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IN THIS ISSUE

 

NEWSLETTER

Fall 2011

ARTICLES

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THE ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT EXAMINES THE "RISK-UTILITY" TEST IN DESIGN DEFECT CASES

William G. Beatty

A recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling of major significance  examines the “risk-utility” test as a method of proof in product liability cases premised on a design-defect theory.  The holding in the case, which includes a rejection of a post-sale duty to warn, merits the special attention of the product liability defense bar.

Jablonski v. Ford Motor Co., 2011 Ill. LEXIS 1136, decided by the Illinois Supreme Court on Sept. 22, 2011, involved the collision of a 1993 Lincoln Town Car in which the plaintiff, Dora Mae Jablonski, and her husband, John L. Jablonski, Sr., were riding on July 7, 2003, in Madison County, Illinois.  When their car came to a stop in a highway construction zone, it was struck from behind by a car traveling at a high speed.  A large pipe wrench in the trunk of the Jablonski’s Town Car penetrated the trunk, puncturing the back of the car’s fuel tank. The tank had been mounted between the trunk and the vehicle’s rear axle as part of a design that Ford introduced in 1979, called the “Panther platform.”  The puncture of the fuel tank caused the Town Car to burst into flames, resulting in severe burns and permanent disfigurement to Mrs. Jablonski and the death of her husband.

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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT DECISION ON FEDERAL PREEMPTION AIDS GENERIC DRUG MANUFACTURERS

Angela M. Kotsalieff

On June 23, 2011, in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court held that federal statutes and FDA regulations governing the labeling of generic drugs preempt state law tort claims against generic drug manufacturers for failure to provide adequate warning labels.  In Pliva, Inc., v. Mensing the court determined that it was impossible for the generic drug manufacturers to comply with both the state and federal law requirements regarding the labels on their drugs. 

The plaintiffs, Gladys Mensing and Julie Demahy, claimed to have developed tardive dyskinesia, a severe neurological disorder, after long-term use of metoclopramide, which is a generic form of Reglan.  Both the plaintiffs had been given a prescription for Reglan, but had received the generic form of the drug from their respective pharmacists.  The plaintiffs, in separate state court actions, sued the generic drug manufacturers (“who that produced the metoclopramide, alleging failure to provide adequate warning labels.  The plaintiffs argued that the applicable state laws required the manufacturers to update their labels to accurately reflect the risks of using the drug.

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RECENT u.S. SUPREME COURT DECISIONS ON PERSONAL JURISDICTION BENEFIT FOREIGN PRODUCT MANUFACTURERS

Meghan M. Sciortino

The first step in any litigation involving a corporate defendant that is foreign to the selected forum is determining whether the court can exercise jurisdiction over the defendant.  There are two different types of personal jurisdiction that a court can exercise over a defendant – general and specific.  A state court may assert general jurisdiction over a foreign corporation when the corporation’s affiliations with the state are so “continuous and systematic” as to render them essentially at home in the forum state.  On the other hand, specific jurisdiction exists only where there is a connection between the forum state and the underlying controversy.  Traditionally this occurs where an activity or occurrence takes place in the forum state.  

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