Articles Posted in Product Liability

Product liability claims generally arise when an individual suffers injuries as a result of a defective or unreasonably dangerous product. Under Maine product liability law, any person who is a “reasonably expected” user of the defective product may have standing to file a lawsuit, regardless of whether they purchased the product. Further, although many products have limitations on warranties, state law provides that manufacturers and sellers cannot limit the implied warranties on consumer products. It is important to note that the law distinguishes between consumers and commercial purchasers. Despite the broad rights and remedies that consumers have, Maine product liability lawsuits often entail many challenges.

Maine product liability claims are often complicated, especially when the defective product was bought through Amazon, or a similar online retailer. Historically, Amazon maintained protection for defective products purchased through their site. However, the tide has begun to turn, and courts have found that Amazon cannot always shield itself from liability for defective products. This policy shift has occurred mainly after a series of situations where consumers suffered injuries from defective products sold by third-parties. However, lawmakers are now focusing on Amazon’s liability for its own defective merchandise.

A recent news report indicates that senators across the United States are demanding that Amazon recall hazardous Amazon-brand products. Many of these products are marketed under “AmazonBasics.” Safety experts discovered that many defective products remained available for sale, despite reports that they presented fire hazards. Senators wrote to Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, indicating that Amazon’s refusal to remove defective products may pose a serious threat to consumers.

Salmonella is a common bacterium associated with many food-related illnesses in the United States. There are many challenges with containing the bacteria because it cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. Despite the benign presentation of food products containing salmonella, the consequences of ingesting it are often severe. The bacteria often result in salmonellosis, an illness marked by severe gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping. Individuals who suffered illness related to contaminated foods should contact a Maine product liability attorney to discuss options for recovering for their losses.

Although salmonella infections occur infrequently, the contamination can cause serious illnesses leading to hospitalization and even death. Salmonella poisoning is particularly dangerous for medically vulnerable individuals. These populations include pregnant individuals, infants, older adults, and those undergoing treatment for cancer and other serious conditions. Many infections stem from foods processed with contaminated meat and nut butter, raw eggs, dairy products, raw or undercooked meat, and raw fruits and vegetables. Salmonella poisoning occurs more often in the warmer temperatures, as the bacteria grow faster with heat. Further, many people consume a more substantial amount of raw fruits, vegetables and undercooked meats during the warmer months.

For instance, according to a recent news report, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently advised consumers to discard peaches that they believe carry salmonella. After nearly 70 people suffered illnesses related to salmonella contamination, the FDA discovered that the common denominator was peaches packed by a specific company. The packing company explained that the majority of their peaches were sold to one grocery chain, Aldis, but they were distributed to others across 16 states. FDA officials explained that determining the cause of contamination is challenging because contamination can occur at any step of distribution, including picking, transporting, packing, handling, and unloading.

COVID-19 continues to cause medical, financial, and psychological stress on people throughout the United States. In addition to the general fear surrounding the virus, many people, including those residing in Maine nursing homes, face the pandemic’s continued threat. These vulnerable individuals are at risk for serious medical consequences if they contract the coronavirus. Although most nursing homes and assisted living facilities understand the heightened need for health and safety measures, these facilities continue to see a rise in cases and deaths.

Maine nursing homes whose staff do not possess the training, skills, and access to personal protective equipment (PPE) to safely care for the facility’s residents, can cause a widespread outbreak. Inadequate and defective equipment can have disastrous effects on staff, residents, and visitors. Although, the government provides a broad range of immunity to these facilities for lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine nursing home neglect and abuse victims must understand their rights and remedies.

For example, a national news source recently reported a troubling situation where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent inadequate PPE to nursing homes facing the COVID-19 pandemic. These facilities were benefactors of a widespread effort to provide medical professionals with PPE. However, several nursing homes and assisted living facilities reported that the shipments they received included questionable products. The facilities complained that the boxes included unmarked zip-top bags with loose gloves, defective surgical masks, and protective gowns without arm openings. FEMA claimed that although the equipment met regulatory guidelines, they would be contacting the private contractor to issue replacements.

