Where Does Your Smartphone End and Your Car Begin?

Consider the world today: Smartphone manufacturers have already introduced vehicle infotainment systems in automobiles. Vehicle safety technology may be next.

A recent safety proposal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) raises intriguing questions about how our smartphones and automobiles may interface. The proposal may encourage smartphone manufacturers to add vehicle safety technology to their infotainment system applications. That may start to blur the lines between your vehicle and your smartphone.

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What Does Made in the USA Actually Mean?

Consumer products companies may be eager to use Made in the USA labels to advertise, particularly given the political climate and increased publicity around domestic manufacturing. But they must pay close attention to the state and federal laws that regulate what Made in the USA actually means.

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The Troubling Increase in CPSC Penalties

In an updated statistical analysis, Schiff Hardin’s Jonathan Judge examines how penalties handed down by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have abruptly veered upward over the last two years following the threat of CPSC’s then-Chairman Elliot Kaye, to do just that. These findings support our post last fall signaling higher civil penalties to come. Continue Reading

Monsanto Uses the Constitution to Challenge Warning Labels for Herbicide

Monsanto has, at least temporarily, lost its fight to avoid a Prop 65 warning label on its products containing glyphosate, a chemical used in the popular herbicide Roundup. On January 27, 2017, a California judge tentatively dismissed Monsanto’s claims that the State of California unconstitutionally turned to an unelected, European organization to decide whether glyphosate posed a cancer risk. Continue Reading

Hotel California: Supreme Court Will Review Whether Plaintiffs Can Check in to California Courts from Afar

On January 9, 2017, the United States Supreme Court granted review over a case from the California Supreme Court that could affect whether plaintiffs can bring product liability and mass tort claims in states where they don’t live and didn’t suffer an injury.

In Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, No. 16-466, the Court will decide whether the California courts properly asserted jurisdiction over Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMS). It will consider where companies that operate nationwide businesses can be sued, and how their activities in a state—including marketing or sales—could expose them to a lawsuit there.

If the Court decides that California courts have jurisdiction over BMS in this case, then companies could face more nonresident plaintiff lawsuits, particularly in California. For companies, these lawsuits could mean facing potentially plaintiff-friendly laws and courts and the inconvenience of defending a case in another part of the country. Continue Reading

Food Fight: More Labeling Litigation in 2017

Food labeling litigation increased significantly last year, with many consumer groups alleging that products were misleadingly labeled and violated U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeling requirements. Consumers targeted phrases like “all natural,” “preservative-free,” or having “no preservatives.”

But FDA rules are unclear as to what these terms mean, which will likely spur more labeling litigation in 2017. Here we look at three main reasons for the anticipated increase in litigation. Continue Reading

Truly Exonerated? NHTSA’s Tesla Autopilot Investigation

When the fatal car crash involving a Tesla Model S sedan made headlines last fall, we posted about the accident and predicted that government authorities would classify the crash as being caused by driver error rather than an issue with the “Autopilot” system.

Our prediction turned out to be correct.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was still investigating the incident when we first posted about it, but on January 19, NHTSA closed its preliminary evaluation, which found that driver error was responsible.

Still, the performance of Automated Driver Assistance Systems, or ADAS, is an area of intense regulatory interest, and it was therefore not surprising to see NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigation deploy a special crash investigations team to reconstruct the accident.

Several news reports have characterized NHTSA as having “exonerated” or “cleared” Tesla of any wrongdoing in connection with the crash. Officially, NHTSA merely closed the investigation, noting that it reached no conclusion about whether a defect existed and retained its right to reopen the investigation later.

That said, NHTSA was clearly satisfied with the performance of Tesla’s ADAS system during the crash, which allowed the agency to close its investigation. Continue Reading

Medical Device Manufacturers Face A Cybersecurity “Heartache”

Medical device manufacturers are now facing a new challenge: managing the cybersecurity of their products.

On January 9, the FDA issued a Safety Communication setting out potential risks that could be caused by a cybersecurity vulnerability in certain St. Jude Medical cardiac devices. A growing number of devices – including St. Jude Medical’s implantable cardiac devices and corresponding Merlin@home Transmitter – transmit data directly to physicians to allow direct patient and device monitoring. Continue Reading

When Santa Brings a Dud

Most holiday seasons, an “it” toy stands at the top of children’s wish lists. With this instant rise in popularity frequently comes a corresponding rise in consumer complaints. Years ago, the consumer complaints might get some media attention—but that attention usually focused on the consumer competition to acquire the demand-exceeds-supply product.

Now, people turn to social media to detail in words, pictures, and video any perceived problem with their much-hyped purchase. This contributes to a manufacturer’s nightmare, trying to quickly determine which complaints are just disappointed expectation and which might actually be a consumer safety issue. Can manufacturers likewise use social media to help calm the storm? Continue Reading

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