Subject: Tort Reform

Amendments to Minnesota Wrongful Death and Survival Statutes Open the Door to Pain and Suffering Claim


On May 20, 2023, the amendments to the Minnesota wrongful death and survival statutes, Minn. Stat. §§ 573.01, 573.02, became effective. This means that duly appointed administrators can now bring claims for “all damages suffered by the decedent resulting from the injury prior to the decedent’s death” – on top of the pecuniary losses that have traditionally been available. While the meaning of the term “all damages” has yet to be fully hashed out, this new change appears to open the door to claims for pre-death personal injuries, pain and suffering, and more.

Traditionally, Minnesota law has not provided compensation for personal injuries following the death of a decedent—including in wrongful death cases. See Holtegaard v. Soo Line R.R. Co., No. A13-2079, 2014 WL 3396871, at *3 (Minn. Ct. App. July 14, 2014). In fact, the applicable jury instructions have specifically excluded amounts “for the pain and suffering” of the decedent before death. CIVJIG 91.75 Wrongful Death, 4A Minn. Prac., Jury Instr. Guides (6th ed.). Instead, Minnesota historically allowed damages only for what courts have interpreted to be pecuniary losses “created by the decedent’s death.” Regie de l’Assurance Auto. du Quebec v. Jensen, 399 N.W.2d 85, 89 (Minn. 1987). These have included the financial losses associated with death (e.g., medical expenses and funeral costs), as well as the loss of advice, comfort, assistance, and protection previously provided by the decedent. Fussner v. Andert, 113 N.W.2d 355, 363 (1961).

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Tort Reform Comes to Florida


The new law should limit the overall tort liability confronted by all types of companies and individuals who find themselves facing a lawsuit in Florida. This update focuses on the changes for statutes of limitation, comparative negligence and the admissibility of evidence of medical charges at trial. Florida courts will undoubtedly see many challenges to the new law over the next few years.

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European Commission Updates Liability Rules to the Digital Age


The European Commission adopted two proposals that adapt liability rules to the digital age, circular economy and the impact of global value chains. These proposals are related to the Revised Product Liability Directive, fit for the green and digital transition and global value chains, and the AI Liability Directive to provide easier access to redress.

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The Prison Litigation Reform Act – A Product Liability Statute in Disguise


United States prisoners file an inordinate number of often frivolous lawsuits. In federal district courts alone, prisoners filed more than 28,000 last year. With time on their hands, and influenced by plaintiff attorneys’ advertisements and/or sensational media coverage of multimillion-dollar personal injury verdicts, many prisoners pursue baseless product liability actions. Their goal: winning an outsized verdict or, at least, a quick, nuisance-value settlement. They have had little to lose. Yet, defendant pharmaceutical companies are forced to litigate these cases, faced with the attendant costs of often-complicated inmate discovery. Many judges and/or magistrates, perhaps influenced by civil rights concerns, sometimes bend the rules of Civil Procedure for pro se prison plaintiffs. The result: Expensive litigation of often meritless lawsuits with virtually no chance of collecting costs as a prevailing party.

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New Study Shows Link Between Increased Product Liability Litigation And Decreased Technological Innovation


It’s an argument both manufacturers and the defense bar have been making for years: an increased risk of liability for new products will deter manufacturers from developing new technologies. Yet despite the apparent logic of such an argument, there was scant empirical evidence backing up this claim . . . until last month.

Researchers Alberto Galasso of the University of Toronto and Hong Luo of Harvard Business School recently published a working paper that examines the impact of increased litigation for medical implant manufacturers in the early 1990s. The paper, titled “How Does Product Liability Risk Affect Innovation? Evidence From Medical Implants,” shows how this increase led to a decrease in downstream innovation in medical implants and demonstrates how tort reform—specifically the 1998 Biomaterials Access Assurance Act (BAAA)—subsequently reversed this trend and spurred further innovation for raw material manufacturers.

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