Proponents of digital innovations such as blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart devices have hailed the introduction of such technology as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. When used together, they may create self-executing “smart contracts” for a variety of transactions. Smart contracts do not need to rely on IoT devices, but when they do, these devices are critical to the system, most importantly because they collect and transfer the transaction-related data that triggers the execution of the contracts. But how is that data verified, and what happens if the IoT devices are wrong?
The District of New Jersey has held that Amazon may be sued under New Jersey law for defective products sold by third-party sellers through its online marketplace.
The dispute in New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group v. Amazon.com Inc., Civil Action No. 16-cv-9014, involved an allegedly defective hoverboard purchased from a third-party seller by an insured of plaintiff New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group (“NJM”) via Amazon.com. NJM filed suit as subrogee of the insured, asserting a strict lability claim under the New Jersey Product Liability Act (NJPLA), in addition to claims for breach of implied warranty and negligence.
The Tenth Circuit recently affirmed dismissal of a proposed class action against a dog food manufacturer, finding that the putative class claims were nonactionable puffery and overly subjective.
In Renfro, et al. v. Champion Petfoods USA, Inc., et al., No. 20-1274, pet owner plaintiffs brought a proposed class action against Champion Petfoods alleging that the packaging for some of its dog food brands were false and misleading. Specifically, plaintiffs asserted claims for violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, breach of express and implied warranty, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment, and negligence.
For over two decades, dating back to Daubert and the ensuing amendments to Rule 702, federal district courts have been charged to act “as gatekeepers to exclude unreliable expert testimony.” Fed. R. Evid. 702 advisory committee’s note to 2000 amendments. However, some courts have not embraced that role, letting jurors weigh questions about an expert’s qualifications or methodology as though they go to credibility rather than admissibility. Indeed, the Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules proposed an amendment to Rule 702 to address the “pervasive problem” of courts holding that issues of admissibility are questions “of weight for the jury.” See, Sardis v. Overhead Door Corp., 10 F.4th 268, 282-84 (4th Cir. 2021). (quoting Advisory Comm. on Evidence Rules, Agenda for Committee Meeting (Apr. 30, 2021)).
A recent decision out of the Northern District of Illinois, however, provides an excellent example of a court discharging its duty to preclude inadmissible expert opinions. The Plaintiff in Pessman v. Trek Bicycle Corporation, 2021 WL 5769530 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 6, 2021) was injured in a bicycle accident. Plaintiff’s engineering expert opined that the cause of the accident was a crack in the carbon fiber frame of Plaintiff’s Trek bicycle attributable to a design defect. The engineer claimed that carbon fiber frames are prone to cracking and that the crack was mistaken for simple paint chipping by a dealer who had inspected the bicycle several days before the accident, allegedly due to Trek’s failure to train the dealer properly.
For some time, we have been following the emerging case law on whether companies, such as Amazon, that create an online marketplace for other sellers, may be held liable when products supplied by those sellers cause injury. The cases have gone both ways, but on November 30 Amazon added another ruling to its win column when a New York appellate court upheld a ruling dismissing negligence and breach-of-warranty claims based on injuries allegedly caused by a defective service from a third-party provider on a product sold by a third party on Amazon’s website.
In Wallace v. Tri-State Assembly LLC (Case No. 2020-04820), the First Department of New York’s Appellate Division affirmed an order dismissing claims against Amazon by an individual who was injured after the handlebars on his electric bike came apart, causing him to fall. His father ordered the bike on Amazon’s website from a third-party seller in China, and at the same time purchased an assembly option from an Amazon-approved service provider, Tri-State. Plaintiff alleged that Amazon and its “agents” were negligent and breached warranties of fitness and merchantability.
As we discussed in a previous post, the Northern District of California recently dismissed a plaintiff’s claim that the term “vanilla” was misleading on the label of a soymilk product. The Southern District of New York has now similarly dismissed a putative class action complaint alleging that a “vanilla” almond milk product was labeled in a way that misled customers.
In Wynn v. Topco Associates, LLC, No. 19-cv-11104, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant’s use of the word “vanilla” on the label of its almond milk product – “Vanilla Almost Milk” – falsely communicated to consumers that the beverage’s flavor was derived entirely from real vanilla, when in fact the product includes non-vanilla flavorings. Plaintiffs claimed, among other things, that this violated the New York General Business Law (NYGBL).