Articles Posted in Product Liability

Consumers in the U.S. are protected by a number of provisions of both state and federal laws with regard to promises or “warranties” made by companies about their products.
Some of these warranties are in written or spoken form. These are called “express warranties.” However, there are also certain unwritten, unspoken expectations to which consumers are entitled. These are called “implied warranties.”

Essentially, consumers almost always have some recourse when products don’t meet their basic expectations – especially when the result is someone is injured. The most common that we see in product liability law is implied warranty of merchantability. That means the product is guaranteed to work and be reasonably safe when used for its intended purpose.
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When Mal Moore, the former athletic director for the University of Alabama, died two years ago, he was in the advanced stages of pulmonary fibrosis. It was the ailment that caused him to step down. He was soon after hospitalized and died in March 2013.
Now, his daughter alleges that the condition was caused by a drug he was prescribed in 2008 for treatment of an irregular heartbeat.

In its generic form, the drug is called amiodarone, and it’s used to treat life-threatening heart rhythm problems (known as arrhythmias) in individuals who have already taken other similar forms of medication. Moore only took the medication for three months to treat his condition, but his daughter alleges this exposure to the drug caused him to develop the pulmonary fibrosis.

Her federal lawsuit, Cook v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc., was filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division.
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Two large, heavy-duty truck manufacturers are being slapped with a $44 million fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failure to timely recall defective vehicles that posed injury risk to the public.
Spartan Motors, Inc., based in Michigan, and Forest River Inc., based in Indiana, conceded they did not initiate timely recalls on defective vehicles, as required by federal law. They also did not report important information, such as Early Warning Report data and technical service bulletins.

Most of that penalty will be deferred if the firms agree to bring their respective companies into compliance with federal regulations. For example, Forest River was given a $35 million civil penalty, but $30 million can be deferred. Meanwhile, Spartan has been given a $9 million penalty, but it will only have to pay $1 million if it complies with the consent order. It will, however, have to spend $3 million bringing the company into compliance.

Forest River first grabbed the attention of federal safety officials following a church bus crash six years ago. The crash, which occurred in Louisiana, resulted in two deaths and 21 injuries.
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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has affirmed judgement for a family awarded a total of $63 million in damages – including $13 million for loss of consortium — following a child’s severe reaction to multiple doses of Children’s Motrin.
Contrary to points asserted by drug manufacturer/defendant, the Supreme Judicial Court found the failure to warn claim was not preempted by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, that a pharmacologist who testified as to causation evidence was qualified to do so, and that damages awarded to the child and each of her parents were not grossly excessive or unsupported by the record.

This is a tragic tale of what can happen when medical labels we trust don’t contain the information we need. It’s also an important case in that it reaffirms that just because a company has deep pockets and extensive resources doesn’t mean it will prevail in civil court. The civil court system is one of the few places victims can expect an even playing field, and where large companies can be held accountable for failing to uphold its duties to consumers.
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The injury at the center of the recently-decided Stuhlmacher v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. didn’t occur around the holidays. However, it is relevant because it involves an allegedly defective ladder. The fact is, both before and for weeks after the holiday season, people climb ladders to decorate and then “un-decorate” their homes. ladder1.jpg

It’s a fact that ladders can tip regardless of their condition if they aren’t used properly. However, when a ladder collapses or otherwise fails when being used properly as intended or anticipated, this may be grounds for a product liability lawsuit.

This was the case in Stuhlmacher.

Generally in order to succeed in a product liability lawsuit, one must prove not only he or she suffered injuries, but that those injuries were proximately caused by a product that was either defective or lacked proper instructions or warnings. One must also show the product was being used more or less in the manner intended.

Here, according to court records, the issue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit was that of causation, as posited by a plaintiff expert witness, whose testimony was stricken from the record by the trial judge. Without that testimony, causation could not be proven. The federal appellate court reversed, finding the testimony qualified as relevant under Civil Rule 702, so long as it helps the jury in determining any fact at issue in the case. Specifically, expert witnesses are allowed to put forth alternative models to explain their conclusions, the court ruled.
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Amid a host of recalls for faulty airbags used by nearly a dozen auto manufacturers, the Alabama Supreme Court recently weighed another product liability case involving allegedly defective airbags.airbag1.jpg

In Robert Bosch LLC v. Smith et al., justices were asked whether a trial court erred in requiring defendant air bag manufacturer to submit a series of internal records deemed trade secrets as part of discovery.

Defendant appealed that decision, arguing it should not be forced to turn over information that could be damaging to the company. Plaintiff argued trial court did not err in its ruling and the need to prevent disclosure does not outweigh the benefit of disclosing what should be considered relevant evidence.
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The product liability lawsuit brought in Massachusetts by a man whose hand was mangled by lawn machinery failed after a jury apportioned him 73 percent fault for his own injury. In that state, plaintiffs who hold 50 percent of the fault or more for their own injury are barred from collecting on a claim.
In Alabama, our Montgomery injury lawyers know our courts follow a much stricter standard. In fact, we are one of just five states following the pure contributory negligence model, which holds a plaintiff who holds any percentage of fault for his own injuries will be barred from bringing a claim.

Per the 2002 Alabama Supreme Court ruling in H.R.H. Metals, Inc. v. Miller, a defendant proves contributory negligence by showing the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care.
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News of the recall of millions of General Motors vehicles due to a faulty ignition switch has been big national news, but one of the cases to result in a lawsuit involved a young mother here in Northwest Alabama.
She was killed in a Montgomery car accident in December, and now her father is suing the auto manufacturer on the grounds that it knew of the defects in the 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt model she was driving – and did nothing to warn her or other customers.

According to the lawsuit filed in Lauderdale County Circuit Court, the ignition in the woman’s vehicle suddenly quit on Dec. 4, 2013. As a result, the 3,200-pound vehiclel was totally uncontrollable. She crossed the center line into oncoming traffic, slamming directly into the path of an 18-wheeler log truck. Investigators say she died instantly as her vehicle burst into flames.
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There have recently been a growing number of product liability lawsuits filed against drug manufacturers for culpability in the injury and death of persons who were given transdermal fentanyl patches.
It is alleged in these cases that the drug, when administered in this manner, has the potential to deliver an injurious or even fatal dose – something patients are never warned about prior to placing the patch on their skin.

In one such case out of Michigan, Miller v. Mylan Inc., the patch had to be defined under the state’s product liability law as it pertains to drug manufacturers. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently wrestled with the issue of whether the patch should be considered a drug, a device or a combination product. The distinction will determine whether the case will be allowed to move forward.
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Even those buying high end vehicles are not immune from the risk of defective product injuries. According to NBC NEWS, the automaker is recalling more than 175,000 vehicles from 2012 to 2013 because of a problem with the power brake system. The recall includes the 1 Series, 3 Series and 5 Series sedans, as well as the X1 and X3 crossovers and Z4 sports car.
The company claims that, in rare cases, there can potentially be an interruption with the oil supply to a part that can cause drivers to lose their power braking assist. The brakes will still work in these cases, but the driver would have to press much harder on the brake pedal. This accounts for more than 76,000 vehicles in the U.S.

Our Montgomery injury lawyers understand that owners of the vehicles will be notified by mail. Unfortunately, this recall is not particularly large or unique. Earlier this month Chrysler announced the recall of 132,000 SUVs to address software issues that may result in a blackout of instrument panel lighting.

Yamaha motorcycles, Honda Odysseys, BMWs, Suzukis, Fords and Toyota have also announced recent recalls. In some cases, these recalls may be little more than an inconvenience. But in a substantial number of cases the recalled vehicle poses a threat to the health and safety of motorists.
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