Philadelphia Products Liability
From medical devices without proper instructions for use, to parts that fail on everyday products used in the home, vehicles, or at work, defective products can cause serious injuries and even death. No one buys a product with the expectation that it will cause harm. Consumers making a purchase inherently trust that it was designed and manufactured correctly, and by properly following the instructions, the product will do what it is supposed to do. However, sometimes, a step in the process of getting a product from the design room into the hands of a consumer or worker is faulty, and the result is a dangerous product.
When a product causes harm to the user and a victim wants to pursue legal action, they can file a products liability lawsuit. Legal protections exist to protect consumers in such cases, and those laws hold manufacturers and sellers responsible for the harm caused to injured consumers.
It is important for consumers to keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations for filing against the manufacturer and/or retailer of the defective product. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, that statute of limitations for filing a products liability case is two years from the date of injury. In Pennsylvania, there is flexibility with this if the manufacturer is found to be engaging in fraudulent concealment, which means that the company was hiding facts to avoid liability. In such cases, the victim has two years from when they learned about the defect to file a case.
A Law Firm with a History of Winning
Across the United States, there are an estimated three million injuries and 22,000 deaths each year due to dangerous products, according to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) statistics. The CPSC estimates that over $700 billion is spent each year on the personal and property damage that results from dangerous products, so manufacturers that are responsible need to be held liable for those resulting damages.
Product categories commonly found in products liability lawsuits include the following:
- Automobiles and industrial equipment
- Medical devices
- Prescription drugs
- Recreational vehicles
- Food products
Trauma and suffering from a dangerous product can cause harm to the victim and their family as well. With all of that emotional turmoil comes the need to make matters right. This search for justice inspires the Philadelphia products liability lawyers at McCann & Wall, LLC. The legal team has experience going up against powerful companies, and they fearlessly seek compensation for victims harmed by faulty products. With over $200 million in verdicts and settlements won for their clients, the firm knows how to win these kinds of complicated cases and has a proven record of success.
How is Liability Determined in Products Liability Cases?
In some products liability cases, the standard of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine will be applied. This Latin expression means “the thing speaks for itself.” Using this doctrine for a products liability case allows the court to find negligence when direct proof is lacking. When applying the res ipsa loquitur doctrine, the plaintiff can win their case without overtly proving negligence because the actions of the defendant were so obviously negligent that additional proof is not needed.
In Pennsylvania, the legal concept of strict liability is applied in defective product cases as well. What this means is that plaintiffs do not need to prove intent or negligence in products liability cases. A plaintiff and their lawyer only needs to show that the product was defective and that the defect caused the injury. Strict liability might not require proving intention or knowledge of a harmful product, but it does not guarantee that the manufacturer or seller will be found liable.
If a consumer uses a product and knows that it is dangerous or defective and it caused their injuries, it might be argued that the manufacturer or seller is not liable because of the assumption of risk. If it can be proven that the consumer knew the product would harm them but used it regardless, then the manufacturer might not have to pay for their damages.
It can also be argued that the consumer used a product recklessly, altered the product in a way that made it dangerous, or did not follow instructions and safety guidelines for proper use. This could also mean the manufacturer does not have to pay for damages.
What are the Types of Products Liability Cases?
In Pennsylvania as well as many other states, there are three main categories for products liability lawsuits. There are also cases of defective product packaging. Different legal strategies are needed for each category, and a knowledgeable lawyer can help with each type of products liability lawsuits. Listed below are the available types of products liability lawsuits in Pennsylvania.
This means that a product was made to specifications, but the design contained a danger that can injure users. A design defect means that the product was manufactured correctly but the design was flawed and could harm consumers. For example, parents may come across a crib or playground equipment with bars that are set too widely apart, allowing a child’s head to get caught in between the two bars.
This is when a product became defective on the manufacturing line and the flaw was not intended. This kind of defect occurs when a product departs from its intended design and is more dangerous than what consumers expect. An example of manufacturing defect is using the wrong kind of screws or fasteners to put a product together.
Cases that fall under marketing defects are incidents wherein customers were not warned entirely or were not adequately warned about the dangers of the products. A marketing defect is when safety instructions are inadequate or not included, or when consumers are not warned about the risks of a product. An example of a marketing defect would be if a tobacco company failed to properly warn users about the risks of smoking.
Packaging issues are another area of products liability claims. While packaging design is used to lure customers to buy one product over another, it is also used to inform the customer about potential dangers and instructions for safe use. Packaging needs to be effective to keep products from falling or poking out in such a way that it injures the customer. An example of this might be the packaging on a box of knives: it needs to hold the products in place securely and in such a way that customers will be directed to the safe way of opening the box.
