New Orleans readers may be familiar with some highly publicized cases about drugs causing birth defects or equipment failure leading to personal injury claims. Product liability cases generally have a plaintiff who presents with a list of injuries that can only be cured by some level of compensation from the defendant or by the removal of a product from the stream of commerce. In one landmark product liability case, however, the plaintiff is a state rather than an individual.

The case surrounds the use of gasoline additive MTBE. MTBE was utilized to ensure that the gasoline sold in the state would comply with the federal Clean Air Act. Expert witnesses for the defense stated that the use of MTBE had the effect of removing over 150,000 vehicles from the state’s roads.

The state, however, claims that this chemical is responsible for contaminating a large portion of the state’s ground water and offered no benefit in improving air quality. This very complicated products liability case has been underway for more than ten years and has set the record for the longest trial in the state’s history. Jurors on the case have been together since January 14 and the case is scheduled for final arguments on April 3.

Products liability cases are often very technical in nature. Juries must wade through all the technical jargon to gain a clear conclusion about the facts. Both sides must work to ensure that their expert witnesses break down the data in such a way that it can be understood and properly interpreted.

In product liability cases, plaintiffs get one chance to gain legal relief. With so much at stake, the right legal counsel is essential to mounting a strong case. A track record of experience and knowledge is necessary to ensure that all the elements of a product liability claim are properly litigated.

Source:, “Testimony ends in marathon trial NH versus Exxon,” Lynne Tuohy, 03-27-2013