A Failure of Leakage Linkage: The District of New Jersey Sinks a Proposed Class Action under Tennessee and California Laws over Leaky Water Heaters

A New Jersey federal judge recently applied Tennessee and California law in dismissing a proposed class action concerning allegedly leaky water heater sensors/valves (valves) made by Honeywell International Inc. The decision provides a point-by-point explanation of how superficial allegations of product defect fail to satisfy federal pleading standards under the substantive product liability laws of both states.

In Butera v. Honeywell International, Inc., Civil Action No. 18-13417, the named plaintiffs were a resident of Tennessee and a resident of California whose water heaters began leaking six years after purchase. The plaintiffs filed a putative class action claiming that Honeywell’s hot water heater valves were defective. The plaintiffs alleged that the valves featured a plastic (thermowell) casing that “prematurely erodes” and deteriorates, allowing water leakage. They asserted claims under Tennessee’s Products Liability Act (TPLA) and causes of action under California common law, the California Commercial Code, and California’s Unfair Competition Law statute (UCL), sounding in breach of express and implied warranty, negligence, strict product liability and consumer fraud. Honeywell moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The court applied the laws of each plaintiff’s home state to their respective claims.

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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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9th Circuit Restores and Clarifies Standards for Certification of Settlement Classes

The Ninth Circuit’s recent en banc decision in In re Hyundai and Kia Fuel Economy Litigation, — F.3d —, 2019 WL 2376831 (9th Cir. Jun. 6, 2019), restored some much-needed balance to the class action universe. The court reversed the controversial 2018 panel decision that overturned a nationwide class settlement in a multidistrict litigation over car manufacturers’ fuel economy misrepresentations. The panel decision addressed the impact of potential variations in state law, holding the district court abused its discretion in approving the settlement and certifying a settlement class without conducting a rigorous choice-of-law analysis to determine whether the variations defeated predominance under FRCP 23(b)(3).

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Biometric Data Privacy: Why Illinois Regulation Is Relevant to Manufacturers Nationwide

Our federal system and the often dysfunctional nature of Congress can be vexing for cutting-edge manufacturers. Emerging technologies are rarely addressed at the federal level, leaving states to pass piecemeal regulations that can frustrate even the most attentive compliance officers. If you’re bringing a product to market nationwide, you need to be aware of which states have the most stringent regulations. When it comes to biometrics, Illinois tops that list.

The Illinois Biometric Information Protection Act (BIPA) generally is considered the most stringent in the United States, and lawmakers in Florida and New York City are currently working on passing similar measures. So just what is the current state of biometric data privacy in Illinois? The answer lies in three rather unexpected topics: roller coasters, robot dogs, and pizza.

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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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Reliance Remains a High Hurdle in Establishing Third-Party Payor Claims

Third-party payor (TPP) claims against pharmaceutical companies are nothing new. The arguments are common – TPP insurers claim financial injury arising out of payments made for alleged medically unnecessary prescriptions written for numerous insureds/ beneficiaries. In some instances, the TPP plaintiffs point to evidence or allegations of off-label promotional activity to support the claims of lack of medical necessity; and sometimes the TPP plaintiffs attempt to bolster their allegations of “medically unnecessary” prescriptions by advancing a variation of the garden variety failure-to-warn narrative:

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