On June 29, 2022, in N.J. Mfrs. Ins. Grp. a/s/o Angela Sigismondi v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115826 (Sigismondi), the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey held that Amazon.com, Inc. (Amazon) is a “seller” under New Jersey’s product liability statute and can thus face strict liability for damages caused by products sold on its platform. Although the analysis is state-specific, Sigismondi may serve as an important decision for allowing product defect claims to proceed against Amazon when so often the third-party vendor that lists the product is unlocatable, insolvent, or not subject to the jurisdiction of United States courts. Continue reading
Author Archives: Michael L. DeBona
California Appellate Court Rules Amazon Can Be Strictly Liable for Defective Product
The California Court of Appeals recently ruled that Amazon.com, Inc. (Amazon) can be held strictly liable for injuries caused by a defective product sold by a third-party vender on its website. Bolger v. Amazon, D075738, 2020 Cal. App. LEXIS 761. The decision in Bolger comes just two months after the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas reached the same ruling under Texas law in McMillan v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 18-CV-2242, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102025 Continue reading
COVID-19 and Subrogation: The Coronavirus’ Impact on Property Losses and Subrogation Claims
Will COVID-19 impact subrogation? Like so much else, the answer is “yes.”
The global effect of COVID-19 is unlike any event in human history. More than 4 billion people—over half of the world’s population—are currently under confinement measures. In just a few short weeks, COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of life across the globe. In the United States, stay-at-home orders started in mid-March. We can only speculate how long this will be the new norm. On March 29th, President Trump suggested the spread of the coronavirus will not peak for at least another two weeks and he extended the national social distancing guidelines through April 30th.
Florida Adopts Daubert Standard for Expert Testimony
Seven months ago, the Florida Supreme Court declined to adopt Daubert as the standard for admitting expert testimony in Florida state courts. In DeLisle v. Crane Co., 258 So. 3d 1219 (2018), the court reaffirmed that “Frye, not Daubert, is the appropriate test in Florida.” On May 23, 2019, however, Florida’s high court did an about-face. In In Re: Amendment to the Florida Evidence Code, No. SC19-107, the Florida Supreme Court overruled its decision in DeLisle and declared that Florida will now apply the Daubert standard to determine whether scientific evidence is admissible. Continue reading
New York Court Holds That the “Lesser of Two” Doctrine Limits Recoverable Damages in Subrogation Actions
In New York Cent. Mut. Ins. Co. v. TopBuild Home Servs., Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69634 (April 24, 2019), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York recently held that the “lesser of two” doctrine applies to subrogation actions, thereby limiting property damages to the lesser of repair costs or the property’s diminution in value. Continue reading
New Jersey Clarifies How the Discovery Rule Applies In Construction Cases
In Palisades at Fort Lee Condominium Association v. 100 Old Palisade, LLC, et al., 2017 N.J. LEXIS 845 (Palisades), the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed how the discovery rule – which tolls the statute of limitations – applies in construction defect cases. The court clarified that, when a building has multiple owners, the statute of limitations begins to run when the first owner – be it an original or subsequent owner – in the line of building owners reasonably knew or should have known of the basis for a cause of action.
Economic Loss Doctrine Bars Negligence Claim Against Building Company Owner, Individually
In Beaufort Builders, Inc. v. White Plains Church Ministries, Inc., 783 S.E.2d 35 (N.C. Ct. App. 2016), the Court of Appeals of North Carolina addressed whether the economic loss rule barred the negligence claim of White Plains Church Ministries, Inc. (White Plains) against Charles F. Cherry (Cherry), the owner of Beaufort Builders, Inc. (Beaufort Builders). The court held that, because the economic loss rule would bar White Plains’ negligence claims against Beaufort Builders, White Plains could not pursue a third-party negligence claim against Cherry, individually.
In Minnesota, a Tenant may, Depending on the Language of the Lease, be Liable to the Landlord for Property Damage to the Tenant’s Apartment but not for Damage to the Rest of the Building
In Melrose Gates, LLC v. Chor Moua, et al., 875 N.W.2d 814 (Minn. 2016), the Supreme Court of Minnesota, applying the factors the court first articulated in RAM Mutual Insurance Company v. Rohde, 820 N.W.2d 1 (Minn. 2012), analyzed whether the parties to an apartment lease reasonably expected that the tenants would be liable in subrogation for fire damage caused by the tenants’ negligence. The Melrose Gates court held that, based on the language of the lease, the type of insurance the parties purchased, and the fact that the building was a multi-unit structure, the parties intended that the tenants would be responsible for damage to their leased unit but not for damage to other property. Thus, while the landlord’s insurer could recover the amount it paid to repair the damage to the tenants’ unit, it could not recover the amount it paid to repair other units or common areas of the building.
In Wyoming, the Economic Loss Rule Does Not Preclude a Negligence Claim Against Home Builders for Negligent Construction of the Home
In Rogers v. Wright, 366 P.3d 1264 (Wyo. 2016), the Supreme Court of Wyoming held that home builders have a tort duty of reasonable care and this duty, independent of any contractual obligations, makes the economic loss rule inapplicable.
In Texas, a General Contractor May be Liable in Tort to a Third-Party Lessee for Property Damage Caused by a Subcontractor’s Work
In Zbranek Custom Homes, Ltd. v. Joe Allbaugh, et al., No. 03-14-00131-CV, 2015 WL 9436630 (Tex.App.-Austin Dec. 23, 2015), the Court of Appeals of Texas, Austin, considered the circumstances under which a general contractor can be held liable for injuries to a non-contracting party’s property. The court held that, because the general contractor, Zbranek Custom Homes, Ltd. (Zbranek), exercised control over the construction of the fireplace at issue, Zbranek owed a duty of care to the first lessees of the home that Zbranek built.