LITIGATION UPDATES – JULY 2015

CA Jury Hits Sunbeam For $59M Over Space Heater Fire Death

A California federal jury awarded $59.3 million to the family of a woman who died in a fire sparked by a Sunbeam Products Inc. space heater, finding that the company was negligent in designing the product and in failing to adequately warn consumers.  After an eight-day trial, the jury determined that Sunbeam was aware of the fire risks posed by its defective product when it was manufactured.  Though the decedent was found to be 20 percent responsible for the January 2011 blaze, the jury said Sunbeam was mostly to blame, concluding that its Holmes brand heater presented a substantial danger that ordinary consumers wouldn’t recognize, and for which a “reasonable manufacturer” would have provided greater notice.

Governor Brown Signs Law Limiting Vaccination Exemptions

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to nix the so-called personal belief exemption that allows parents to skip vaccinating their children, approving one of the toughest vaccination laws in the U.S. after a contentious debate.  In a signing message to the California State Senate, which had passed the bill for the second time, Brown acknowledged controversy over SB 277 but said “the science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children” and protect the community.  The bill was introduced after the state started fighting a measles outbreak that sprang from Disneyland in December and ultimately affected more than 100 people.  The California State Senate originally approved the bill in May, the Assembly passed it on June 25th, and on June 29th the Senate passed a version with minor language changes in a pro forma vote of 24 to 14.

Pet Owners Seek Class Certification In Dog Food Lawsuit

A group of dog owners who say their pets were killed or made seriously ill by toxic substances in the Beneful brand of Nestle Purina PetCare Co. asked a California federal court to certify a class of dog owners who purchased the food.  Twenty-four plaintiffs from 15 states have joined the original suit claiming industrial grade glycols, mycotoxins, lead or arsenic found in Beneful dry “kibble” dog food killed or injured their dogs.  They also said thousands of other instances exist and sought to file the motion for certification now instead of after discovery to ensure that the plaintiffs have the opportunity to present classwide issues.  The motion for class certification seeks to include dog owners in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington who have purchased the Beneful food since four years before the February complaint.

 

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