Stults v. International Flavors, No. 14-3658 (8th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against numerous makers and distributors of microwave popcorn and butter flavoring. Plaintiff consumed microwave popcorn every day for approximately twenty years and alleged that defendants' products caused plaintiff's lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans. This appeal concerns one of the defendants, IFF. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that they are entitled to a new trial because the stricken testimony of one defendant's experts was prejudicial. In this case, plaintiff failed to object to the district court's curative instruction and they forfeited any error absent a showing of plain error - which they have not demonstrated. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion for an evidentiary hearing; the district court did not plainly err by admitting the rest of defendant's expert's testimony or by giving a prompt and thorough curative instruction concerning the stricken testimony; the court rejected plaintiff's claim that another expert's improper testimony requires a new trial where plaintiff's disagreement with the why the expert ruled out diacetyl as a cause of plaintiff's illness is far from grounds for a new trial; and the court rejected plaintiff's claim that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's claim for judgment as a matter of law where issues related to the breach of implied warranty claim are uncontested, and it was unnecessary for the jury to proceed to the question of affirmative defenses because the jury found in IFF’s favor on the breach-of-implied-warranty claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.
Court Description: Riley, Author, with Smith and Shepherd, Circuit Judges] Civil case - Products liability. In an action alleging plaintiff contracted the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans as a result of his inhalation of the chemical diacetyl through his daily consumption of butter flavor popcorn, the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motion for a new trial after the jury returned a verdict for the manufacturer; the district court's curative instruction after it struck the testimony of one of defendant's experts was not objected to, and plaintiffs failed to show, in the absence of an objection, that the instruction was plain error; the district court did not err in denying the plaintiffs' request for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether the jury considered the stricken testimony; the district court did not plainly error in striking only a portion of another defense witness's testimony as, again, plaintiffs failed to object to the court's ruling and the court gave a thorough and prompt curative instruction; plaintiffs failed to show the verdict was against the great weight of the evidence; no error in denying plaintiffs' motion for judgment as a matter of law.