Home > Uncategorized > Product liability—on demurrer, general allegations of causation are sufficient–Jones v. ConocoPhillips

Product liability—on demurrer, general allegations of causation are sufficient–Jones v. ConocoPhillips

Carlos Jones died in 2008 from diseases of the heart, liver and kidneys that his wife, Ofelia Jones, and surviving children (the Joneses) attribute to his exposure to multiple chemical products with which Carlos worked during his employment by The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (Goodyear) and The Upjohn Company (Upjohn).

Plaintiffs, the surviving wife and children of Carlos Jones, attributed Carlos’s death to his exposure to multiple chemical products with which Carlos worked during his employment with Goodyear Tire and The Upjohn Company.  Plaintiffs sued 19 manufacturers of 34 chemical products alleging each product identified in the complaint contained toxins that were a substantial factor in causing Carlos’s illness and death.  The court
granted defendants’ demurrer to the complaint for failure to plead causation of Carlos’s injuries with specificity required by Bockrath v. Aldrich Chemical Co., Inc. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 71.  Plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint.  The court again sustained defendants’ demurer without leave to amend.

On appeal, the appellate court overruled, holding that at the pleading stage the allegations (summarized below) were sufficient, at least in part because until discovery it might not be possible for plaintiff to determine causation with greater specificity: “at the pleading stage the Joneses need not identify the specific toxin contained in each hazardous product to which Carlos was exposed that was a substantial factor in causing his illness to state a viable products liability claim.”

In summary, the court held that the following allegations were sufficient to survive demurrer.  “The complaint alleged causes of action for negligence, strict liability failure to warn, strict liability design defect, fraudulent concealment, breach of implied warranties and loss of consortium.  Plaintiffs contended that, by suing the makers of every chemical Carlos had worked with during his employment by Goodyear and Upjohn and claiming all the products had caused his illnesses, the complaint failed to allege specific facts with respect to any one product and
was thus defective.  The first amended complaint named the identical defendants and products and asserted the same causes of action as the original complaint.” “With respect to causation, the amended complaint alleges, Carlos “’worked with and was exposed to [these] products,’” which “’contained significant concentrations of organic solvents and other cardiotoxic, hepatotoxic, nephrotoxic and other toxic chemicals.’” “During the course of his employment, Carlos “’was exposed to toxicologically significant levels of these chemicals. As a direct and proximate result of said exposure to said toxic chemical products, [Carlos] sustained serious injuries to his internal organs, including chemically induced cirrhosis of the liver, chemically induced cardiomyopathy and chemically induced kidney failure. … [Carlos] died of his injuries on April 1, 2008.’”

“Additionally, “’[a]s a result of [Carlos’s] exposure to the foregoing toxic chemical products, toxins within said toxic chemicals entered [Carlos’s] body. [¶]… [¶] Each of the foregoing toxic chemical products contain organic solvents and cardiotoxic, hepatotoxic, nephrotoxic and other toxic chemicals, which by and through their cardiotoxic, hepatotoxic and nephrotoxic nature, caused [Carlos’s] chemically induced cirrhosis of the liver, chemically induced cardiomyopathy and chemically induced kidney failure and other injuries. Each toxin that entered [Carlos’s]
body was a substantial factor in bringing about, prolonging, and aggravating [Carlos’s] chemically induced cirrhosis of the liver, chemically induced cardiomyopathy and chemically induced kidney failure and other injuries.’”

“To illustrate the toxic effects of one chemical to which Carlos was exposed, dimethylformamide (DMF), contained in a Dow Chemical product marketed under the name of Polymide 2080 D/DHV, the amended complaint cites pathology studies identifying the hepatotoxic, nephrotoxic and cardiotoxic effects of DMF. The amended complaint does not specifically address the purported toxic effects of any other chemical and alleges only that “’the toxicity of various organic solvents to the liver and kidney has long been recognized.’”

The appellate court held that the above allegations were sufficiently specific to survive demurrer at the pleading stage.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s