Building a packaging products liability case means proving that the duty of care, or the responsibility of the manufacturer or seller to the customer, was not met. It must be shown that the package caused the plaintiff’s personal injury. A lawyer might focus on certain principles in order to make the case, such as breach of warranty and the failure to warn principle.
Breach of warranty occurs when a seller fails to guarantee that the product being sold is of good quality, which can apply to the packaging of the product as well. This guarantee can fall under:
- Expressed Warranty: The guarantee is articulated in text on the product.
- Implied or Fitness Warranty: A guarantee that the product is suited for its advertised purpose.
The failure to warn principle comes into play when a product has at least one hazard, and the lack of warning led to personal injuries.
What is Needed to Build a Case for a Products Liability Lawsuit?
There are two main parts to building up a case for a defective product, which include:
- Defect: To be proven that the product is indeed defective and caused the injury, and that following instructions or safety guidelines did not make it safe.
- Injury: The second part is to provide a clear record of the injuries with an estimate of how much medical care will cost and how much those injuries will impact life going forward.
Consumers injured by defective and dangerous products are often intimidated by the prospect of going up against large and powerful corporations and retailers; however, strong legal representation can help. An experienced lawyer will advocate for their injured client and aggressively pursue the compensation they deserve for the injuries they sustained from a faulty product.
A products liability lawyer can help with all types of product liability claims, including:
- Automotive defects
- Autonomous vehicles
- Dangerous and defective drugs
- Dangerous and defective medical devices
- Defective hernia mesh
- Injuries from defective products
- Equipment defects and Improper maintenance
- Faulty fuel systems
- IVC Filters
- Recalled and defective toys
- Roundup Weed and Grass killer
- Talcum powder
- Vehicle rollovers and tire blowouts
- Defective children’s products
What Expenses can I Recoup from a Products Liability Suit?
Victims in a products liability suit are entitled to sue the company or individual for any financial losses that resulted from the flawed product. Similar to a personal injury claim, the injured party can seek to recoup the following damages:
Medical Expenses: There could be significant medical expenses involved, depending on the severity of injury. A plaintiff has the right to seek money to cover related medical expenses.
Lost Wages: Victims may not be able to work, need to work less, or have to shift to a lower-paying job due to the injuries. A plaintiff can seek compensation for this reduction or loss of wages.
Loss of Future Income: If a person is forced to resign or take a lower-paying position due to their injuries, they can seek compensation for the income they will no longer be able to earn going forward. A lawyer will calculate the amount a person should have earned and add it into the lawsuit.
Household Services: An injured person may not be able to complete simple household tasks, such as washing clothes, cooking and cleaning. For those that need assistance around the house, that cost can be added into the suit.
Pain and Suffering: This is a predetermined amount that a lawyer will request to compensate a person for having to deal with being hurt physically. This is not based on expenses the victim had to pay for, but simply asking for recovery of damages for the pain that is suffered by the victim.
Emotional Distress: Similar to pain and suffering, emotional distress is a predetermined amount to compensate for the victim feeling emotional pain from the defective product.
What are Some Important Products Liability Cases?
The following are some examples of well-known cases in which manufacturers had to pay consumers in products liability lawsuits. Many of these are well-known because there were so many injured consumers resulting from defective products.
Toyota’s Malfunctioning Accelerator
Mechanical failures in cars is one example of a products liability case that can involve many injured victims. For example, in 2010, Toyota recalled millions of cars due to a faulty accelerator pedal. Toyota set aside $1.1 billion to settle a class action lawsuit due to the faulty accelerator pedal. The accelerator tended to get stuck when the driver pushed down on the gas pedal. When the accelerator stayed down, the driver was unable to properly slow down or stop. This malfunction was linked to numerous car accidents and injuries. This case is an example of a manufacturing defect.
Faulty Ignition Switches by General Motors
In 2014, General Motors vehicle models were found to have faulty ignition switches that would shut off the engine while driving. Faulty switches were also found in General Motor vehicles that would disable power steering, brakes, and prevent airbag inflation following a collision.
There were 124 deaths and 274 car accident injuries attributed to these faulty ignition switches, resulting in many lawsuits. In 2015, General Motors paid a $900 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. In early 2021, General Motors paid a $5.75 million settlement with California due to false statements made to investors. Over 2.6 million automobiles were recalled. This case is another example of a manufacturing defect.
Tobacco Industry Case
A plaintiff was initially awarded $850,000 in a suit against a large tobacco company. The plaintiff’s legal team claimed that there was a lack of information about the dangers of cigarettes when they started smoking as a teenager. The case for the plaintiff, who suffered from lung cancer, was appealed, and then later, it was settled for a total of $28 billion in punitive damages along with $850,000 in compensatory damages.
