Future Implications of Key Legal Developments in 2023 Shaping Various Industries: From Rejecting Overly Ambitious PFAS Class Actions to Amendments of Federal Rule 702 on Expert Witness Testimony

Harriss Beach Attorneys Abbie Eliasberg Fuchs, Daniel R. Strecker, and Alessandra G. Ash have analyzed key judicial holdings and legal developments in federal court and tort hotspots across the country that have impacted the industry in 2023 and may shape the years ahead. They have shared potential implications for future cases in regards to these topics:

– The Sixth Circuit has rejected an overly ambitious PFAS class action.
– The Hair Relaxer MDL is proceeding.
– Illinois now permits punitive damages in wrongful death cases and has increased the availability of expedited trials.
– California has rejected COVID-19 “take-home” liability.
– New York has ended COVID-19 nursing home litigation coordination and rejected an expansion of wrongful death damages.
– There has been preliminary approval of a $13.68 billion settlement in the AFFF MDL.
– The United States Supreme Court has made a decision on general personal jurisdiction in the Mallory case.
– Amendments to Federal Rule 702 governing expert witness testimony.

In the case of the Sixth Circuit rejecting an overly ambitious PFAS class action, the court vacated a district court’s order certifying a class of 11.8 million people allegedly contaminated with PFAS and directed the lower court to dismiss the suit for lack of standing. The court held that the plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege that each defendant caused the specific PFAS compounds to be in their blood.

Regarding the Hair Relaxer MDL, over 8,200 cases have been consolidated for pre-trial proceedings into the MDL in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs allege that hair relaxer products cause cancer and other injuries to the reproductive system.

In Illinois, punitive damages are now permitted in wrongful death cases, and expedited trials are more readily available for plaintiffs who have reached a certain age or can show hardship. This could have implications for future cases in terms of increasing the potential damages awarded in wrongful death suits.

California’s rejection of COVID-19 “take-home” liability means that employers do not owe a duty to employees’ households to prevent the spread of the virus. This is a victory for employers in California, as it limits their potential liability in relation to COVID-19 cases.

In New York, COVID-19 nursing home litigation coordination has ended, and there has been a rejection of the expansion of wrongful death damages. These decisions have implications for future cases and could impact the resolution of ongoing nursing home lawsuits.

The preliminary approval of a $13.68 billion settlement in the AFFF MDL could have significant implications for the widespread PFAS litigation across the country. The settlements exclude certain claims, but they will likely influence other cases involving PFAS personal injury and consumer class actions.

The United States Supreme Court’s decision in the Mallory case regarding general personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania has upheld the state’s consent-by-registration statutory scheme. However, challenges based on federalism and Commerce Clause principles may still occur, as some justices expressed concerns about the scheme’s constitutionality.

Finally, amendments to Federal Rule 702 governing expert witness testimony now clarify that the proponent’s burden for admissibility is the preponderance of the evidence. The amendments also emphasize the court’s duty to ensure the reliability of the expert’s opinions, not just their methods.

These developments and legal holdings have the potential to shape future cases and bring important changes to the legal landscape.