Articles Posted in Product Liability

According to a recent news report, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that Empower Brands has recalled approximately 469,000 juicers. The CPSC alleges that the company’s Power XL Self-Cleaning Juicers pose laceration and ingestion hazards. To date, there have been over 261 reports of accidents involving the juicers, 47 of which involved “severe cuts requiring emergency treatment” and “ingestion of small particles requiring medical attention.” In particular, the juicers have ruptured and struck consumers during use, potentially leading to lacerations. The juicers have also left small particle shavings in the juice that could pose health issues to consumers. Between September 2020 and August 2022, the recalled juicers appeared in major retailers, including Walmart, CVS, and Target.

What Types of Product Liability Form the Basis for a Lawsuit?

In Maine, a consumer who suffers injuries from a defective product can bring three main types of product liability claims. First, a consumer can bring a manufacturing defect claim. This type of claim alleges that a company made a product improperly, such as using the incorrect materials. Typically, a manufacturing defect occurs when a company produces a “bad batch” of a product rather than affecting every product on the market. For example, a company may have designed a blender to be safe, but due to a manufacturing defect, one blender may have a loose blade that injures a consumer.

Alternatively, a consumer may allege a design defect. These claims allege that, even if the company perfectly manufactured the product, it contained a fundamental design flaw that led to the consumer’s harm. A classic example of a design defect is a poorly designed safety guard on an electric tool that fails to guard against injuries. Unlike a manufacturing defect, a design flaw affects all products before manufacturing even begins.

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Anyone who has watched a hockey game in person is probably aware of the ubiquitous Zamboni ice resurfacing machine. The Zamboni is a vehicle similar to a commercial or industrial floor cleaner, which smooths the ice surface to make it appropriate for a professional hockey game. The standard Zamboni, which has been used for decades, runs on an internal combustion engine and emits known carcinogens in its exhaust. When used in a semi-enclosed space over extended periods of time, Zambonis may present a health risk to anyone regularly present while the machines are in use. Two athletic trainers for the Philadelphia Flyers professional hockey team have filed a lawsuit against the team and facilities, alleging they have developed health problems as a result of the defendants’ unsafe use of Zambonis.

According to the facts discussed in a local news report describing the recently filed case, the two plaintiffs have been employed by the team for over 15 years, and each was repeatedly exposed to the Zamboni machines extensively while the teams were practicing. The plaintiffs’ claims allege that each of the men developed essential thrombocythemia, which is a rare blood disorder that may be linked to the carcinogens present in the Zamboni exhaust. One of the plaintiffs has also developed a type of blood cancer that may be linked to the chemicals The plaintiffs further allege that the defendants knew or should have known of the carcinogenic risk from using the Zambonis as they did. Furthermore, the plaintiffs noted that there are effective alternatives to a Zamboni that do not utilize an internal combustion engine that emits carcinogens, and such machinery could have should have been used instead of the Zambonis.

Although the case has only recently been filed and the defendants have responded that the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit, the plaintiffs may be entitled to a significant settlement or judgment if they can demonstrate that the defendants knew of the dangers to the plaintiffs, kept them in the dark about it, and repeatedly allowed them to be exposed to the dangerous chemicals. When exposure to dangerous chemicals results in permanent health problems, the damages awarded can be substantial.

Recently, Abbot Nutrition, a division of the medical device and manufacturing company Abbott Laboratories announced a voluntary recall in the wake of multiple reports that several of its powdered baby formulas were making children sick. According to a recent report by CNN, on February 17, 2022, the company recalled certain lots of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powdered infant formulas. However, later that month the company also recalled additional lots of its Similac 60/40 formula.

The concerns surrounding the baby food recall are that several infants developed rare and otherwise unexplainable infections after they consumed these various formulas. More specifically, infants were diagnosed with Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella Newport.

Cronobacter sakazakii is a type of bacteria that is hazardous to adults, but especially dangerous to children. It is commonly found in certain consumable products, such as powdered baby formula and tea bags. However, if an infant is exposed to Cronobacter sakazakii, they can become very sick and even die. In fact, there are at least two reports of young children who died related to Cronobacter sakazakii infections after they consumed Abbott Labs’ formula.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides leadership and guidance on natural resources, food, agriculture, nutrition, and biological products. Many Maine product liability lawsuits follow consumer complaints to the FDA. While the agency is responsible for protecting the public, many products slip through until consumers suffer an adverse side effect. Some dangerous products even remain available but receive a “black box” warning.

The FDA issues black box warnings to alert the public about prescriptions or medical devices that pose serious and life-threatening side effects. The warnings often include specific warnings to vulnerable populations, such as infants, pregnant women, and older adults. The FDA works in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies to study the products before issuing a warning. These warnings generally follow post-market studies; in other words, the warnings come after significant numbers of consumers have already used the product. Even though the product may pose serious dangers, the benefits may outweigh the risks in some cases. Individuals who consume products with a black box warning should consult with their physician to determine the appropriate amount of monitoring.

While black-box warnings have many implications for prescribing physicians and pharmacies, they may also impact a Maine product liability lawsuit. Drug companies often resist these warnings to preserve sales; however, the warnings may also protect them from certain lawsuits. Many common medicines have black box warnings, such as antidepressants, anticoagulants, diabetes medications, and antibiotics.

Every year thousands of people suffer injuries because of dangerous or defective products. In some cases, the products have been on the market for years before consumers become aware of the dangers. Those who have suffered injuries because of a product defect should contact a Maine product liability attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

Maine product liability lawsuits typically stem from defective manufacturing, defective design, or inadequate marketing. Claims involving failure to warn typically fall under marketing defect claims. Historically, the most well-known product liability lawsuits fall under failure to warn claims. For example, the monumental lawsuits against asbestos and tobacco manufacturers fall under a failure to warn theory.

