About William A. Hanssen

William A. Hanssen is a Products Liability Partner residing in our Los Angeles office. William defends clients in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. His practice includes pharmaceutical and medical device product liability, and consumer class actions. William also has extensive experience with mass tort and class action cases. In addition, William has defended a variety of product liability cases involving over-the-counter medications, food products, pesticides, pediculicides, hospital equipment and industrial equipment. Read William's full bio

Challenging Price Premium Allegations Can Pay Off for Defendants

Motions to dismiss in consumer fraud cases often focus on the element of deception—whether a reasonable consumer would be deceived by the statement or practice at issue. But there is another element of statutory consumer fraud claims that deserves closer scrutiny at the pleading stage—injury. Where plaintiffs claim that they were injured because they paid a “price premium” but do not allege facts to support that claim, defendants should consider moving to dismiss for failure to adequately plead injury.

State consumer protection statutes typically include injury as a required element for a private cause of action. New York General Business Law Sections 349 and 350, for example, require a plaintiff to establish that she purchased a product because of the allegedly deceptive business practice and did not receive the full value of the purchase. Similarly, plaintiffs suing under California’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law, or Consumer Legal Remedies Act must establish that they suffered an “economic injury” caused by the practice or advertising at issue.

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Eleventh Circuit Holds Expert Qualified in Surgical Tool Suit Despite Lack of Experience Using the Product

The Eleventh Circuit recently reinstated a case alleging a surgical tool caused internal burns during a hysterectomy surgery, holding that the district court erred in disqualifying an expert on the basis that he had never before used the tool.  The decision is a reminder of the importance of asserting and maintaining precise and strategic Daubert challenges.

In Moore v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc., No. 19-10869, the plaintiff underwent a laparoscopic hysterectomy in which her surgeon used a robotic miniature electrified scissor tool manufactured by the defendant.  Following surgery, the plaintiff experienced, among other things, abdominal pain and eventually learned she had sustained internal burns to her left ureter during the surgical procedure.  The tool was recalled by the manufacturer a few months after the plaintiff’s procedure, and the plaintiff filed suit.

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California Court of Appeal Finds Amazon Is Not Shielded from Liability for Defective Product Sold Through Its Website

In a decision that may impact future e-commerce, the California Court of Appeal held in Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC that under California law, Amazon could be strictly liable for an allegedly defective battery manufactured by a third-party and sold on its website.  The Court further found Amazon was not immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act.  The Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Amazon.

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Natural Cosmetics: Products Without a Clear Definition

Consumer demand for natural cosmetics continues to grow. A Bloomberg News article projected the natural cosmetics market to grow over 5% annually and to be worth $48.04 billion by 2025. The article noted that high demand for natural products among millennials is “driving the growth,” which means the trend is likely to continue. Despite the increasing market share, the federal agencies that regulate the sale and advertising of cosmetics, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), still have not formally defined the term “natural” as applied to cosmetics.
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There Are Two Sides to Every Product Label

As we have reported in our previous blog posts (“Beware the “Influencer”” and “The Price of Natural Cosmetics”), courts continue to wrestle with challenges to manufacturers’ claims that their products are “all natural.” Recently, California’s Central District Court added to the growing volume of decisions in this space. In Robinson v. Unilever United States, Inc., 2019 WL 2067941 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 25, 2019), the Court was tasked with resolving “100% natural” claims and “made with 100% natural” ingredients claims. The Robinson decision provides some insight into what types of “natural” claims may be permitted by trial courts and how they are reigning in consumer class actions.

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Beware of the “Influencer”

The proliferation of social media has transformed the world in many ways including how people communicate, becoming a preferred vehicle for political discourse and an important source of information in litigation.  It has also changed the way companies market their products.  Gifting “influencers” with products to promote in their posts has proven to be a successful marketing strategy for increasing brand awareness.  However, companies may be held accountable for claims made by influencers about their products.

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