Civil Procedure Keyed to Cound
Kennedy v. Southern California Edison Co
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Ellen Kennedy died in 1996 of chronic myelogenous leukemia (“CML”), a rare form of cancer at the age of 43. The Plaintiffs were her husband, Joe, and their four children (Plaintiffs). From 1982 to 1990, Mr. Kennedy worked as machinist for Southern California Edison Company (Defendant) at the company’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The Plaintiffs brought suit against Defendant in federal court, asserting jurisdiction pursuant to the Price-Anderson Act. They sought damages for Ellen Kennedy’s wrongful death. The action alleged that her terminal CML resulted from negligence on the part of the Defendant that resulted in her exposure to radiation from SONGS. Further, Plaintiffs sued another Defendant, Combustion Engineering, Inc. (Defendant), under a products liability cause of action, for the alleged faulty production of nuclear fuel rods. The theory of the case was that Joe Kennedy inadvertently brought home microscopic particles of radioactive material, known as “fuel fleas,” from the power plant on his clothing, hair, tools, etc. These fuel fleas, according to Plaintiffs, contained radiation dosages in excess of the maximum allowable by federal regulations and came in contact with Ellen Kennedy and caused her fatal cancer. The District Court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss all the products liability claims against it. Before trial began, the Plaintiffs asked the District Court to issue a jury instruction that had been the basis in another similar trial, Rutherford. The case had dealt with the proper jury instructions to be given on causation when multiple potential causes of the injury existed. The District Court denied this request. Plaintiffs attempted twice more to request the jury instruction and were denied. The trial commenced and the jury found for the Defendant. Plaintiff appealed.
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