Justia Alaska Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Products Liability
Hunter v. Philip Morris USA Inc.
Dolores Hunter, the personal representative of the estate of Benjamin G. Francis, appealed a series of orders following a jury verdict in a wrongful death, products liability, and fraud action against Philip Morris USA Inc. resulting from Francis’s death from lung cancer. Following the verdict, Hunter moved for a new trial on the basis of evidentiary rulings at trial and on the basis that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. The superior court initially granted Hunter’s motion for a new trial based on the weight of the evidence but then granted Philip Morris’s motion to reconsider, vacated its first order and denied Hunter’s motion for a new trial. Because the superior court’s orders applied a test that was inconsistent with the “weight of the evidence” new trial standard the Alaska Supreme Court previously established to guide trial courts, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for reconsideration of Hunter’s motion. View "Hunter v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law
Christensen v. Alaska Sales & Service, Inc.
In 2008, four years after appellants Ramona Christensen and Jack Scott purchased a new car, it collided with two moose on the Parks Highway. After the collision Christensen called the police to report the accident and called Scott to come pick her up at the scene. When Scott arrived Christensen said she felt nauseated, and Scott noticed a red mark on her forehead. Christensen could not remember many details of the collision, including whether she hit her head on something inside the car. During the days following the accident, Christensen reported feeling light-headed and dizzy. Christensen’s speech became disfluent and broken, and her gait became unsteady, causing her to fall repeatedly. About one week after the accident, Christensen sought medical attention to address her worsening symptoms. A neurologist examined Christensen and ordered an MRI spectroscopy. The spectroscopy showed evidence of bilateral frontal lobe brain damage. Since 2008 numerous other physicians and psychiatrists have examined and treated Christensen for her continuing speech, short-term memory, and mobility problems. The couple sued the car dealership for product liability, alleging that the car’s seat belt failed to restrain the driver in the accident. The superior court granted summary judgment to the dealership, concluding that "no reasonable jury could find that the Plaintiffs have proven that the seat belt . . . was defective." The couple appealed, arguing that the superior court applied an incorrect summary judgment standard and that genuine issues of material fact made summary judgment inappropriate. Because the Supreme Court concluded that the couple raised genuine issues of material fact regarding a seat belt defect and causation of the driver’s injury, it reversed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment. View "Christensen v. Alaska Sales & Service, Inc." on Justia Law
Patterson v. Cox
Tommie Patterson’s vehicle was struck from behind when he braked to avoid a car stalled in his lane of travel. He sued the owner of the stalled vehicle and subpoenaed her for trial, but she refused to appear. The Supreme Court concluded that the superior court should have issued a warrant or an order to show cause to compel the appearance of this party. In addition, the superior court instructed the jury on Patterson’s products liability claim against Ford Motor Company (manufacturer of Patterson's vehicle), but this claim was erroneously omitted from the special verdict form. Therefore, the Court reversed the superior court’s judgment and remanded this case for a new trial. View "Patterson v. Cox" on Justia Law