Two cases decided 25 years apart, but there were some facts in common: a hot drink, a consumer alleging that she was burned by the drink, and a lawsuit. These are the facts of the 1994 case Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants that resulted in an award of millions to the consumer, but also the facts from Shih v. Starbucks, a case decided last year. In Shih, however, the court found in favor of the product supplier. What’s different about these cases? The answer: how the courts interpreted proximate cause.
Continue Reading The Hot Coffee Case Revisited: Has Proximate Cause Changed in the 25 Years Since Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants?

After a very difficult 2020, rapid vaccine development has sparked optimism among the public and in the business community. But as we wrote last week, there’s a long road ahead while infections remain high. Today we look at considerations for a new transition period – vaccines becoming more widely available, but before the country achieves herd immunity.
Continue Reading How Companies Can Approach Wider Availability of COVID-19 Vaccines in the Coming Months

As COVID-19 cases have spiked across the country, many businesses have adjusted certain operations with an eye on customer and employee safety, as well as to ensure compliance with recent changes to government orders. Some businesses have faced challenges that they have not seen since last spring. Over the summer, we explained some ways companies could prepare for a potential winter resurgence of the virus. Today we consider how companies may wish to proceed as average daily death totals in the U.S. remain high.
Continue Reading Business Considerations in Light of Increases in COVID-19 Cases

In Illinois, the collateral source rule bars defendants from submitting evidence that plaintiffs received compensation for their injuries from a collateral source. For example, if a plaintiff is injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligent actions, often the plaintiff’s insurance company will cover part of the plaintiff’s medical expenses even before the plaintiff files a lawsuit against the tortfeasor. In that example, the defense is prohibited from submitting evidence regarding that compensation. The purpose of this rule is to prevent defendants from reducing or eliminating the amount of damages they are liable for. On May 21, 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court defined the outer limits of this rule in Mary Lewis, et al. v. Lead Industries Association, et al. (Atlantic Richfield Company, et al.),[1] holding that plaintiffs cannot use the collateral source rule to establish the injury element of a cause of action. The Lewis plaintiffs argued that the cost of the lead testing, which had been covered entirely by Medicaid, should be recoverable pursuant to the collateral source rule. The Court was unconvinced and ruled that pure economic loss claims in which a plaintiff cannot establish actual out-of-pocket expenses will fail and the collateral source rule will not provide the necessary support to overcome that hurdle in Illinois.
Continue Reading Lewis Court Rejects the Use of the Collateral Source Rule to Establish Injury-in-Fact

From apparel companies that have shifted from making clothing to making face masks, to distilleries and breweries that are now producing hand sanitizer, to consumer goods and auto makers manufacturing ventilators and respirators, manufacturers nationwide have shifted their production lines to meet what consumers need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continue Reading Retooling in the Midst of COVID-19: Statutory Protections for Manufacturers

Many companies were caught off-guard in the spring when diagnoses of COVID-19 multiplied rapidly and forced businesses to close or drastically change their policies with little warning. Now companies that have reopened must prepare for the future. As we have seen in recent weeks, resurgences may occur at any time in different parts of the country. And epidemiologists have warned about a potential second wave of infections in the fall.
Continue Reading Reopening and Readjusting: Preparing for a Diagnosis or Resurgence in the Coming Months

In our last post, we discussed policy changes and new procedures that companies should consider as they reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly given the increase in cases in many parts of the country. But companies cannot change policies in a vacuum: they must clearly and effectively communicate these changes to employees, customers, and the public. Clear, written policies will be ineffective if they are not communicated effectively.
Continue Reading Reopening and Readjusting: Communicating COVID-19 Policies to All Stakeholders

Business closures have been immensely difficult for companies of all sizes during the COVID-19 pandemic. But reopening is proving difficult, too, especially given the ever-changing nature of the pandemic. As cases have surged in recent weeks in new parts of the country, businesses have been forced to reassess their operational plans in both the near- and long-term. Owners and executives are paying close attention both to customer and employee safety. And businesses must be mindful of potential legal ramifications of their decisions.
Continue Reading Reopening and Readjusting: What Businesses Should Be Thinking About

As part of their ongoing effort to combat misinformation about COVID-19, federal agencies have issued warning letters to more than 150 companies. While companies know that a warning letter is serious and requires immediate attention, perhaps the greater challenge is what often follows: the so-called “piggyback” class action lawsuit.[1] And recently, plaintiffs’ attorneys have gone one step further: they have been filing “piggyback” class actions not against the company that received the warning letter but against competitors that make similar products.
Continue Reading A Warning to One, A Warning to All?

As COVID-19 lawsuits proliferate, businesses and their counsel should prepare for a battle of the experts on causation when there is no direct evidence that a plaintiff’s injury can be attributed to a certain source. As product liability lawyers know, plaintiffs typically must prove both general causation and specific causation in tort cases alleging exposure to a pathogen. General causation requires expert testimony to show that the exposure to something – here the novel coronavirus – can cause the type of injury – COVID-19 – that affected the plaintiff. Specific causation, however, requires something more. To prove specific causation, plaintiffs must be able to attribute their exposure or injury to a particular defendant.
Continue Reading Expert Strategies: Battling Causation in COVID-19 Tort Cases