The defendant appealed the $28 billion, and the settlement was reduced to $28 million in 2011. This case is an example of a marketing defect.
Owen’s Corning Asbestos Materials
Asbestos was once commonly used to strengthen and fireproof building materials. It is now widely known that prolonged inhalation of asbestos causes mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other illnesses. A building products manufacturer, Owen’s Corning, paid out $1.2 billion in damages in 1998 to settle over 176,000 claims of death and disease from asbestos materials. Now, the company has set aside $2.6 billion in a fund to settle claims.
Blitz Gas Cans
Now bankrupt, Blitz was once the largest manufacturer of portable plastic gas cans in the United States. However, some Blitz cans exploded while gas was being poured, which started fires and caused burns and deaths, resulting in many successful products liability lawsuits. Lawyers argued successfully that a device, known as a flame arrester, that would have made the cans safer was not added. With over 30 cases in 2012 alone, the company went bankrupt and then went out of business entirely. The Blitz gas can case is an example of a design defect.
Dow Corning’s Silicone Breast Implants
Dow Corning manufactured silicone breast implants that had serious negative impacts on the lives of over 100,000 women. The women suffered ruptures and leaks that resulted in illnesses, including autoimmune disorders and connective tissue diseases. As a result of a massive class action lawsuit, Dow Corning put aside $3 billion into a settlement trust.
McDonald’s Coffee Case
The plaintiff bought a McDonald’s coffee at the drive-thru and suffered third-degree burn injuries after spilling it on their lap. The plaintiff needed to be hospitalized for eight days following the incident. The victim then received medical treatment, including skin grafts, for another two years for the burn injuries and other related injuries.
To cover medical costs and lost wages, the victim sought compensation of $20,000. McDonald’s countered that with an offer of $800. The case went to trial, and in 1994, and the plaintiff was awarded $2.86 million in punitive damages and another $160,000 to cover medical expenses. McDonald’s and the plaintiff later settled privately for a confidential amount. McDonald’s was found liable for serving coffee at a temperature that was not safe for consumers, which was between 180 F to 190 F. Most companies serve coffee around 140 F.
These cases are famous and are important examples of products liability cases, but there are plenty of everyday items that can harm consumers, such as furniture products that are unstable, bike helmets that crack, or electrical blankets that electrocute customers. If a victim is harmed by a defective product, it is beneficial for them to reach out to a products liability lawyer right away.
If a person is injured at work, they may be directed to file a Workers’ Compensation claim. However, if a person’s injury was caused by a defective product, they may need to pursue a third-party products liability case. Under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act, employers are protected from lawsuits brought on by injured workers. However, an injured party may be entitled to compensation through a products liability case.
Whether it is a new machine that is faulty or an everyday device, such as a ladder that was poorly designed, an injury from a defective product made be pursued legally via a products liability case.
Are Children Often Harmed by Faulty Products?
In 2020, emergency room visits for product-related injuries dropped by 22 percent from over 812,000 in 2019 to 63,300 in 2020 nationwide, according to the CPSC. The CPSC reported 357 deaths of children under five years old between 2015 and 2017 that were associated with nursery products. These deaths were not necessarily caused by the products, the CPSC cautioned in its executive summary. Some of the deaths were attributed to the products, others were the result of a hazardous environment in or around the product.
Cribs, mattresses, infant carriers, strollers and carriages are the items associated with most of the pediatric emergency room injuries listed in the CPSC report on children’s injuries. Inclined infant sleep products, which the House of Representatives voted to ban in 2019, were noted in the CPSC’s 2020 report for causing 17 deaths between 2015 to 2017. Some of the infants had rolled over, which caused them to end in a position that cut off their airway.
Furniture that tipped over was also a cause listed for pediatric emergencies listed by the child advocacy group, Kids In Danger (KID). In its 2020 report, KID listed two injuries from an IKEA ready-to assemble chest of drawers that tipped over.
While there are constant efforts by the CPSC, the U.S. Congress, child advocacy groups, and many more entities to make safer products for children, much more needs to be done. Every year, there are more CPSC safety recalls for children’s products and law proposals. For help with a products liability case, it is essential to speak to a lawyer right away.
Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at McCann & Wall, LLC Protect the Rights of Clients Injured by Dangerous and Defective Products
Each year, many consumers are harmed by faulty and hazardous products. However, it is important that victims know that they have rights. If you were injured by a faulty product, one of our Philadelphia products liability lawyers at McCann & Wall, LLC can help you with your case. Contact us online or call us at 215-569-8488 for a free consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.