Articles Posted in Products Liability

Recent studies by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report that 212,500 vehicle fires caused nearly 600 deaths and injuries in the United States in 2018. Key findings of the study indicated that mechanical failures, electrical failures, and collisions were the leading causes of vehicle fires. Vehicle fires caused 4.5 times the number of deaths as nonresidential structure fires and 1.6 times the number of apartment fire deaths. Those that suffer injuries in a Maryland vehicle fire should consult with an attorney to determine their rights and remedies.

The harrowing data imparts how critical it is for vehicle manufacturers to engage in safety measures to prevent vehicle fires. Recently, BMW announced a recall involving more than a million vehicles. The company cited issues with the engine ventilation system in these vehicles; the faulty system can cause the car to catch fire. The recall involves nearly 1 million sedans and SUVs in the United States and thousands more in other parts of the world.

The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explained that these vehicles are prone to an electrical short in their valve heaters. Over time the irregularity can lead to overheating and even cause a fire. The fire can occur regardless of whether the car is driven or parked. The company advises drivers who smell smoke or burning plastic or view smoke wafting from the engine to pull over, shut the engine, and exit the car.

For many Americans, soda and juice products are essentials for their household. In fact, you may restock them several times a month when you do your regular grocery shopping. Whether you or your children drink orange juice with breakfast or enjoy a canned soda as a midday refreshment, many families have a variety of beverages in their homes. Many people specifically purchase products from brands like Coca-Cola because of their trust in an established beverage brand and the quality and consistency of their products. What happens, however, when these beverages have undisclosed foreign substances that could harm your health?

According to a recent news report, Coca-Cola announced two recall actions involving drinks potentially contaminated by foreign substances. Minute Maid, which is owned by Coca-Cola, noted that Berry Punch, Strawberry Lemonade, and its Fruit Punch flavored drinks are sold in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Maine, and New Jersey were impacted by the recall. Coca-Cola and Sprite also issued a similar recall caused by foreign substances recently, which involved 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola and Sprite. Because approximately 7,000 cases of these drinks were sold before the recall and the products will not expire until 2022, they may still be in some consumers’ homes. Thus, if you have purchased any of these flavors of drinks from Minute Maid or Coca-Cola recently, you should stop consuming them immediately and seek a refund or dispose of the products.

Unfortunately, because many of these Coca-Cola products were sold in Maryland, the recall may affect Maryland residents. Sellers and manufacturers of products are required to ensure that their products are safe for consumption or use and that they will not cause any injury. When a seller or manufacturer distributes or sells their products, they essentially create a contract with the consumer that the product that is being purchased is as advertised. If a consumer is then injured by a defective or unreasonably dangerous product, they may have grounds to file a products liability claim.

Maryland product liability laws govern many situations involving consumers or patients who suffer injuries because of a defective or dangerous object. These lawsuits may arise after a consumer suffers injuries or damages from a defective product. Recently, the Coca-Cola Company announced a recall of certain Minute Maid products after receiving reports of foreign objects in their products.

Under the law, foreign objects in food refer to situations when users discover an object in their drink or food. The item is generally one that the consumer would not expect to be in their meal or drink. Some common examples of a foreign object may include:

  • Metal;

Medical devices often play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating serious medical conditions. However, patients who use defective or dangerous medical devices may end up in a less desirable position than they started. Companies whose products cause harm to patients may be liable under Maryland’s product liability laws. While a defective product lawsuit may not make a person whole again or undo the harm they experienced, it can relieve some financial burdens.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a recall statement alerting those who use specific Philips ventilators, CPAP, and BiPAP machines. The recall follows a June 2021 safety report that advised healthcare providers and consumers that these devices may pose potential health risks. The FDA’s investigation in conjunction with the company’s testing revealed that foam degradation in the product is toxic and might emit carcinogens. Philips explained that the foam might release toxic fumes and particles that users may swallow or inhale. While the company stated that they were replacing and repairing the machines, the process may take upwards of a year. Further testing also showed that the replacement foam poses many of the same risks as the original product.

