Injured by a Defective Product? Who is Responsible?

Scott Blumenshine

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Manufacturers must design and manufacture safe products that do not injure consumers. A manufacturer’s duty follows the benefit of using our commerce system 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:

Design Defects

In the 1970s, Ford manufactured a subcompact economy car it called the Pinto. After the Pinto was 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 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, plaintiffs must show that the design caused their injuries. For example, a Pinto driver who drove too fast and ran off the road would not be compensated based on allegations of the defective design, which would have had nothing to do with that particular accident or subsequent injury.

Manufacturing Errors

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 is a motor scooter that left the factory without 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, the 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 have been rendered to women who contracted ovarian cancer from allegedly using 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 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 been 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. The motor bounces, jumps, and sways to soothe the baby when turned on. It also tends 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. Call or text us as soon as possible for a free consultation at (312)766-1000 or email [email protected].

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