A marketing defect is a danger created by a manufacturer’s failure to warn consumers of the potential hazards of using a product. Under state and federal laws, manufacturers have a duty to warn consumers of common dangers and risks associated with using their products. The company must clearly convey these warnings to consumers on the product’s labels or inserts.

Recently, an appeals court issued a decision in a case against Amazon that may upend the way courts evaluate Maine product liability lawsuits involving online retailers. The incident giving rise to the claim began when a woman purchased a defective hoverboard from a third-party seller on Amazon. The product caught on fire, causing the woman to suffer severe burns. The woman filed a lawsuit against several parties, including a strict liability lawsuit against Amazon. In response, Amazon moved for summary judgment, arguing that their case was distinguishable from prior cases holding the eCommerce site liable because they did not ever possess the hoverboard.

Despite the distinction, the court reviewed the case under the principles of prior holdings, such as the Bolger decision. The court reasoned that the online retailer operated on a business model that places itself in between the seller and consumer. Amazon contended that Bolger should not apply because it was not decided correctly and does not comport with the modern economy. However, the court found that the holding can reasonably extend to modern product liability concerns.

In the alternative, the court found that Amazon may be liable under the “stream of commerce” model. This approach applies in situations when the product liability defendant is not in the direct chain of distribution. It imposes liability based on the financial benefit the defendant obtains from the transaction, their role in providing the product to the public, and their influence on manufacturing the product. The court opined that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether those factors apply in this case.

When it comes to our health, we all deserve to trust the products that we use to maintain or improve our well-being. Because some of these products often touch on the most intimate parts of our lives, it is crucial that consumers can safely rely on manufacturers to produce and market safe products for our use. When health-related products such as medical devices end up hurting us rather than helping us, however, the manufacturers of those products must be held accountable.

According to a report from a consumer advocacy organization, IUD-related product liability lawsuits have been taking place with greater frequency in recent years. The Paragard IUD, which has been circulating the market since its initial approval in 1984, is a copper birth control device that prevents pregnancy. The device has been marketed as convenient for patients on the go, easy to insert, and easy to remove.

In recent years, however, dozens of lawsuits have emerged as a result of the device. Products liability suits alleging issues with the IUD’s manufacturing, labeling, marketing, and development have arisen, especially as manufacturers have continued to sell the device despite knowing that it could break during removal. Many patients who have had the IUD break during removal have filed claims alleging that pieces are missing or lodged in their organs or that breakage has resulted in allergic reactions, infection, loss of fertility, pain, and even surgery to remove broken pieces.

In the United States, the 14th Amendment of the Constitution’s Due Process Clause limits a state court’s ability to exercise jurisdiction over a defendant. Whether a particular state, such as Maine, has the authority to have jurisdiction over a defendant to hear a case involving them depends on whether the defendant has established sufficient “contacts” with the state where the suit takes place.

Whether the state is equipped to hear the case frequently also turns on whether hearing the claim would be “reasonable” and whether it would interfere with “fair play and substantial justice.” Thus, jurisdiction is a frequently debated issue in courts when defendants claim that plaintiffs have no grounds to bring claims against them in particular states because the defendants do not have enough of a presence in the state in question and thus cannot be subject to the court’s power.

In a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, the court considered a product liability suit that focused on jurisdiction issues. Two separate cases, one filed in Montana, and the other in Minnesota, alleged that defective Ford vehicles resulted in the death and injury of these two plaintiffs. Ford moved to dismiss the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Most parents and caregivers have come across the headlines regarding the concerning amounts of heavy metals in toddler juices and infant cereals, pouches, and puffs. Unlike typical Maine food poisoning lawsuits, claims surrounding tainted infant foods may pose more challenges. Families who believe that their child suffered injuries from consuming tainted infant food should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

According to a recent New York Times article, the alarming reports from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform follow a review of internal documents from seven of the largest baby food manufacturers in the country. The request came after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and World Health Organization (WHO) found that heavy metals present in baby foods are dangerous to infants and childrens’ cognitive development. Although many of the companies complied with the request, several declined to participate. The companies’ refusal presents further concerns that these manufacturers may be concealing dangers.

It is important that parents understand that heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury occur naturally in soil and through agricultural practices and manufacturing. However, many of the baby foods included in the study contained unsafe levels. Those who suffer heavy metal poisoning may experience diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, breathing issues, chills, and weaknesses in some situations.

The holiday season, and especially gift-giving, is often a favorite for many individuals. It is especially exciting to see children unwrap new toys that they will play with for months to come. However, when these toys are defective—and parents do not know it when they give them to their children—the children may be hurt by the toy. When a child is injured because the product is defective, they can bring a Maine product liability claim, alleging the defective product caused their injury. Product liability refers to a manufacturer or seller being held liable for placing a dangerous product into a consumer’s hands.

While toys are often seen as fun and enjoyable, there can be major consequences if they are unsafe. In 2018, there were an estimated 226,100 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospitals; 73% of these injuries happened to children 15 years old or younger. Tragically, there were also 17 toy-related deaths that occurred to children that same year. These deaths resulted from non-motorized scooters and riding toys, rubber balls, stuffed toys, and plastic toy food.

Toys—along with other consumer products—are often recalled because they can be dangerous to use. However, when someone is injured because they used the product, the individual, or their loved one if they passed away, may pursue a product liability claim. According to Maine law, a person who sells any products in a defective condition that is unreasonably dangerous to the user or his property is subject to liability for the physical harm caused. There are other requirements to products liability a plaintiff must prove: (1) the injury occurred to a person whom the manufacturer, seller, or supplier might reasonably expect to use, consume, or be affected by the product or to his property; (2) the product is expected to and does reach the user without significant change in condition in which it is sold.

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