Just over 50 years ago, Congress passed the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Act, with the intent to make it more efficient for parties to litigate factually similar but geographically dispersed complex cases. While the statute today is virtually unchanged from the original version, what has changed is the number of cases in MDLs. Ten years ago, MDLs represented only 15 percent of the civil caseload. By 2018, however, that number had more than tripled, and MDLs accounted for almost 47 percent of the total civil caseload in the United States.[1] Product liability MDLs alone make up almost 90 percent of pending MDLs.[2]

As the number of MDLs has grown, so has the focus on the MDL process and whether the process is working. One frequent criticism is that a significant percent – between 30-40 percent – of cases filed in any MDL turn out (often at the settlement stage) to be unsupportable.[3] Why is this the case? Likely in part because the MDL process does not have an effective mechanism to weed out non-meritorious cases early. This post addresses the meritless claim problem and analyzes some proposed solutions. Continue Reading Meritless Claims Create Inefficiencies in Multidistrict Litigation

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will hold a public hearing next month to solicit ways to improve www.saferproducts.gov, the agency’s public consumer product information database. Mandated by Congress and not meaningfully altered since its launch nearly eight years ago, the database provides a centralized location for consumers and stakeholders to report potential product-safety incidents and conduct searches for product-safety reports or recalls. Its current form was approved on a party-line commission vote after heated debate. Continue Reading Improving the CPSC Consumer Product Safety Database: Your Feedback Wanted

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been reopened for a week – possibly a third of the window between government shutdowns – and things seem to be quickly returning to normal. The agency has released messaging campaigns on both generator safety and TV anchoring, taking advantage of bitterly cold weather and what football fans hope will be a bitterly contested Super Bowl. But behind this appearance of normalcy, a key remaining question is how the agency will approach what must be a significant backlog of product reports. Continue Reading How the CPSC May Recover from Shutdown

Slack fill litigation can be frustrating for businesses – at times even infuriating. For companies yet to find themselves on the wrong side of a slack fill lawsuit, the claim often boils down to, “I thought there was more in the package even though the label said exactly what I was buying.” Slack fill claims have proliferated in recent years, driven in large part by how easy it has been for class action plaintiffs’ lawyers to plead a claim that will at least survive to the discovery phase – the expense of which causes many businesses to settle even frivolous cases. Yet in a rare breath of fresh air, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed California Assembly Bill 2632, which will amend California’s slack fill statutes to give companies a new tool for avoiding slack fill claims. Continue Reading Three Slack Fill Regulatory Changes for Manufacturers to Watch

It’s a typical marketing story: Not too long ago, manufacturers marketed coconut oil as a heat-tolerant alternative to other cooking oils. They further promoted it by noting that it was more sustainably harvested than palm oil and could replace butter for people avoiding dairy.

But then coconut oil marketing took a turn. People—not the manufacturers but social media influencers—started to talk about coconut oil in a different way. Influencers claimed that coconut oil was a “miracle cure” for a variety of health and other problems. Continue Reading How Manufacturers Can Work With Social Media Influencers

As the partial federal government shutdown enters its second week, businesses both large and small should be aware of the shutdown’s implications for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and for product safety. Companies should be aware that their obligations under CPSC continue, despite that their partner in product safety is absent until its funding is restored.

Continue Reading Four Things You Should Know to Navigate the CPSC Shutdown

During the holidays, many Americans flock to nearby stores to buy presents and decorations. And given today’s global economy, many of those products are made by foreign manufacturers. But what happens if the product fails in a manner that could give rise to potential legal liability? That raises the question of when a domestic plaintiff can sue the manufacturer of a product manufactured outside the United States.

Therein lies the artificial Christmas tree conundrum. Historically, plaintiffs would turn to the “stream of commerce” doctrine to seek personal jurisdiction over product manufacturers and distributors that are not present in the forum state. Sometimes they were successful, but sometimes they were not. And the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California[1] is further muddying the waters. Continue Reading Santa May Reach All 50 States, but Personal Jurisdiction May Not

On October 5, 2018, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that it had negotiated a $3.85 million civil penalty with Costco Wholesale Corporation over an alleged failure to report product hazards involving an electronic trash can, which CPSC alleged violated the Consumer Product Safety Act. Continue Reading Manufacturers, Retailers, and CPSC Reporting Penalties

Riding a scooter up and down the block was a common and enjoyable pastime for many when they were kids. Now, the child’s kick scooter has been reimagined as an environmentally friendly and nostalgia-filled commute option: the electric scooter. Electric scooters have cropped up in major cities across the country, including Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Scottsdale, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. The scooters are affordable ($1.00 for the first minute and less after that) and easy to access. They are dockless and so bring mobility to people who otherwise don’t own a car or live near public transit, remove congestion from the roads, and help cities go green. Continue Reading Riding Ahead of the Electric Scooter Curve

Generic pharmaceutical drugs are versions of brand-name counterparts with one major difference:  they typically cost a lot less. By FDA regulation, the two have the same active ingredients, dosage forms and strengths, and routes of administration.[1] And while federal law generally regulates pharmaceutical approval, states can regulate pharmaceutical distribution. Why is this significant? All states permit pharmacies to substitute generic drugs for the brand name equivalent, and some states require substitution in certain circumstances.[2] But a generic pharmaceutical company cannot change the brand company’s product label, so a person’s ability to sue a drug manufacturer is limited to the brand company who created the label.[3] Continue Reading Generically Speaking: Liability is Limited in Failure to Warn Claims