Itemize Damages or Waive Appeal? Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court Will Consider Whether Failure to Request an Itemized Verdict Waives the Right to Challenge an Award on Appeal

In many personal injury cases, including products cases, the most significant exposure is pain and suffering or similar damages that cannot readily be measured in dollars. Juries are usually constrained by specific testimony or documentary evidence in awarding lost income, medical expenses, or other losses that can be measured specifically, but awards for pain and suffering and similar damages are constrained only by jurors’ subjective views (and usually permissive standards of legal review such as whether the award “shocks the conscience”).

Not surprisingly, when large verdicts are appealed, the damages arguments often focus on the excessive amounts of pain and suffering or similar awards. But a recent order from Pennsylvania’s highest court carries a warning for defendants, as the Court agreed to consider whether a failure to demand an itemized list of each category of damages on the verdict sheet waives defendant’s right to challenge the award.

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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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510(k) Clearance Precludes Punitive Damages in Arizona

We know the plaintiffs’ bar’s feelings about the FDA’s 510(k) clearance process. They tell the jury and the court it is antiquated. They say it does not constitute a finding of safety or efficacy. They do all they can to paint the FDA’s regulatory clearance process as meaningless and not worthy of consideration by a judge or jury. Such arguments may have some vitality in some jurisdictions. But, as we learned twice again in the last month, not in Arizona.

Back in 2012, the Arizona legislature passed a law stating that a manufacturer may not be held liable for exemplary or punitive damages if “[t]he product alleged to have caused the harm was designed, manufactured, packaged, labeled, sold or represented . . . according to the terms of an approval, conditional approval, clearance, license or similar determination of a government agency.” A.R.S. § 12-689(A)(1). The statute broadly defined “manufacturer” to include those engaged in designing, manufacturing, or formulating a product. A.R.S. § 12-689(D)(3). And it further defined “government agency” to mean any federal or Arizona agency with authority “to issue rules, regulations, orders or standards concerning the design, manufacture, packaging, labeling or advertising of a product[.]” A.R.S. § 12-689(D)(2).

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The Additional Cost of an Adverse Judgment: Illinois’ New Prejudgment Interest Act

Recent legislation will have a significant impact on the evaluation of personal injury and wrongful death cases across Illinois.  For many years, Illinois plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death actions have been entitled to statutory postjudgment interest, currently at a rate of 9% per year. (735 ILCS 5/2-1303(a)). Prejudgment interest, however, has not been available under the Illinois judgment interest statute. That is about to change. The Illinois legislature recently passed Senate Bill 72, the Illinois Prejudgment Interest Act, which goes into effect on July 1, 2021, and imposes prejudgment interest on defendants at a rate of 6% per year.

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Defense “Victory” Against Employee’s Spouse in COVID-19 Exposure Case

On May 7, a California District Court Judge granted Victory Woodworks, Inc.’s (“Victory”) motion to dismiss all COVID-19 liability claims in plaintiffs Robert and Corby Kuciemba’s amended complaint. Kuciemba et al. v. Victory Woodworks Inc., No. 3:20-cv-09355 (N.D. Cal. 2020). Relying on a novel theory of liability, the Kuciembas alleged that Mr. Kuciemba contracted mild COVID-19 in the course and scope of his employment at Victory, and subsequently passed it on to his wife, who suffered a severe case of COVID-19 with lasting injury. The Kuciembas sought damages from Victory for Mrs. Kuciemba’s injuries related to COVID-19.

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A Cautionary Tale and a Wistful Remembrance About Settlement Security

Our language around settlements connotes war and peace – in settling we are “buying our peace” or “ceasing hostilities.”  The old saw is that a good settlement leaves no one satisfied, but in truth, a good settlement leaves nothing significant left to do in the dispute.  In abandoning claims or defenses, we seek a measure of closure.  And in obtaining a durable settlement our client can live with, we necessarily rely, to some extent, on the regularity of the underlying proceedings, candor to the court, and some minimal level of good faith in the negotiations.

What happens when that reliance is upended and those expectations are dashed?  A recent unpublished California decision provides a cautionary tale.  It also stirred memories of a flawed settlement from three decades ago, inspiring this reverie.

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