November 14, 2023

Fishkin Lucks Wins Summary Judgment in District of Massachusetts

The Firm scored a summary judgment victory on behalf of its client, a leading manufacturer of premium consumer and industrial paint and coating products, in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, against claims that the client failed to adequately warn about an alleged spontaneous combustion risk associated with one of its wood stains. 

Plaintiff, an insurance company, sought to recover money it paid to its insured in connection with a fire that plaintiff claimed was caused by the spontaneous combustion of rags used to apply the wood stain. Plaintiff claimed that the fire could have been avoided had better warnings been provided regarding how to avoid spontaneous combustion—even though the wood stain label bore a prominent and conspicuous warning to that effect.  

We argued that, even if the fire was caused by spontaneous combustion—for which the evidence was scant—plaintiff’s warning claims failed because: (i) the wood stain is governed by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act(FHSA); (ii) the FHSA preempts failure-to-warn claims based on standards inconsistent with it; (iii) the FHSA does not require that products governed by it bear a spontaneous combustion warning—even if they present a spontaneous combustion risk; and thus, (iv) the wood stain did not need to bear a spontaneous combustion warning, and our client went above and beyond by including one on its label.

The District Court adopted our arguments wholesale, dismissing plaintiff’s claims that the wood stain should have included more or different warnings concerning how to avoid spontaneous combustion.