Articles Posted in Product Liability

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Smoke alarms are intended to protect homeowners, apartment dwellers, and other people from fire-related dangers. We are reminded on a constant basis that we should test our smoke alarms regularly to ensure that they are working and to make sure that we have enough smoke alarms installed throughout the house. This is considered so important that many fire departments often go door-to-door to test smoke alarms for residents.

Along with smoke alarms, it is often recommended to keep a carbon monoxide monitor in the home. In some cases, the smoke detector and the carbon monoxide monitor will be combined into the same device.

Just like any other device intended for the home, however, a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide detector can put residents at serious risk if they are not manufactured appropriately. According to a recent report from Good Housekeeping, Kidde, a major manufacturer of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, initiated a major recall of its products after concerns arose that the devices did not function as they were intended. In some situations, the devices may fail to respond appropriately to an emergency situation, due to lack of power.

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Many household appliances are designed to improve our comfort and health around the home. There are countless appliances that may be in your home today. What many consumers often forget, however, is that these appliances also pose serious dangers if they are not designed in a safe manner. Recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that the manufacturer Gree initiated a recall of 2.5 million dehumidifier devices because they are prone to causing fires. The recall happened after Gree received some 450 reports of fires associated with the machines. This has resulted in at least $19 million in property damage.

Gree sells its dehumidifiers under several different brand names, including Kenmore, GE, and Frigidaire. This is not the first time that the devices have been recalled. In September 2013, Gree instituted a recall and then updated it again in October of that same year. The recall was also expanded in January 2014.

Recalled devices include various pint sizes:  20, 25, 30, 40, 45, 50, 65, and 70. The brand names subject to the recall include Premiere, Kenmore, Norpole, Gree, GE, Frigidaire, Seabreeze, SoleusAir, Fellini, SuperClima, De’Longhi, Fedders, and Danby. These devices were sold a at a number of recall locations, including Kmart, Home Depot, HH Gregg, Lowe’s, AAFES, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Sears, Mills Fleet Farm, and Menards. Some of the devices were sold through online retailers like Amazon and eBay as well. Devices subject to the recall were sold between January 2005 and August 2013. They cost anywhere from $110 to $400.

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Earlier this month, a jury returned a massive $70 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America in a lawsuit regarding the company’s talcum powder products. The verdict constituted $67.25 million against Johnson & Johnson, $65 million of which represented a punitive damages award. The jury assigned $2.75 million in damages against Imerys Talc America and $2.5 million in punitive damages. Unlike other types of damages, punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant that engages in willful, malicious, and reckless conduct.

The plaintiff, Deborah Giannecchini, a 62-year-old woman, alleged that she used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder products for over 40 years until she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013. Based on her treating physicians’ analysis, Mrs. Giannecchini faces an 80 percent chance of dying as a result of ovarian cancer in the next two years. She has also undergone chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery in an attempt to treat her cancer. During the trial, the plaintiff’s lawyer offered evidence suggesting that Johnson & Johnson had been aware of the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer for three decades through their possession of scientific studies.

The basis of the jury’s conclusion was that Johnson & Johnson should have provided a warning to consumers about the risk of using talcum powder-based products and the potential to develop ovarian cancer.

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Sometimes it is easy to overlook the fact that there are hundreds of appliances and products in our daily lives that pose latent risks to our health and safety. Something as simple and common as a washing machine can lead to serious injuries if is not manufactured with reasonable safety and diligence. Recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a confirmation that there are serious risks associated with Samsung’s top-loading washing machines.

According to the public watchdog agency, machines that were sold between March 2011 and April 2016 are prone to exploding when they are run on any setting higher than the delicate cycle. One woman told ABC News that she was standing next to her Samsung top-loading washing machine when it exploded. After the explosion, she discovered fragments of the machine all over the laundry room and described the corresponding sound as being akin to a bomb exploding.

The news outlet has received other reports of similar experiences regarding the Samsung washer. A consumer in Holly Springs, North Carolina discovered that her washing machine had exploded. It was only two months old at the time of the explosion. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has collected over 20 additional reports providing similar accounts of exploding Samsung washing machines. Some of these victims have filed lawsuits against Samsung, seeking damages for their dangerous product. One mother denied an offer of a refund from Samsung, choosing instead to file a product liability action. When asked why she turned down the refund, she indicated that the potential injuries the exploding device could have inflicted on her child were too severe and that she felt compelled to speak out.

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A new study published by the American Association for Cancer Research concluded that the risk of developing cancer as a result of using talcum-based products is higher for African-American women compared to other African-American women who do not use these products. The lead researcher for this study is an epidemiologist based in Virginia. According to the researcher, companies that develop, market, and sell talcum powder products target African-American females when considering how to brand and attract buyers for these items.

What prompted the study was the doctor’s curiosity regarding whether these products actually lead to different types of cancer, including ovarian cancer. The researcher began the study as a self-proclaimed critic, believing that these claims lacked merit. After completing the study, however, Dr. Schildkraut now states that these talc products have a direct link to cancer.

To conduct the study, the doctor assembled a research team that performed interviews of almost 600 African-American women who had ovarian cancer and 745 other women of color who had not been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Overall, some 63 percent of the participants who had been diagnosed with cancer and 53 percent of the participants who had not been diagnosed with cancer were users of talcum powder products. Based on these figures and other conclusions from the study, the doctor determined that using talcum powder products increases a woman’s risk of developing ovarian or another type of cancer.

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Over 360,000 toddlers suffered injuries as a result of falling or tipping over during the years between 1990 and 2010. A Poland-based manufacturer called Lenny Lamb has recently come under fire for problems and risks associated with its Lenny Lamb brand child carriers. The company recently issued a recall for its buckle onbu infant carrier, even though it has not received any reports of specific injuries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has not received any reports or information regarding injuries either.

According to media reports, nearly 1,000 of the onbu carriers were missing a key component. The carriers feature a strap used to secure the device, in which the infant is placed, to the wearer’s body. The affected products are missing internal stitching that ensures the child stays inside the sling device. The device is intended to be worn with the infant carried on the wearer’s back. This means that if the device fails, and the infant falls, the wearer will have a difficult time reacting quickly enough to save the child from harm.

The carrier also features a hood, interior adjustable panel, and shoulder pads. It retails for roughly $90. Affected units were sold online at Bibetts, Lenny Lamb, 5 Minute Recess, Cozy Cuties, and a variety of other outlets between May 2016 and June 2016. To learn more about which units may be affected by the product defect, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

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In the recent case of Hosford v. BRK Brands, Inc., the Supreme Court of the State of Alabama considered whether a smoke detector manufacturer could be held liable for the death of the plaintiffs’ daughter, resulting from a fire in the family’s mobile home. The defendant in the lawsuit manufactured two smoke alarms that had been installed in the family’s mobile home prior to when the fire took place. In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the manufacturer designed the smoke alarms in a defective manner and failed to provide sufficient warnings about the dangers associated with the fire alarms.

During the litigation, the plaintiffs conceded that one of the smoke detectors made an alerting sound at the time the fire began. However, they contended that the alarm did not sound soon enough to ensure that the occupants could exit the mobile home safely, which would have required rescuing their daughter before exiting.

The plaintiffs’ complaint included numerous causes of action against the defendant, including a breach of warranty claim, a failure to warn claim, and a negligence claim. They also asserted a product liability claim, which imposes a strict liability standard on the defendant. At the close of trial, the trial court judge concluded that the plaintiffs had only provided enough evidence to support their product liability claim. The jury deliberated and returned a verdict in the defendants’ favor. The plaintiffs appealed.

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Monsanto is a major chemical producer that primarily provides chemical inputs to farmers and other agricultural operations. One of its most common products that can even be found in some urban dwellers’ pantries is Roundup, a chemical used to kill certain weeds. The main ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate. This chemical is applied to genetically modified crops that are engineered to withstand Roundup, allowing the chemical to kill other weeds and unwanted plants.

According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In response to many of these claims and other criticism over glyphosate’s allegedly harmful attributes, Monsanto insists that Roundup is “safe enough to drink.” In 2015, Monsanto reported receiving $4.8 billion in sales from Roundup alone.

A recent lawsuit is challenging Monsanto’s claims regarding Roundup’s safety. According to four farmers from Nebraska, the chemical has caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This disease is a form of cancer that originates in the lymphocytes that comprise a part of the body’s immune system. These lymph nodes and other lymphatic tissue like the spleen and bone marrow are a vital part of the body and can act as a conduit to spread cancer cells elsewhere.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently issued a safety alert for Wen hair conditioner products. According to the federal agency, these products may result in severe breakage, balding, rashes, itching, and hair loss. The products are the subject of ongoing litigation that was commenced in 2014 through a class action lawsuit. The low-lather conditioners, which were developed by celebrity stylist Chaz Dean, have been the subject of over 127 FDA complaints from consumers.

According to the safety alert, this issue constitutes the most reported adverse event associated with a hair product. In addition to the 127 complaints sent to the FDA, roughly 21,000 complaints were delivered to Chaz Dean, Inc., by consumers who used the product and experienced negative consequences.

The FDA safety alert states that the reason behind the adverse side effects is unknown and that the company that makes Wen cleansing conditioner products has been asked to provide data that could help the consumer safety agency determine the issue. There are a variety of ingredients in the products, many of which are harmless. Chamomile, aloe vera, soy protein, and almond oil are examples. A few ingredients are not as benign, like methylisothiazolinone and methlchloroisothiazolinone. Both of these preservatives have been associated with eye, skin, and lung irritations. The Environmental Working Group prepared a report about the side effects and dangers associated with these preservatives.

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Some products pose obvious dangers to our well-being, like kitchen appliances, cars, and sporting equipment. When seemingly harmless objects cause serious injuries to us or our loved ones, it can be quite alarming. Recently, international furniture and home goods retailer IKEA initiated a recall of 29 million chests and dressers that have been linked to at least six child deaths that date all the way back to 1989, as well as at least 36 injuries. Based in Sweden, IKEA is the largest retailer of furniture in the world. The accidents occur when the dressers’ drawers are pulled out and children climb on the drawers like a staircase. The weight of the child tips the dresser or chest over and crushes them beneath it.

The chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Elliot F. Kaye, stated that the furniture is simply too dangerous to keep in your household if you do not properly anchor it to the wall, particularly if you have young kids in the house. Lars Petersson, the president and CEO of IKEA USA, issued a statement saying that the furniture was never intended to be used without the anchoring equipment, which secures the dressers and chests to the walls against which they are placed. In a recent interview, Petersson said, “If you are assembling correctly, the product is actually a very safe product.”

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