Product liability defendants often seek to remove cases to federal court. That’s because federal jurisdiction provides the federal pleading standards, robust expert discovery, efficiency through uniform procedural and evidentiary rules, and often more diverse jury pools. Sometimes defendants can use removal to leverage early case resolution.

But it’s not always clear when a defendant can remove to federal court because the rules vary among the circuit courts, the facts drive the decision, and the case law continues to develop.  This year several cases highlighted the evolving removal landscape and addressed four important questions.
Continue Reading 2017 Removal Roundup: How Can Defendants Get Into Federal Court?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a final rule in October prohibiting the manufacture for sale, offer for sale, distribution in commerce, or importation of toys and child care products containing more than 0.1 percent of five phthalate chemicals. Phthalates make plastics soft and pliable, and are contained in many toys and other products intended for young children. The rule will take effect on April 25, 2018.

Continue Reading CPSC Issues Final Rule on Phthalates in Toys and Child Care Products

For the past several months, Monsanto has been in court challenging California’s decision to add the chemical glyphosate—the active ingredient in its herbicide Roundup—to the Proposition 65 list. It recently faced a setback when the California Supreme Court rejected Monsanto’s request to stay a lower court’s decision to include glyphosate among the 960 chemicals on the list.  California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) wasted no time after the decision and added glyphosate to the list on July 7, 2017.
Continue Reading No Delay for Proposition 65 Listing of Glyphosate

On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California (BMS), an action brought in California state court that included some non-California plaintiffs alleging injuries not suffered in California. The Supreme Court – for the second time this term – narrowed where plaintiffs can constitutionally sue companies.

The decision already is impacting mass tort actions. On the same day as the BMS decision, a Missouri state court declared a mistrial in an action alleging that Johnson & Johnson’s talc products cause ovarian cancer.

BMS provides product liability defendants with an opportunity to argue that state courts do not have personal jurisdiction over them when the claims have no connection with the defendants’ activities in the forum state.
Continue Reading Checking Out of Hotel California: The U.S. Supreme Court Holds That Plaintiffs Cannot Sue Companies Anywhere They Do Business

On May 30, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell (BNSF), another case that defines the constitutional limits of general personal jurisdiction over companies.

The major issue in BNSF was whether a railroad company had a substantial enough presence in Montana for the Montana courts to assert general jurisdiction over the company. The Court’s decision also answered whether a federal law, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), conferred personal jurisdiction to state courts over railroad companies wherever they are “doing business.”
Continue Reading Safe Crossing: The U.S. Supreme Court Gets State Courts on Track with Daimler

A Missouri federal court recently retained jurisdiction over state-law claims under the rarely used “Grable doctrine.” The doctrine arose from a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case, and supports removal when (1) a plaintiff’s state-law claim raises a disputed and substantial federal question, and (2) removal would not disturb the balance between state and federal judicial responsibilities.

Continue Reading It’s a Federal Question: Can Defendants Remove Under the Grable Doctrine?

On April 25, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) again delayed the deadline for restaurants and grocery stores to implement new calorie labeling rules. Originally set for May 5, 2017, the agency pushed back the deadline a second time, now requiring compliance by May 2018.

However, the delay may have come a little too late. Delaying compliance less than 10 days before the deadline provides little help to businesses that have already worked to comply. And uncertainty still remains as to what the labeling rules will be when compliance is required.
Continue Reading Three Ways to Deal with the FDA Calorie Labeling Delay

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

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 Is Counting Calories a Cost or a Benefit?

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 Chipotle Gets a (Nearly) Clean Bill of Health