Articles Posted in Products Liability

Causation is an essential part of any Maryland accident case, and in a recent case before a federal appeals court, the court considered whether Apple could be held liable for allegedly causing a devastating car crash. These types of issues can happen in Maryland too. If you have questions, reach out to a dedicated Maryland car accident attorney without delay.

The issue before the federal appeals court was whether a driver’s neurobiological response to a smartphone notification could be the cause-in-fact of a car crash. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, a woman was driving her car in 2013 when she received a text message on her iPhone. She looked down to read the text message, and when she looked back to the road, she was too late to avoid crashing into another car. The two adults in the other car died, and a child was rendered paraplegic.

Representatives of the victims of the crash sued Apple for negligence and strict products liability. The plaintiffs claimed that the accident was caused by Apple’s failure to warn iPhone users about the risks of distracted driving. The plaintiffs claimed that Apple was at fault because receipt of a text message triggers “an unconscious and automatic, neurobiological compulsion to engage in texting behavior.” Evidently, in 2008, Apple had obtained a patent for “[l]ock-out mechanisms for driver handheld computing devices,” which was meant to address the serious dangers of text messaging while driving. However, Apple did not include any version of the lock-out mechanism on the iPhone 5, the phone the woman was using at the time of the crash.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing several important issues that frequently arise in Maryland product liability cases. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s misuse of the defendant’s product constituted a complete defense to the plaintiff’s claim. The court concluded that it did and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant manufacturer.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff owned a die grinder manufactured by the defendant. The grinder was an air-powered tool that was compatible with various attachments and was designed for a variety of applications. According to the court’s opinion, the grinder contained an instruction manual indicating that all instructions should be read before using the product and “failure to comply with instructions could result in personal injury.”

Evidently, the manual instructed users only to use the cut-off wheel attachment when a safety guard is in place. Additionally, the instructions indicated that only attachments that were rated up to 25,000 revolutions per minute (RPM) should be used. The manual also instructed users to wear safety glasses at all times while using the product. The grinder did not come with a safety guard.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important issue that frequently comes up in Maryland product liability cases involving defective or unsafe food products. The case required the court to determine the appropriate standard by which a plaintiff’s food-poisoning case is held to at the summary judgment level. Ultimately, the court concluded that food-poisoning cases are no different from any other type of negligence case, and plaintiffs bringing this type of case should not be held to a higher burden. If you believe you’ve experienced an injury as a result of a defect in some mass-produced product, it’s beneficial to have a Maryland products liability attorney at your side to evaluate your case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were two wedding guests who became very ill after eating the food at a wedding rehearsal dinner that was catered by the defendant restaurant. In support of their claim, the plaintiffs presented evidence showing that one of the plaintiffs tested positive for salmonella, that other wedding guests also tested positive for salmonella, that other guests began feeling ill around the same time as the plaintiffs, and that a total of 16-20 other guests reported eventually feeling ill.

The defendant restaurant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs were unable to establish that their illness was caused by the defendant’s food. In support of its position, the restaurant argued that the plaintiffs ate food that was prepared by others around the same time that they consumed the defendant’s food, that the plaintiffs did not experience any symptoms until three days after they ate the food, and that there were many other wedding guests who ate the food but did not become ill.

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Earlier this month, the Federal Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit issued a written opinion in a personal injury lawsuit affirming a jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The case presents important issues for Maryland accident victims in that it illustrates the “failure to warn” theory of product liability.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a crane operator who worked in a whip yard. One day, the plaintiff was working to move the bow of a ship with several other cranes in what is called a “tandem lift” involving multiple cranes.  The lift began as planned, but at some point during the process, two of the cranes began to separate from one another.

As the cranes separated, the stack of counterweights on the crane being operated by the plaintiff began to shift. This caused one of the 18,000-pound counterweights to crash into the cab area of the crane, knocking the plaintiff out of the cab to the concrete eight feet below. The plaintiff survived, but suffers from serious, lifelong physical and mental disabilities.

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Some Maryland personal injury cases present simple issues that are within the common understanding of the jurors. However, other cases present complex scientific or medical issues that may require the presentation of an expert witness who is familiar with that particular area.

It is important for Maryland personal injury plaintiffs to understand the law governing when an expert is necessary and the procedural requirements that arise when a party intends on calling an expert witness. A recent appellate opinion illustrates the consequences of not fully complying with the procedural rules pertaining to expert witnesses.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff asked her doctor to implant an intrauterine device (IUD) in her uterus as a long-term birth-control option. The plaintiff’s doctor agreed, and implanted the device in 2013.

