Articles Posted in Products Liability

Over the past decade, (Amazon) has become a household name that many Maryland families rely on to purchase a wide variety of items. The question often comes up whether online retailers like Amazon can be held liable for dangerous products that it sells, and if so, under what theory of liability. A recent federal appellate decision provides some clarity on the issue.

According to the court’s version of the facts, the plaintiffs ordered a hoverboard from Amazon’s website. The hoverboard was not sold or marketed by Amazon. However, at some point, Amazon received reports that the battery packs in many hoverboards – including those sold on its website – were faulty and could suddenly ignite, potentially causing fires.

Amazon decided to issue a warning to its customers who had purchased hoverboards. The notice stated: “There have been news reports of safety issues involving products like the one you purchased that contain rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. As a precaution, we want to share with you some additional information about lithium-ion batteries and safety tips for using products that contain them.”

Each year, thousands of employees are injured in Maryland workplace accidents. While a Maryland workers’ compensation claim may be an injured worker’s sole remedy in some cases, that is not the case when a non-employer third party is responsible for the worker’s injuries. Thus, being able to identify a third party who was responsible for a worker’s injuries may allow an injured worker to pursue a Maryland personal injury case in addition to a workers’ compensation claim.

Product liability claims are common in Maryland third-party workplace accident cases because the dangerous or defective nature of a product rarely implicates an employer’s negligence. A recent case illustrates the type of situation in which an employee may be able to pursue a product liability claim after being injured on the job.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was performing electrical work on a construction site while standing atop a 12-foot ladder. As the plaintiff was working, an air conditioning unit that was anchored into the concrete ceiling came loose, striking the plaintiff. The plaintiff fell off the ladder, landing on the ground. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff sustained serious injuries.

There are many different types of Maryland product liability cases. Some product liability cases involve manufacturing mistakes while others are based on the defective design of a product or that it is unreasonably dangerous. Recently, the manufacturer of Round-Up weed killer has been in the hot seat after thousands of frequent users of the product have developed a specific type of cancer. While the manufacturer of the product claims that the product is safe, others argue that high levels of exposure can result in users developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Currently, a jury is considering phase one of a bellwether trial in San Francisco. A bellwether trial is the first case to proceed to trial that presents an issue that is also presented by many other pending lawsuits that have been filed by plaintiffs who are making similar claims. Thus, the result of a bellwether trial can be incredibly important to how the other subsequent lawsuits proceed. For example, if a judge decides a specific pre-trial motion in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant may be more willing to settle the subsequent cases.

According to a recent news report, the case involves a man who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Round-Up over 300 times in his 26-year career. The man claims that his use of Round-Up throughout his career was a “substantial factor” in causing his cancer. In addition, the plaintiff claims that the manufacturer of the product attempted to influence the public’s perception of the product’s safety by influencing scientists and regulators.

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In Maryland product liability cases, courts will apply one of two tests to determine if the manufacturer can be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Where a product is alleged to have a malfunction, courts will apply the “risk-utility” test. However, when there is no allegation that the product malfunctioned in any way, courts will apply the “consumer expectations” test.

Under a risk-utility analysis, courts consider whether the danger presented by the product is outweighed by its utility. A recent opinion issued by a state appellate court illustrates the application of the risk-utility test.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff purchased a heating pad that was manufactured by the defendant. The plaintiff was using the heating pad as she was lying in bed, and fell asleep while the pad was on. About 90 minutes later, the plaintiff’s roommate came into the plaintiff’s room after noticing a strange smell. As it turns out, the heating pad had burned into the sheets and mattress, ultimately burning the house down. The Fire Chief determined that the heating pad was the cause of the fire.

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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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