Many users have reported injuries related to defective machines, such as:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Brain Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Respiratory Distress System
  • Heart Failure and Attack
  • Liver Cancer, Damage, and DIsease
  • Lung Cancer, Damage, and Disease

These injuries can have lifelong consequences on the user and their loved ones. In addition to these conditions come users reported side effects such as:

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The manufacturers of consumer products have a duty to perform reasonable tests to ensure that their product is safe for use. In the event that a product may be dangerous to use, manufacturers are required to adequately warn consumers of the dangers that are known. manufacturers can be held accountable for significant damages in the event that their products harm people. If manufacturers fail to disclose known risks of a product, they could be required to pay damages well in excess of the actual harm caused to a victim by their product. The California Court of Appeals recently affirmed a substantial verdict against Monsanto, the manufacturer of the popular weed control product Roundup, which contained a significant amount of punitive damages against the company.

The plaintiffs in the recently decided case are a married couple who used roundup on their properties from the 1980s until 2015. Based on the information contained in the packaging and from advertisements, the plaintiffs did not think that Roundup was a dangerous chemical, and they used it liberally on their properties without gloves or other protective equipment. After using the product for years, both plaintiffs developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that has been linked to the use of Roundup and other herbicides. The plaintiffs sued the defendant in state court, alleging that the product was dangerous and defective and that the defendant failed to warn consumers about dangers that they knew of.

During a six-week trial, witnesses testified that the defendant had access to information that their product caused cancer, and failed to warn consumers of the risk. Additionally, witnesses testified that the use of gloves and other safety equipment could significantly reduce the risk of cancer, however, the product label did not advise consumers to use protective equipment. Witnesses also testified that the plaintiffs’ use of Roundup was a substantial contributing factor in the development of their cancer. The jury ultimately ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on all claims, initially awarding tens of millions of compensatory damages and $2 billion in punitive damages against the company. The punitive damages were reduced by the court, and the final verdict totaled approximately $86 million.

A product recall may allow consumers who purchased the recalled product to have the product replaced, repaired, and/or refunded, depending on the recall. Yet, those remedies often do not compensate consumers to the extent of their injuries. Even if a consumer is able to receive a replacement, repair, or refund through a recall, an affected consumer still is able to seek compensation through a Maryland product liability claim.

There are different types of product liability claims that may be filed based on a defective product. In a strict liability claim, a plaintiff must show that the product was defective when it left the defendant’s control, its condition did not substantially change before it reached the consumer, the product was unreasonably dangerous, and the defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries. A plaintiff does not need to show that the defendant acted negligently in some way in a strict liability claim. A strict liability claim may be based on the defective manufacturing, defective design, or inadequate warnings or instructions of the product. A product liability claim may also be based on general negligence principles or breach of warranty.

A product must contain sufficient warnings and instructions for the proper use and risks of using the product. The warnings must be clear and easy to understand. However, warnings and instructions may not protect companies from liability if a product is unsafe if used in a way that is to be expected.

Roundup weedkiller has been used for years as a pesticide. The pesticide, manufactured by Monsanto, uses the active ingredient glyphosate, which many claim causes cancer. In a recent decision that has implications for Maryland injury victims and Roundup users, a federal appeals court upheld a jury verdict finding that Roundup caused the plaintiff’s cancer.

The plaintiff in the case used Roundup for years on his land in California and alleged that his use of Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The trial was held in 2019 and the jury awarded the plaintiff over $5 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages. The court subsequently reduced the punitive damages award to $20 million. Two similar cases were heard in 2018 and 2019 and the juries also found in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding them millions of dollars.

On appeal, Monsanto argued in part that it did not know and could not have known that glyphosate caused cancer in 2012 when the plaintiff stopped using Roundup. However, the appeals court found there was sufficient evidence supporting a link between glyphosate and cancer that it could have known the information in 2012. For example, in 1985, the EPA found glyphosate was a possible human carcinogen. Although it changed its designation to “non-carcinogenic” in 1991, there were various studies that linked glyphosate and cancer during the 1990s. Monsanto later hired a genotoxicologist who found evidence that glyphosate might be genotoxic and recommended that Monsanto conduct tests on Roundup’s genotoxicity. Other studies that linked glyphosate and cancer were also released by 2012. Thus, there was sufficient evidence that the link between glyphosate and cancer was “knowable” by 2012.

When we buy products from the store, we expect them to be safe. Some products, however, are defective and can injure consumers. Sometimes, products are defectively designed. Other times, the design is safe, but a mistake was made during manufacturing that made the product dangerous. When these issues arise and injure people, those who are responsible can be held accountable.

