Software Liability: Why a Michigan Federal Court Decision is Relevant to Product Manufacturers Nationwide

Numerous products in our day-to-day lives incorporate or consist of software. The legal system, however, has been hesitant (at best) to bring software within traditional product liability regimes. Courts have grappled with whether to consider software a product and have largely found that it is not. However, a recent decision in the Western District of Michigan holds that software is a product—Holbrook v. Prodomax Automation Ltd., No. 1:17-cv-219, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178325 (W.D. Mich. Sept. 20, 2021). While Holbrook may be an outlier, it is significant. It bucks the trend, and potential defendants should be aware of it.

Background: Holbrook involved a wrongful death suit arising out of an accident on a robotic assembly line. The decedent’s estate (Plaintiff) brought a common-law negligence claim against multiple defendants, including the manufacturer who designed, built, and installed the assembly line. Plaintiff’s claim was based, among other things, on the software controlling the robots.

Continue reading

How the Anti-Drunk Driving Technology Mandated by Recent Legislation May Impact the Liability of Automobile Manufacturers and the Future of Products Liability Law for Autonomous Vehicles

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (the “Act”), signed into law on November 15, 2021, has been followed closely by the transportation sector.  One section of the Act has the potential to impact the landscape of automotive products liability litigation.

Section 24220 requires automobile manufacturers to equip new passenger vehicles with advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology.  Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Pub. L. No. 117-58, § 24220, 135 Stat. 429, 831-833 (2021).

Continue reading

LG Chem Secures a Second Look at Jurisdictional Issues in NJ Vape Battery Suit

The New Jersey Appellate Division has held that Korean company LG Chem Ltd. (“LG Chem”)will have another opportunity to dispute New Jersey’s jurisdiction over it in a product liability lawsuit concerning a vaping device battery.  The decision is based, in part, on the trial court’s failure to order jurisdictional discovery and convene an evidentiary hearing to resolve the disputed jurisdictional allegations before deciding LG Chem’s pre-answer motion to dismiss.  This case underscores that in New Jersey, the standard governing motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, unlike other bases, requires the court to look outside the disputed pleadings alone.

The New Jersey plaintiff alleged he was injured when a lithium-ion battery manufactured by LG Chem exploded in his pocket.  Plaintiff attempted to serve process on LG Chem through two of its U.S.-based subsidiaries, LG Chem America, Inc. (LGCAI) and LG Chem Michigan, Inc. (LGCMI).  The agents of both refused to accept service.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading