Manufacturers have a legal obligation to design and manufacture safe products that do not injure consumers. A manufacturer’s duty follows the benefit of using our system of commerce on product sales.
When a manufacturer makes an unreasonably dangerous product that seriously injures someone, they can be liable for the damages caused by their product. There are three common types of product liability claims:
In the 1970s, Ford manufactured a subcompact economy car it called the Pinto. After the Pinto was being sold to the public, it became apparent that it contained a serious design defect. The location and composition of the gas tank made the Pinto vulnerable to combustion if rear-ended.
The cars would often explode into a fireball and many victims were severely burned.
Shockingly, Ford executives met and decided it would be less expensive for them to settle personal injury lawsuits than to recall the vehicles and fix the design defect. This was a terrible corporate decision on many levels.
Only after 27 people were killed (many estimates are in the hundreds), hundreds of others injured, and dozens of lawsuits filed did Ford recall the defective vehicles. It was too late. The horror was done and Pinto ceased production in 1980.
As with any type of defective design lawsuit, in order for plaintiffs to receive compensation, they had to show their injuries were caused by the defective design. For example, a Pinto driver who drove too fast and ran off the road would not collect based on allegations of the defective design, which would have had nothing to do with that particular accident or subsequent injury.
A manufacturing error occurs when the error was not part of the design and was not intended. According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, it occurs when the “product departs from its intended design and is more dangerous than consumers expect the product to be.”
One frequent example given is that of a motor scooter which left the factory and was missing its brake pads. This would not be a design flaw, but a manufacturing error. The product did not have the safety feature - brake pads - and was thus unreasonably dangerous. If you were injured in an accident when the brakes failed because the pads were missing, the manufacturer would be liable for your injuries.
Failure to Warn
Johnson & Johnson, manufacturer of baby powder, has been getting a lot of press in the last few years, but not in a good way. Multiple lawsuits have been filed, and many large jury awards rendered to women who contracted ovarian cancer from allegedly using the baby powder as a feminine hygiene product.
The allegations are that studies from many years ago showed a link between the use of talcum powder in the genital region and ovarian cancer. Even though Johnson & Johnson was aware of the studies, the company failed to warn users of the possibility of them contracting the life-threatening cancer. One other manufacturer of talcum powder did warn its users. This warning has been used in court to show that Johnson & Johnson also knew of the dangers and should have warned.
Johnson & Johnson’s response has been to repeatedly deny that there is a connection, therefore, it had no duty to warn.
Other Defective Design, Manufacture or Failure to Warn Problems
Frequently, consumers are warned about a product that has been recalled as unsafe. On October 24, 2017, Fisher-Price recalled 63,000 Soothing Motion Seats for babies. The item is a jumper seat with a motor. When turned on, the motor bounces, jumps and sways to soothe the baby. It also has a tendency to overheat and, in at least one instance, catch fire.
In 2016, Ikea was forced to recall 27 million dressers due to a design defect. Several toddlers were killed, in separate instances, when the toddler climbed on an open bottom drawer which caused the dresser to topple over on top of him or her.
Contact a Product Liability Attorney
If you were injured, or someone you love was killed, and the cause of the injury or death was directly due to a defective product, you need the assistance of our experienced product liability attorneys at The Blumenshine Law Group. We are skilled in defective product litigation. Contact us as soon as possible for a free consultation at (312)766-1000 or email at [email protected].