In Little v. Kia Motors America, Inc., docket no. A-24-18, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently set out the examination New Jersey courts must undertake before admitting aggregate proof of damages, rather than individualized proof, in a class action. Siding with defendant Kia in a vehicle defect suit, the Court ruled that admission of aggregate proof of damages at trial was inappropriate because an unknown number of class members would have received a windfall, and the formula used to estimate such damages was unreliable. This case reviews the key principles courts and litigants should consider when choosing between individualized or aggregate proof of damages in a class action.
In a decision reinforcing the importance of expert testimony in design defect and failure to warn cases, the Eastern District of New York recently dismissed claims against the makers of PAM cooking spray.
Applying basic scientific principles to exclude an expert’s unfounded and unsupported opinions, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has granted summary judgment to the maker of the antipsychotic medication Abilify on the plaintiff’s failure to warn and negligent design defect claims. Rodman v. Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., 2020 WL 2525032 (N.D. Cal. May 18, 2020).
In the “Daubert trilogy,” Rule 702 spawned three children, all special in their own way. The firstborn, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), naturally receives most of the attention, being the pioneer. The middle child, General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136 (1997), tends to be comparatively underappreciated in the shadow of its predecessor. Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999), the youngest, generally receives the least attention.
Daubert’s broad pronouncements about gatekeeping principles dominate the Rule 702 landscape. No one calls a motion to exclude a “Joiner motion”; no one participates in a “Kumho hearing.” But in the broad wake of Daubert, Joiner played a particularly important and multifaceted role in shaping the ongoing development of Rule 702 jurisprudence. Its influence is worth revisiting.
Over the past two months, the practice of law has shifted to rely heavily on the use of technology. Communication internally, with clients and with the court is almost exclusively conducted via telephone or videoconference. But the New Jersey Court Rules do not provide clear guidance on the use of video testimony at trial — it is not expressly permitted nor is it expressly prohibited, leaving a gap in interpretation and application. Recently in Pathri v. Kakarlamath, A-4657-18T1 (App. Div. Jan. 23, 2020), the New Jersey Appellate Division picked the perfect time to get “plucky and adventury” and considered a party’s request to testify by video. The opinion clarifies that video testimony is acceptable during trial if warranted by exigent circumstances, and sets forth seven factors for courts to consider. Decided only weeks before the state underwent lockdown due to COVID-19, the court’s analysis is timely to say the least.
Jurors are factfinders. In many deliberation rooms, however, jurors must begin their discussions without ready access to the exhibits admitted during trial. If a jury requests particular exhibits or evidence, then a trial court may exercise its discretion to decide whether to provide the requested materials. And in some courtrooms, a jury’s requests to review specific exhibits are routinely denied.
Abuse of discretion is a challenging standard of review for any appealing party. What would a party need to show to establish that a trial court abused its discretion? A recent opinion from Pennsylvania Superior Court, Schrader v. Ameron International Corporation, No. 2609 EDA 2018, 2020 WL 1460697 (Pa. Super. March 24, 2020), sheds some light.