settle important questions of law, Cal. Rule of Court 8.500(b), the Court went ahead and decided the appeal. 2022 WL 664719 (Cal. Mar. 7, 2022). And, as Larry David might say, the decision is pretty, pretty good.

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The Rule 702 Toolbox: Proposed Amendments Seek to Reset the Application of FRE 702

Litigators! Substantive amendments have been proposed to Federal Rule of Evidence 702. The public comment period closes February 16.

Rule 702 was last amended substantively in 2000, soon after the concluding chapter in the Daubert trilogy, Kumho Tire. Those amendments were intended to reset the Rule based on the post-Daubert experience.

Lower courts had read snippets of language in Daubert through variable lenses, influenced by their level of enthusiasm or reluctance to keep flawed expert opinions from the jury. Though Daubert mandated rigorous gatekeeping, it also included Delphic comments about the “liberal thrust” of the federal rules (compared to the “rigid’ and “austere” Frye rule they replaced) and about the ability of the adversarial process to limit the impact of “shaky but admissible” evidence. Some courts misread these comments to limit the scope and depth of their gatekeeping obligation and adopted standards consistent with this vision.

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The Rule 702 Toolbox: Cherry-Picking Is a Recipe for Exclusion

Most courts (but certainly, and unfortunately, not all of them) recognize that cherry-picking is a cardinal sin under Rule 702.  Science generally requires a rigorous and conservative approach to evaluating cause-and-effect relationships.  This schema inherently clashes with litigation, an arena where parties prioritize results over neutral principles of process purity.

“Cherry-picking” involves the selective consideration of facts and data to support a desired or pre-determined result, rather than the analysis of all relevant facts and data to find a scientific truth (or determine that the truth remains elusive based on the available facts and data).  It evades the scrupulous adherence to principles of objectivity, rigor, and process validity that are the hallmark of the scientific method.  In Daubert-speak, such a methodology does not produce “scientific knowledge.”  Rather, cherry-picking represents a failure of methodology that cannot be waived off as a matter of weight rather than admissibility.

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California Supreme Court Set to Decide How Defense Counsel Approach Defending Company Witness Depositions

The California Supreme Court will soon decide an evidentiary issue that could significantly impact how company witnesses are defended at deposition.

The Court heard argument December 7 in Berroteran v. Ford Motor Co., No. S259522, a class action opt-out case alleging consumer fraud claims based on purported defects in a Ford truck engine. The appeal involves interpretation and operation of California Evidence Code section 1291 — an exception to the hearsay rule for former testimony — and specifically how it applies to the deposition testimony of company employees taken in prior cases.

Ford moved in limine to exclude as hearsay the deposition testimony of nine current and former Ford employees taken in similar cases. In response, Plaintiff relied on section 1291.

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The Rule 702 Toolbox: How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Ninth Circuit?

There has been much discussion recently about how Rule 702 is in need of a tune-up to better guide district courts’ gatekeeping.  More about that soon.

But a case now pending before the Supreme Court, Monsanto Company v. Hardeman, No. 21-241, demonstrates that it’s not always the fault of the district courts.  (Disclaimer:  This firm (and this author) filed an amicus brief supporting certiorari.)  Sometimes it’s about a lack of stewardship at the circuit level.  Absent direct and unequivocal guidance from the Supreme Court, appellate courts call the tune, and the district courts are required to follow it.  And in the interstices, district judges read the tea leaves and try to follow the circuit court’s leads and signals.  No one likes to get reversed.  Even if the district judges think the circuit has gotten it wrong, they honor the hierarchy and follow the commands of stare decisis, human nature and common sense.

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