In a recent state Supreme Court decision, the court considered a defective design products liability claim. An electric terminal manufacturer produced two functionally identical products for the same cost for over a decade, but the older of the two designs were more susceptible to failure. When a corporate affiliate of the manufacturer chose to use the older version when manufacturing new air conditioning products, a technician experienced severe burns when the product ignited and overheated. A jury concluded that the older design was unreasonably dangerous, and the failure of the manufacturer to warn of this hazard caused the technician’s injury. The manufacturer appealed.

On appeal, the state Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision and held that the jury’s finding of a design defect did not result in an improper verdict. To find that a defective design caused an individual’s injuries, a plaintiff must prove that (1) the product was defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous, (2) a safer alternative existed, and (3) the defect was the cause of the injury. Because the jury found that the product was unreasonably dangerous and caused the technician’s injuries and that the manufacturer failed to adequately provide warnings about potential hazards, the Supreme Court affirmed. In addition, since there was another product that was functionally identical but less susceptible to failure, all three factors were met.

When looking at the various forms of contraceptive care available, some women choose the Paragard intrauterine device (IUD), a copper device inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy for up to ten years. The makers of the IUD claim that it is safe and effective, and many women who have one inserted experience no complications. But dozens of lawsuits claim that there are problems with the device, particularly in regard to its removal. It is important for women to know that, if they are injured due to a defect in their Paragard IUD, they may be able to recover financially against the developer or manufacturer of the product in a Maryland product liability lawsuit.

Many lawsuits have already been filed, and in December of last year, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated them into the Northern District of Georgia. As of February of this year, over 120 lawsuits are pending. These lawsuits make clear that some women have experienced significant injuries from Paragard, specifically when they went to have it removed. Lawyers claim that Paragard’s design is defective and that the device has a tendency to break upon removal. As a result, pieces of the device can go missing inside the uterus, or get lodged into an organ. Some women have experienced allergic reactions to the pieces left in the body, inflammation in the area, or infections. Others have experienced perforation of organs, including the uterus and cervix, and a loss of fertility. Some women even require surgery to remove broken pieces.

All of these injuries are significant and a cause for concern. They also highlight the importance of personal injury and product liability lawsuits. When someone suffers these injuries, they may be totally unprepared, and unsure what to do. The injuries can take a major toll—physically and financially. One day, everything is fine and the next the patient may be saddled with huge medical bills, a need for future follow-up care, and confusion about what happened. There may also be significant pain and suffering. The difficulty of these situations is exactly why so many Maryland patients injured by medical devices decide to file a personal injury lawsuit. The designers and manufacturers of these devices can be held liable when they are defective and hurt someone. While it does not undo the damage that has been done, it does provide some remedy, usually monetary damages. These damages at least ensure the patient is not struggling financially while recovering physically.

In a Maryland strict liability case, a plaintiff must show that there was a defect in the product that existed when the product left the defendant’s control, that the defect makes the product unreasonably dangerous, the defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and that it was foreseeable that the product would be in such condition when it reached the consumer. A defect may include the failure to warn a consumer of the risks involved in using the product.

In considering a strict liability claim, a court will consider whether the plaintiff proved that the defendant’s conduct actually caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In cases where only one negligent act is at issue, Maryland courts consider whether but-for the defendant’s conduct, the injuries would not have occurred. In cases where two or more independent acts caused the plaintiff’s injury, Maryland courts consider whether it is more likely than not that the defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injuries. A defendant may also try to defend against a strict liability claim by attempting to shift the blame on the consumer. A defendant may be successful if can show that the consumer was negligent by voluntarily and unreasonably confronting a known danger.

In a recent product liability case before a federal appeals court, the court considered whether the plaintiff had sufficiently proven a strict liability claim. In that case, the plaintiff rented an electric drain rodder from the Home Depot to unclog a drain in his home. He was using the device at home and because the powered reverse did not work, he tried to remove the cable by hand. The cable wrapped around his arm and he was thrown to the ground. His hand was badly injured and most of his right index finger had to be amputated. The plaintiff sued the Home Depot and the product manufacturer for negligence, breach of warranty, and strict product liability.

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