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Russ Vignali is a tenacious advocate who focuses his litigation practice on the defense of products liability matters and related commercial disputes in New York state and federal courts. He also handles a variety of claims in the general liability area and has experience with related insurance coverage matters. Russ joined Wilson Elser in 1982 out of law school and developed his service approach within a firm culture that values a high level of responsiveness and open communication with clients.

New York’s appellate departments are now unified with respect to their interpretation of Article 10(a) of the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention). The issue of whether Article 10(a) of the Hague Convention permits service of process by mail to a foreign country in the absence of an objection from the state of destination has now been resolved in New York. The First Department in Mutual Benefits Offshore Fund v. Zeltser, 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 04344, earlier this year reversed itself and joined the state’s three other appellate departments in holding that service of process by mail under those circumstances was indeed permissible.

Background
For those unfamiliar with the workings of the Hague Service Convention, it is a multilateral international treaty first adopted in 1965 that allows for the service of process of legal documents from one signatory state to another without the use of more formal consular or diplomatic channels. The treaty sets up a simplified means for accomplishing service of process by requiring each signatory nation to designate a “Central Authority” to receive the documents and arrange for actual service on the targeted entity in a manner permitted under local law. Once service is completed, the Central Authority sends proof of service to the requesting party. The advantages of this system lie in its speed, its standardized forms and its relatively low costs as compared with the pre−Hague Convention methods in place to serve foreign entities. Seventy countries are now parties to the agreement. Continue Reading New York Appellate Courts Now Unified on Hague’s “Send versus Serve” Issue

A Czech warning sign for general dangers.A federal district court judge in New York City’s Southern District, applying Virginia law, recently invoked the concept of a manufacturer’s “post-sale duty to warn” to hold an automobile company potentially liable for failing to warn about an alleged defect in a car that it technically did not even manufacture. The ruling came in the context of the General Motors Ignition Switch multidistrict litigation (14-MD-2543).

Manufacturer versus Post-bankruptcy Successor
The plaintiff’s compact car went off the road, but its airbags failed to deploy because of an alleged defect in the car’s ignition switch that caused the airbags to move to the “off” position. Judge Jesse Furman denied a motion for summary judgment brought by the “new” GM, the post-bankruptcy successor to the “old” GM (OGM), the car’s actual manufacturer, noting, for example, that “new GM” (NGM) had assumed OGM’s warranty obligations to its customers when NGM entered into the 2009 sales agreement with OGM. The Court further noted the contacts between the plaintiff and NGM under Virginia state law might indeed recognize a post-sale duty to warn about OGM’s allegedly defective ignition switches. Additionally, he stated, “there is evidence that new GM had ‘actual knowledge’ of the ignition switch defect when it acquired the assets of old GM.” Continue Reading Revisiting the Post-Sale Duty to Warn

It’s probably common knowledge to even a novice product liability practitioner that a manufacturer can be held liable for a defect in a component part supplied by another company that is integrated into the manufacturer’s end product.  After all, under most commonly held notions of product liability law, the product manufacturer is subject to liability for a defect even when the defect arises solely from a flaw in a component part manufactured or supplied by another company.  By accepting the component from the supplier and integrating it into the manufacturer’s product, the manufacturer effectively “buys” any liability for a defect that may come with the component. Public policy requires the product manufacturer to make sure that it uses components supplied by reputable companies that are designed with safety in mind. The manufacturer is in the superior position to ferret out defective components and to avoid their use.  Since the manufacturer realizes the benefits (i.e., profits) from marketing the product, it should also be held to answer for any product defects, even those from a component part it did not manufacture. Continue Reading How Far Is Too Far? New York Clarifies Potential Warnings Liability for Third-Party Products

1509-Technology-and-electronic-productsWhen we wrote back in November 2013 about 3D Printing and Product Liability Law, we predicted that the 3D printing revolution “will challenge our long-held notions of product liability law and the common assumptions made regarding the liability of various entities in the chain of distribution.” Our blog challenged the reader to think about who the manufacturer would be under the make-believe fact scenario we posed for an injury allegedly caused by a 3D-printed product.

Continue Reading Is Our Legal System Ready for the Evolution of 3D Printing Technology?

iStock_000018418047_medOne of the more frustrating aspects of defending power tool cases occurs during the deposition of the plaintiff – at the point where he attempts to describe in minute detail how his accident happened. Then, at trial, just when you think you have the plaintiff “nailed down” to a specific accident scenario, his testimony seems to describe a completely different event. With enough wiggle room in his testimony, a well-coached plaintiff can describe his accident almost any way he wants to support his overall claim of product defect.

Enter the accident demonstration video recorded during the plaintiff’s deposition!!

The Federal Rules explicitly provide for video (audiovisual) recording of the plaintiff’s deposition [Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(3)], but are silent as to whether a defendant may require a plaintiff to demonstrate during the deposition how his accident occurred. Nevertheless, a strong argument can be made that the broad scope of discovery allowed by the Rules indisputably permits accident demonstrations during the video-recorded deposition of the plaintiff.

Continue Reading A Picture Paints a Thousand Words: Video Recording an Accident Demonstration