Talc Talk – One of These Things (Verdicts) Is Not Like the Others

We’ve been following a series of cases filed against Johnson & Johnson by plaintiffs alleging that using talc caused ovarian cancer.

Since 2009, over 2000 cases have been filed, mostly in Missouri, New Jersey, and California. Missouri has seen four trials: the first three resulted in plaintiffs’ verdicts, but the fourth and most recent resulted in a verdict for J&J.

Often in mass tort litigation, courts allow the parties to have a series of “bellwether trials” to show what is likely to happen in future trials. Rather than preparing to try all cases in a mass tort litigation, the parties can try fewer cases that involve the most contested issues. In Missouri, the bellwether trial plaintiffs are chosen by counsel, with each side taking a turn to select the next plaintiff. Continue Reading

Is Counting Calories a Cost or a Benefit?

This month, food industry trade groups called on the Food & Drug Administration to halt its new food labeling law requiring food establishments to publish the calorie content of menu items.

Organizations like the National Grocers Association (NGA) and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) continue to argue against the law. The major reason: costs. Not only the costs they’ll incur to implement it, but the long-term costs to remain compliant may be even higher. And research continues to show that menu labeling does not change consumer behavior. Continue Reading

Chipotle Gets a (Nearly) Clean Bill of Health

As Chipotle continues the fight to restore its reputation, there are a few signs it’s moving in the right direction since our July 2016 post.

First, in February 2017, Chipotle’s sales rose for the first time in five quarters. And it reclaimed its place as the top Mexican food restaurant according to Market Force Information’s annual quick-service restaurant study. It further earned top marks for food quality and cleanliness. Continue Reading

It’s Not Personal: Companies Can’t Be Sued Everywhere

The highest courts in two states have made it more difficult for plaintiffs to sue companies in state courts of their choosing. The Oregon and Missouri Supreme Courts recently dismissed claims against companies for lack of jurisdiction where the companies were not incorporated or headquartered in the forum state, or were not sued because of their activity in the state.

These decisions come before the U.S. Supreme Court decides Bristol-Meyers Squibb v. Superior Court of California (BMS) this spring. BMS will further define the boundaries of personal jurisdiction over companies because the Supreme Court will decide whether jurisdiction attaches to a company because of its activities in a state even if the company’s specific in-state activities did not cause the plaintiffs’ injuries.

BMS will be the second time the Supreme Court has recently looked at personal jurisdiction; in Daimler AG v. Bauman, the Supreme Court held that a company’s substantial operations in a state did not establish jurisdiction because the company’s particular in-state operations made up a small portion of its nationwide and global business. Continue Reading

California Prop 65 Decision Raises New Potential Conflict with Federal Pesticide Product Registration and Labeling Requirements

Monsanto officially lost its fight to avoid a Prop 65 warning label on its products containing glyphosate, a chemical used in the popular herbicide Roundup. As we previously reported, Monsanto argued that the State of California’s reliance on an unelected, European organization to decide that glyphosate poses a cancer risk was improper. Last month, a California superior court rejected Monsanto’s arguments. Continue Reading

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

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