Articles Posted in Dangerous Products

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In a recent case, a man sued the maker of his utility terrain vehicle (UTV) after the UTV overturned, and the roof failed, causing his injuries. The man designated four expert witnesses to testify in his case at trial. For one of the experts he designated, the man said the expert would testify as to the UTV’s performance, the forces involved in the accident, and factors affecting the UTV’s performance. The man did not explain the expert’s analysis or his conclusions on the issues in the case. Shortly afterward, the man told the defendant and the court that he was no longer going to use the expert as one of his witnesses. However, the defendant then requested to have the expert’s deposition taken, seemingly to find out what his conclusions were.

The plaintiff objected, arguing that the expert’s opinions and conclusions were protected by the “work product doctrine”—a doctrine that protects materials prepared for or by an attorney in anticipation of litigation. The defendant argued the plaintiff had waived any protection under the work product protection because, as an expert, the conclusions would have been disclosed.

The trial court agreed with the defendant, finding that the plaintiff had waived the protections of the work product doctrine by designating the expert as a witness. However, the state’s supreme court reversed. The court concluded that a party designating an expert witness by itself is not a waiver of the work product doctrine. It also concluded that in this case, the man’s actions did not waive the work product privilege. As a result, the expert’s conclusions were protected under the work product doctrine, and the plaintiff did not have disclose them to the defendants.

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Earlier this month, a St. Louis jury awarded a woman over $70 million in a personal injury lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, alleging that the company’s baby powder caused her ovarian cancer. According to one national news source covering the case, the plaintiff relied on several studies that have linked the long-term use of talcum powder, especially in the genital area, to ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson denies any claims that its baby powder is unsafe and told reporters that the company plans to appeal the case to a higher court.

This case is not the first that was filed against Johnson & Johnson alleging that its baby powder caused cancer, and it certainly will not be the last. In fact, there have been over 2,000 women who have filed product liability cases against Johnson & Johnson since evidence linking baby powder to cancer surfaced. Not all cases have made it through the trial process, but of those that have, several have resulted in multi-million-dollar verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs.

The American Cancer Association explains on its website that “studies of personal use of talcum powder have had mixed results, although there is some suggestion of a possible increase in ovarian cancer risk.” It is unclear if there is a link between talcum powder and other forms of cancer. In some cases, judges have dismissed plaintiffs’ cases against the manufacturers and marketers of talcum powder, explaining that the evidence linking the powder to cancer is tenuous. However, as time goes on, it seems the link between the two is becoming more and more substantiated.

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Many people are quick to blame parents for children’s injuries. Yet often, the parents are not to blame. Defective products such as toys, cribs, and baby carriers can cause children serious injuries.

If a defective product is to blame, a parent can sue the manufacturer or anyone else in the chain of distribution, seeking compensation for their child’s injuries. If a product is defective, it generally is defective by its design or has a defect in how it was made when it was manufactured. For example, a defective design might exist when a product has an unreasonably dangerous design, such as a stroller that too easily tips over. A manufacturing design might exist when a piece was left out when it was built, thereby creating a danger. A product could also be defective because the safety warnings are inadequate to warn the consumer of a potential danger associated with the product.

New Study Shows Injury Risk Posed by Strollers and Baby Carriers

A new study shows that over 17,000 children are treated in emergency rooms every year for stroller and baby carrier-related injuries. According to one news source, the study, conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, looked at emergency room visits from 1990 to 2010. It found that over these years, almost 361,000 children had been treated for such injuries. This equates to about two children an hour, or around 50 children per day.

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In a recent case, a man’s decision to forego optional safety equipment later prevented compensation for his injuries. The man was riding his lawn mower when the mower fell off the edge of an embankment and rolled on top of him. He was trapped under the lawn mower, and tragically he died from suffocation. The man’s wife alleged that the lawn mower manufacturer was negligent because the machine did not come with a rollover protection system. However, the defendant pointed out that the man had the option of adding the rollover protection system when he bought the lawn mower, which he neglected to purchase.

A federal appeals court dismissed the plaintiff’s case, holding that, according to the optional equipment doctrine, a manufacturer generally will not be found negligent if a purchaser had the option of buying safety equipment that would have prevented the accident. The court explained that the doctrine may apply where a buyer is knowledgeable regarding the product’s use and the availability of the safety feature, there are normal circumstances in which the product without the optional equipment would not be unreasonably dangerous, and the buyer can balance the risks and benefits with regard to the buyer’s use of the product. Since the rollover protection system was an option when the man bought the lawn mower, the manufacturer could not be held negligent for failing to install the equipment.

The Optional Equipment Doctrine in Illinois

The optional equipment doctrine arises in the context of negligence in manufacturing. It is not exactly a defense, but instead it is a way a defendant can show that it fulfilled its duty to the purchaser. That is, the defendant, by informing buyers that an optional feature is available and can make the product safer for certain users, may have satisfied its duty to make a product safe.

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Technology in cars is advancing quickly, and many see self-driving cars as the future of transportation. However, these cars present new risks, including privacy concerns and safety risks. Automated cars, also referred to as self-driving vehicles, or autonomous or driverless vehicles, can include a wide range of technologies. These include automated parallel parking assistance, automatic braking, lane-centering, and complete performance of all driving functions. Automated driving can offer many benefits to consumers. For one, it can be very convenient. They also offer many safety benefits. The NHTSA conducted a survey and discovered that over 90 percent of all car accident deaths are caused at least in part by driver inattention or other errors that may be preventable with automated driving. For example, human drivers may be distracted, speed, disobey traffic rules, or misjudge road conditions.