Each year, thousands of individuals in the United States suffer injuries from defective and dangerous products. Maine product liability laws provide these users and their families a way to recover for the injuries they suffered because of the defective product. Product liability lawsuits typically stem from:

  • Manufacturing Defects
  • Design Defects

Food poisoning can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, and Maine individuals must understand their rights and remedies in these cases. For example, recently a national news source reported that Chipolte, a popular Mexican restaurant, has agreed to pay a $25 million fine and comply with a food safety program, after serving tainted food from 2015 to 2018.

The company conceded that they were the cause of at least five food poisoning outbreaks in the United States. These outbreaks occurred after employees failed to engage in safe food handling protocols. The company also acknowledged that several employees felt pressure to stay or return to work while they were sick. One outbreak, in particular, was linked to an employee who vomited at work and was asked to continue working.

The tainted food caused over 1,000 people to suffer from food-borne illnesses. The Justice Department brought federal charges against the company for “adulterating” food, after “shipment in interstate commerce.” To resolve the criminal charges, the company agreed to pay the fine. The United States attorney prosecuting the case stated that the company both failed to safeguard their food from contamination and train their staff in food safety protocols.

According to a recent report, pediatricians discovered that Baby Brezza, an expensive baby formula maker, may pose serious health risks to infants. The machine is a popular baby registry item and available for sale at various retailers such as Target, Buy Buy Baby, and Amazon. The company markets its’ patented product as an advanced way to mix powdered baby formula and water. However, a recent lawsuit alleges that some of the mixers are defective. This defect causes the product to create a watery formula that is less than required to meet a baby’s nutritional needs.

The initial plaintiffs in this case filed a lawsuit after their 2-month-old daughter began to exhibit increasing signs of fussiness and weight loss. The couple took the baby to her pediatrician, who confirmed the weight loss and sent the child for additional testing to determine the cause. Evidently, the cause was the formula maker, as the machine was dispensing watery formula. Over the last two years, the company received hundreds of complaints about the machine after parents discovered the machine was dispensing incorrect or inconsistent amounts of water. Further, several pediatricians described patients who were diagnosed with failure to thrive, after their parents fed them bottles dispensed from the machine. Additionally, pediatricians warned parents that babies who ingest bottles from this defective product may face other severe gastrointestinal issues, because their systems are not equipped to handle concentrated formula. The company alleges that their products are not defective and any issue is likely the result of caregivers incorrectly using the machine.

Parents who notice that their child is exhibiting changes in their feeding response, temperament, body temperature, or breathing should immediately contact their child’s healthcare provider. This change may be the result of defective formula, baby food, or formula maker. These changes can result in their children suffering severe weight loss, fevers, crying, sleepiness, and other life-threatening conditions. Manufacturing companies and retailers may be held liable under various Maine product liability theories, including negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty theories. These claims often arise from manufacturing errors, failure to warn of possible risks, and design defects. Although the original Baby Brezza lawsuit was filed in another state, parents in Maine should contact an attorney to determine their rights and remedies.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), Maine public health and regulatory officials, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have expanded a hardboiled egg recall to include eggs sold in Maine. The hardboiled eggs were primarily sold to grocery stores and restaurants for use in prepared foods; however, some products were sold directly to consumers. Public health officials, following the CDC warning, issued the recall after discovering the strain of listeria during a routine inspection of a Georgia food manufacturing plant. An investigation into the bacteria revealed that the strain is identical to one found to be responsible for several foodborne related hospitalizations and deaths. The CDC advises consumers who have purchased boiled egg products to return them to the retailer or throw them away. Many of these products are marked with sell-by dates of “March 2, 2020”. Although the CDC issued a recall, some retailers and foodservice operations may fail to remove all of the affected products appropriately.