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When a manufacturer markets a product to the public, it is expected that the statements made by the manufacturer are at least based on truth. While it is true that the law does allow for manufacturers to exaggerate, or “puff,” some claims regarding a product’s effectiveness, when it comes to matters of safety, all statements made must be true. In fact, a manufacturer’s failure to adequately warn of safety risks may be the basis of a Maryland product liability lawsuit. This is because, under Maryland law, a defective or non-existent warning is considered a product defect.

Maryland law subscribes to the “strict liability” method when determining liability under a failure-to-warn analysis. This means that, regardless of a company’s knowledge or negligence, the company can still be liable for injuries that were caused by the company’s failure to warn consumers of a product’s dangerousness.

Recent Study Suggest E-Cigarettes May Not Be a Safe Alternative to Smoking

As the dangers involved with smoking cigarettes have become more known and appreciated among all ages and demographics in the United States, more and more people are shifting to e-cigarettes because they have been marketed as a safer alternative to smoking. However, earlier this year, a team of researchers based out of New York University’s School of Medicine released a study uncovering some potential health risks of e-cigarette use – or “vaping.”

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Recent cases in the past year have resulted in several significant awards for plaintiffs who have developed ovarian cancer after using baby powder, increasing the question of risks surrounding the use of the product. Many baby powders are made with talcum powder, which is created from crushed talc, a mineral. Talcum powder absorbs moisture and is used in baby powder for that reason.

Generally, litigation has arisen from women who regularly used talcum powder in their genital area and developed ovarian cancer. Studies have shown different results, and there is no consensus on whether talc increases the risk of ovarian cancer. However, different studies over the years have raised serious concerns for consumers. One study found particles of talc embedded in ovarian and cervical tumors, leading to questions of a connection. One more recent study found a 44 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer among African-American women. The International Agency for Research on Cancer says that genital use of talc-based body powder is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Two lawsuits earlier this year resulted in high jury verdicts against the company. One woman was awarded $55 million, and the other was awarded $72 million. And in a recent case, another woman was awarded over $70 million.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a product liability case against Kia Motor Corporation (Kia), based on the fact that the plaintiff presented no admissible expert testimony to meet the required elements. In the case, Sims v. Kia Motors of America, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision that the plaintiffs’ experts were unreliable, and thus their testimony was inadmissible. The court held that without the expert testimony, the plaintiffs were unable to prove their case, and it was properly dismissed.

The Facts of the Case

Sims was a backseat passenger in a 2010 Kia Soul. The driver of the Soul was involved in an accident that caused the vehicle to spin, colliding with several objects. At some point, the Soul collided with the immovable base of a “yield” sign. As the vehicle came in contact with the base of the sign, it sliced through the front bumper and pierced the gas tank. The vehicle began to leak gas.

The driver and front passenger were able to escape the car through their respective doors. However, the backseat passengers were unable to exit the vehicle because the rear doors were jammed. Shortly after the collision, the car went up in flames. Sims perished in the fire.

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In a recent case in front of a state appellate court, a jury’s verdict in favor of a manufacturer of an allegedly defective smoke detector was affirmed, leaving the plaintiffs with no means of recourse. In the case, Hosford v. BRK Brands, the plaintiffs’ allegations were all based on various product liability themes, but since the plaintiffs failed to present the necessary evidence at trial and on appeal, the case was lost.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a nine-year-old girl who perished when the family’s mobile home caught fire. Several of the family members were in one room when the fire started. The young girl was in a separate room. After a slow, smoldering fire started as a result of an electrical malfunction, two of the alarms that had been installed in the mobile home went off, alerting the family. Since the fire had already started to spread by the time the alarm went off, the family was not able to rescue the nine-year-old girl.

The surviving family members filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the smoke detector, arguing that the detector’s technology was insufficient to give early warnings of slow, smoldering fires rather than a faster, hotter fire. There were several related claims filed by the plaintiffs, all making various arguments under a product liability theory, such as failure to warn, defective design, negligence, and breach of warranty.

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Under a product liability theory, manufacturers can be held liable for dangerous products that they release into the stream of commerce. However, not only can manufacturers be held liable, but also retailers and distributors may be held liable under certain circumstances. When a court considers a product liability case, there are several factors that may come into play, as was evidenced by a recent case in front of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Parks v. Ariens:  The Facts

Parks was fatally injured when the riding lawnmower he was operating rolled while Parks was negotiating a sloped surface. Parks’ wife then filed a product liability case against the dealer who had sold her husband the lawnmower, arguing that the dealer was negligent in failing to supply the mower with a roll cage and seatbelt.

The defendant answered the claim by explaining that it was not his duty to supply the roll cage and seatbelt. Indeed, the defendant presented evidence that it was his normal practice to ask customers if they want to purchase the roll cage and seatbelt as optional equipment at an additional cost. While there was no documentation that Parks turned down this offer, the dealer explained that it was his normal practice to explain this to his customers, and he could not recall anything different occurring in this case.

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