Class action litigation based on consumer or business products and services often involve a complex mixture of transactional contracts, limited express warranties, state and federal consumer protection statutes and regulations, field performance and warranty histories, state of the art technology, complex questions of science, engineering, and medicine, and economic analyses. Technical disciplines span product reliability, mechanical engineering, metallurgy, physics, hydraulics, electronics and electrical engineering, toxicology, pharmacology, epidemiology, injury mechanisms, and more. Legal issues involve federal statutory and decisional law on preemption, the Class Action Fairness Act, the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act, and numerous state common and statutory laws applicable to strict liability, warranty, unfair and deceptive practices, and fraud.
Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy handles class action cases in all practice areas and has defended class actions and multiple party litigation in multi-district, statewide and national litigation. In the early stages of the defense, Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy develops the facts and circumstances relevant to opposing class action status, and thereafter seeks decertification of the class and early dismissal. Recently, the firm won a dismissal in Jaikins v. Caterpillar Inc., a breach of warranty action involving marine diesel engines used to power pleasure yachts of lengths up to 80 feet. Typically, yachts of this size are equipped with two marine diesel engines. Depending on customer specifications and selected features, each marine diesel engine can cost more than $75,000. The case was litigated in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Early on, the case was certified as a nationwide class action. But, on the eve of trial, and after conducting extensive written discovery and dozens of depositions of fact and expert witnesses, Court reversed its earlier decision and decertified the class. In its decertification order, the Court adopted in full the arguments advanced by Caterpillar from the outset of the litigation; viz., that breach of warranty actions are driven by individualized facts, require proof by each class member that a defect actually manifested in each engine, and, as such, are not advanced by theorized “design defects.” Soon after decertification of the nationwide class, the trial judge dismissed the complaint against Caterpillar with prejudice and with costs allocated against the class representative.
Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy represented Monsanto in a class action brought against it and Westinghouse by a class of hundreds of former employees and the estates of deceased former employees of General Electric’s Pittsfield, Massachusetts plant. At that plant, General Electric designed and finally assembled large, high voltage transformers and capacitors (operating at or above 2,000 volts) that used dielectric fluids (an insulating fluid with an electrical conductivity less than a millionth of an ohm) to separate conductive surfaces. Prior to 1979 when Congress banned their sale or use, polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCB’s”) were a common component of dielectric fluids because of their stability and dielectric characteristics. The class members claimed that they sustained a wide variety of illnesses, including cloracne, liver damage, and cancers, as a result of work place exposure to PCB’s in dielectric fluids. After numerous hearings and discreet, relevant discovery, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts entered summary judgment for Monsanto and dismissed the case.
Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy currently represents FNH USA, a subsidiary of Belgium based arms manufacturer FN Herstal S.A., in Campbell v. Worcester County House of Correction, et al., a class action pending in the Superior Court of Massachusetts. The named plaintiffs are current and former inmates of the Worcester County House of Correction who claim that corrections officers employed by the Worcester County Sherriff’s Office used excessive force in extracting them from prison cells against their will in violation of fundamental constitutional rights and privileges. Among other tools, the corrections officers used FNH manufactured model 303 less lethal launchers to effectuate cell extractions. Using compressed air, the FN 303’s propel frangible projectiles at targets selected by the corrections officers. The class representatives allege that the FN 303’s are unreasonably dangerous and defective. After almost four years of litigation, the Court decertified the class leaving only individual claims for money damages by five former inmates.