Food manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and restaurants must ensure that their food products are safe for consumption. This includes abiding by all food safety regulations, conducting periodic inspections, properly sanitizing, packing, and transporting food items. In some instances, food preparers at grocery stores and restaurants may not realize that they are using contaminated food products. These parties must ensure that they are up-to-date on all warnings and recalls that the CDC issues. Further, companies must train their employees on how to handle food items safely and advise sick employees to remain home.

The failure to do this can result in serious injuries to consumers. Bacteria such as, salmonella, E.Coli, norovirus, and listeria monocytogenes can result in various foodborne illnesses. The symptoms of foodborne illness often begin with an upset stomach and evolve into severe stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains, and fever. These symptoms can be deadly to vulnerable individuals such as newborns, pregnant women, and older adults. In some cases, individuals suffer longterm effects of food poisoning such as brain damage, arthritis, and organ failure.

Individuals who suffer injuries because of contaminated food may hold the restaurant or food manufacturer liable for the damages that they suffered. Food-borne illnesses can have severe and long-lasting consequences for an individual, especially for someone who is young or otherwise immunocompromised. Maine product liability lawsuits based on food-borne diseases can be challenging to establish and require a thorough understanding of the state’s product liability laws.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over 125,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 people die each year because of exposure to contaminated food. Many of these deaths and injuries are preventable if food manufacturers follow appropriate and safe food processing standards. However, despite strict regulations, many companies continue to value quick processing times over consumer safety.

A food-borne illness is any illness that results because of exposure to food contaminated with unsafe chemicals, bacteria, or other pathogens. Similarly, injuries can occur if food products contain foreign, dangerous substances, such as glass, metal, and plastic. For example, in a recent state appellate decision, a woman filed a lawsuit against a popular yogurt manufacturer after she consumed metal fragments in the yogurt.

Recently, a man filed a Maine personal injury lawsuit against Ford Motor Company claiming that the defective design of a lawnmower caused a blade to fly off a mower and strike his leg. According to a local news report, the man was bicycling with his son when a pickup truck towing a trailer with a mower passed them. The blade on the mower came loose, struck the man, and severed his leg. The impact was so severe that the man may have bled to death. However, in a fortuitous turn of events, a nurse happened to witness the incident. The nurse stopped and used a beach towel as a tourniquet until further emergency help arrived. Although the man survived, he required amputation above the knee.

Following the accident, the victim filed a lawsuit against the mower’s manufacturer, the Ford Motor Company. The complaint alleged that the mower was defectively designed because there was no backup mechanism to prevent this type of accident. The mower’s design allowed the blade to drop when transported in an upright position. The plaintiff argued that the manufacturer should have designed a backup mechanism to ensure that the blade did not drop during transportation. Further, the plaintiff pointed out that the factory-installed safety device failed, and the manufacturer did not provide any warning to users that this type of accident could occur.

There are generally four types of product liability lawsuits in Maine; including:

The manufacturer of a popular infant jogging stroller model was the subject of a Washington Post investigation shedding light into how the company resisted a product recall despite more than 100 reports of serious stroller injuries (adults, infants and children) over six years, along with U.S. regulators demands that the manufacturer warn consumers and remove the product from shelves. As longtime Bangor child injury attorneys, such revelations are deeply troubling, but not wholly surprising. The report indicated that shifting federal policies toward more relaxed regulatory standards have the potential to allow manufacturers of dangerous products to go unchecked by public and consumer safety agencies for longer stretches at a time.

Our Maine defective product attorneys help equalize the playing field between huge corporations with an army of defense attorneys and individual consumers harmed by unsafe, defective products. It’s important to note: a product doesn’t have to be recalled in order for someone to file a lawsuit, particularly when there is an extensive on-the-record pattern of severe injuries involving similar causes over a period of time, as was allegedly the case here.

Often one of the biggest issues in these cases is whether a defendant adequately warned the public about a danger they knew/reasonably should have known about. If they actively tried to conceal it, this can even be grounds for punitive damages (intended to penalize a defendant for egregious wrongs, versus compensatory damages intended solely to make a person “whole” for losses sustained).

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