Kate Wittlake

About Kate Wittlake

Kate Wittlake is an associate in the Product Liability and Mass Tort group in Drinker Biddle’s San Francisco, California office. She represents pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers in all stages of complex, high stakes litigation. Read Kate's full bio

New Jury Selection Procedure in California: Is This the End of Peremptory Challenges? Is This the End of Batson?

Jury selection in California is undergoing significant change. In August 2020, the California legislature passed AB 3070, which was signed by Governor Gavin Newsome on September 30. Beginning in 2022, objections to peremptory challenges in criminal cases will have more teeth, including a list of presumptively invalid reasons for striking a prospective juror and a new standard of review for appellate review of a trial court’s decision. While AB 3070 does not apply officially to civil jury trials until 2026, the significant overhaul in procedure effectuated by this new law is likely to influence a court’s analysis of the civil jury selection process before that time. The new law’s aim is noble: to bring an end to discrimination in jury selection. However, critics, including many within the California judiciary, say the new procedure is “unworkable.”

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Beware the COVID-19 Cure: The FTC Issues Warnings to Products Making COVID-19 Treatment Claims

With no approved vaccine, the world waits for the next big breakthrough in 2020’s medical emergency. Some companies already claim to have found it – and subsequently received warning letters from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for misbranding. The FTC is targeting companies promoting products with supposed COVID-19 cures, treatment or prevention for making illegal, unsubstantiated claims.

One of the FTC’s objectives is eliminating false and misleading information from the marketplace. The FTC Act defines false advertising as misleading in a “material respect,” which includes both affirmative statements and failure to “reveal facts material in the light of [the product’s] representations[.]” See 15 USC 55(a)(1).

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Circuit Does Not Quite Clarify the Supreme Court’s Not-Quite-Clarification of “Clear Evidence” in Albrecht

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in Merck Sharp & Dohme, Inc. v. Albrecht, 139 S.Ct. 1668 (2019), discussed here and here addressed impossibility preemption in label change lawsuits. In Albrecht, the Supreme Court purported to clarify the standard arising from Wyeth v. Levine, 555 US 555 (2009) that a labeling claim against a manufacturer is preempted for “impossibility” if there is “clear evidence” that the FDA would have rejected a manufacturer’s proposed label change. Albrecht explained that impossibility preemption requires the “manufacturer to show that it fully informed the FDA of the justifications for the warning required by state law and that the FDA, in turn, informed the drug manufacturer that the FDA would not approve changing the drug’s label to include that warning.” But Albrecht left unclear what the “clear evidence” showing entails and left open several important questions about how it is to be applied.

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“Timing Is Everything” in SNAP Removal

In general, a defendant may not remove a case to federal court if the action includes a non-diverse defendant or a defendant who is a resident of the state in which the action was filed. This general rule does not apply, however, if the action is removed prior to the non-diverse or forum defendant being served. This procedure, known as “snap removal” has been endorsed by the Second and Third circuits. Continue reading

Post-BMS, Courts Grapple with the Nexus Between Stream of Commerce Activities and the Plaintiff’s Claim Required for Specific Jurisdiction over Manufacturers in Product Liability Cases

Courts have struggled for decades to define the constitutional limitations on personal jurisdiction over major product manufacturers who sell their products nationwide. The central tension has been determining the validity and potential scope of the “stream of commerce” theory in a world of advancing technology and associated evolution of business operations and practices. That tension is increasing as state courts decide what kind of nexus is required, between a defendant’s “forum-directed” commercial activities and the plaintiff’s claim, to justify the exercise of specific jurisdiction. Specifically, how purposefully forum-directed and how closely tied to the specific claim must the activities be?

Stream of commerce theory posits that a defendant that has placed a product into the nationwide channels of commerce should anticipate that its products will thereby be “swept” into any state and if it causes injury there, it will be subject to suit. In its purest form, the theory collides to some degree with the fundamental limiting requirement that a defendant may be haled into a forum to litigate only where it has “purposely availed” itself of the privilege of doing business by, for example, directing its products into the forum.

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Products in a New Dimension: Manufacturing Considerations for 3D-Printed Products

Since its advent more than 30 years ago, the 3D printing market has grown, and will continue to expand for a myriad of reasons, including sustainability and reduced energy consumption. As the process, including the applicable technology, becomes more cost-effective, its widespread use continues to increase across many industries, such as aerospace and defense, energy, architecture and construction, automotive, food/culinary, consumer products and health care.

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