A recent Fifth Circuit case reminds us of the interplay, in a diversity setting, of federal and state law. In Jordan v. Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, L.L.C., No. 19-60364, 2020 WL 5939296 (5th Cir. Oct. 7, 2020), the plaintiffs brought suit after their young child was injured after ingesting Buckyball magnets. After an eight-day trial, the jury returned a verdict for the defendant. Appeal ensued.
Based on this, defendant filed a motion in limine to exclude post-sale evidence. Plaintiffs opposed M&O’s motion in limine and sought to introduce various pieces of post-sale evidence, including communications with the CPSC. The district court granted the motion in limine in part and excluded most post-sale evidence. On appeal, plaintiffs argued that these exclusionary rulings constituted prejudicial error because the rulings prevented them from fully presenting their case and cross-examining M&O’s witnesses. A central issue at trial was whether Buckyball magnets were children’s toys or adult products, and the plaintiffs argued that they were unable to fully present their case on this issue.
Though the Jordans argued that the district court’s ruling deprived them of vital evidence, the 5th Circuit noted that the MPLA requires claimants to prove defect based on what the manufacturer knew at the time the product was sold. Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-63(a). The MPLA makes it clear that the defendant’s alleged conduct here should only be evaluated through March 2011 for the purposes of this lawsuit. Evidence of the CPSC’s 2012 regulation of M&O may have cast certain earlier action in a different light at trial, but this fact does not compel the admission of evidence that was properly excluded. Thus, plaintiffs had not demonstrated that the district court’s exclusion of post-sale evidence was prejudicial error.