The new law should limit the overall tort liability confronted by all types of companies and individuals who find themselves facing a lawsuit in Florida. This update focuses on the changes for statutes of limitation, comparative negligence and the admissibility of evidence of medical charges at trial. Florida courts will undoubtedly see many challenges to the new law over the next few years.
Under the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability § 5, Comment b (1998), the supplier of a product generally must warn about only those risks associated with the product itself, not those associated with the “products and systems into which [it is] integrated.”
However, in Air and Liquid Sys. Corp. v. DeVries, 139 S. Ct. 986 (2019), the Supreme Court created a different rule in the context of maritime asbestos claims. In that case, the defendants produced “bare-metal” equipment, such as pumps, blowers, and turbines, for Navy ships that required asbestos insulation or asbestos parts to function as intended. The manufacturers delivered the equipment to the Navy without asbestos, and the Navy later added asbestos to the equipment. Two Navy veterans were exposed to asbestos on the ships and developed cancer. The district court granted summary judgment for the manufacturers, finding no duty to warn. In reversing, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals adopted a “more plaintiff-friendly” foreseeability rule, rejecting the “more defendant-friendly” bare-metal defense.
In a unanimous decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court abolished Minnesota’s common-law prohibition against champerty and maintenance, opening Minnesota to third-party litigation financing. Maslowski v. Prospect Funding Partners LLC, et al., A18-1906, 2020 WL 2893376 (Minn. June 3, 2020).
For the less practiced in Middle English, champerty is “an agreement to divide litigation proceeds between the owner of the litigated claim and a party unrelated to the lawsuit who supports or helps enforce the claim” and maintenance is “improper assistance in prosecuting or defending a lawsuit given to a litigant by someone who has no bona fide interest in the case, meddling in someone else’s litigation.” Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). Today, champerty and maintenance are often associated with third-party litigation financing.
A Kansas District Court recently reinforced that cases alleging claims outside the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) Transfer Order cannot be employed to broaden the scope of the MDL litigation. In reaching that conclusion, the court denied a motion to consolidate a new class-plaintiffs’ lawsuit with a mature multidistrict litigation (MDL).
In August 2017, the JPML created MDL 2785, In re: EpiPen (Epinephrine Injection, USP) Marketing Sales Practices and Antitrust Litigation (EpiPen® MDL). The EpiPen MDL is made up of cases asserting claims of anticompetitive conduct and unfair competition by defendants Pfizer, King Pharmaceuticals, Meridian Medical Technologies and multiple Mylan entities in their marketing and sale of the EpiPen. EpiPen is an epinephrine auto-injector used to treat anaphylaxis — a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur within minutes of exposure to an allergen. The JPML assigned the EpiPen MDL to the District of Kansas.