Yet, while they offer many benefits, they also present new legal issues. One issue that may arise in these automated cars is the question of who is the driver. That is, is it the person behind the wheel or the manufacturer of the technology? Laws today generally only consider the person behind the wheel to be in control of the vehicle, but that may change as automated cars become more prevalent, and the technology makes further advances. Also, there are concerns that cars could now be targeted for cyber attacks, which could cause liability to shift to the hacker or to the company responsible for the software.

Several states already allow automated cars, or at least the testing of automated cars on their roads. And many manufacturers are pushing for legal changes that support the use of automated cars.

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Injuries that occur as a result of food poisoning can give rise to a number of different claims for the harm suffered. Those who seek compensation for personal injuries resulting from the consumption of contaminated food or beverages can assert claims based on negligence, breach of express or implied warranty, violation of food laws, and strict liability.

For one, individuals can allege breach of warranty claims to recover compensation for their injuries. Breach of warranty claims can include express and implied warranties. For example, Illinois courts have found liability for a breach of an implied warranty of fitness when a manufacturer sold poisoned flour. In order to recover in a breach of warranty claim, there generally must be privity of contract. Privity of contract often requires that the injured person have purchased the goods from the manufacturer. This can include sellers of goods as well, yet courts have been hesitant to extend liability in such cases, particularly if the seller had no way to inspect the goods.

General Mills Expands Recall of Flour

General Mills announced an expansion to its flour recall resulting from a possible E. Coli outbreak. According to one news source, the updated recall covers different varieties of flour of the Gold Medal and Signature Kitchens brands, produced through February of this year. Four new cases were reported, causing the company to expand the recall. The outbreak has already caused illnesses to 46 people throughout 21 states. Thirteen of those people have required hospitalization. One person suffered from kidney failure as a result.

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A 23-month-old boy tragically drowned in a pond after he climbed out of his crib and walked outside in the middle of the night. After the accident, the boy’s parents filed a product liability case against the company that manufactured the doorknob cover they had installed on their front door. The doorknob cover was a safety measure to prevent children from opening doors. The boy’s parents used the doorknob cover on the front door of their home to stop him from opening the door. However, the company argued that the doorknob cover was not defective or unreasonably dangerous if it were used properly.

At trial, evidence showed that after the boy began climbing out of his crib, to help ensure their son’s safety, the couple began using a chain lock on the front door in addition to the doorknob cover. On the night of the accident, the boy’s mother locked the tab lock on the doorknob but forgot to latch the chain lock. The boy was discovered the next morning, and the doorknob cover was on the floor in two pieces. Investigation notes with social services stated that the parents knew the boy was able to defeat the doorknob cover, which was why they installed the chain lock. However, the father denied making that statement.

The parents argued that evidence of their knowledge of the boy’s ability to defeat the doorknob cover should be excluded because it was irrelevant, and at most it was only a contributing cause but not the sole cause of the accident. They also argued that it was overly prejudicial. Despite their objections, the evidence was allowed at trial.

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The safety risks of certain products are not always immediately apparent. After many U.S. consumers purchased hoverboards for the holidays this past year, many months went by before the Consumer Safety Commission warned of serious risks in most hoverboards. Product liability claims arise from situations in which defective products injure individuals or cause property damage.

Product Liability Claims

Product liability claims appear when the sale of a product causes injury, death, or other harm to consumers. There are a number of different ways in which individuals can hold sellers or manufacturers liable. For example, in Illinois, consumers may assert liability for negligence, strict liability, violation of express warranty, or violation of implied warranty.

Express warranty actions arise if the seller of a product claims that the product has a particular quality or will perform in a certain way. Implied warranty claims generally arise when a product is not of average quality or is not able to be used for its ordinary purpose. Negligence requires that the defendant have acted negligently, or without the required care. In contrast, strict liability claims do not require any showing of negligence but focus on the defective product itself. A seller can also be liable if it fails to adequately warn consumers of the dangers associated with the product.

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The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about one in six people get sick from food-borne illnesses each year in the United States. Of these, around 3,000 people die as a result. In recent years, E. Coli outbreaks have become familiar to Americans as they continue to come up in the news, at times causing serious effects for victims.

E. Coli is a bacterium that can be transmitted by consuming contaminated food, including unwashed raw produce, undercooked beef, unpasteurized juice, and raw milk. The consumption of contaminated food can result in symptoms, the most common of which is diarrhea. However, in more serious cases, it can cause anemia or kidney failure, which can lead to death.

E. Coli generally lives in cattle, but it can also be found in other livestock. If meat containing E. Coli bacteria is not cooked to 160 degrees, E. Coli bacteria can survive and infect those who consume it. In addition, the meat can affect other food that comes into contact with the infected raw meat. Raw meat is the most likely cause for infection, but it can be transmitted through raw fruits and vegetables, or through raw milk or other dairy products.

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Court Upholds $3 Million Verdict for Failing to Warn of Birth Defects

According to one news source, a court of appeals recently upheld a $3 million verdict against a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson after a baby was born with severe birth injuries as a result of medication taken during the mother’s pregnancy. The baby’s parents brought a claim against the company, and the jury found the company liable for failing to warn the mother’s doctors of the risk of birth injuries if she took Topamax during her first trimester.

The mother took Topamax, a drug prescribed to help prevent seizures and migraine headaches. While she was pregnant, she took the drug to treat migraines—but she did not know of the dangerous effects it could have on her baby. Research has shown that 3.8 percent of children exposed to Topamax in utero during the first trimester have oral birth defects. In particular, cleft lip and cleft palate are known risks.

The couple’s daughter was born with a bilateral cleft palate and lip. The girl has had to undergo over 14 procedures, including surgeries, to treat the birth defects. She has also suffered hearing loss, speech difficulties, and bullying because of her speech and appearance. The parents were awarded $1.5 million for future health care expenses, and their daughter was awarded $1.5 million in non-economic damages.

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