Articles Posted in Product Liability

In 2015, there were 68 different products which were sold for use by children and which subsequently had to be recalled after being released. The Sun Times reports this is a relatively low number of product recalls, and that recall rates are down because of improved regulations and better safety efforts. While this may be fewer recalled products than in the past, the 68 products which were recalled still represented 5.5 million products which were unsafe and which were sold for children to use. atlanta defective toys

When a product is dangerous, hopefully it is taken off the shelves before anyone gets sick or injured. Unfortunately, this often does not happen. In fact, many recalled products marketed for both children and adults are still in use to this day despite the dangers.

Victims who are hurt by a product which is dangerous and which has been subject to a recall should consult with an Atlanta product liability lawyer for help pursuing a damage claim.

When children receive gifts for Halloween or the upcoming winter holidays, the new toys and other presents should bring nothing but joy to the home. Unfortunately, sometimes toys turn out to be dangerous and they actually put children at risk of serious injury or even death. kid 2

An Atlanta defective products lawyer knows that the number of toy recalls have been declining in recent years, as safety efforts have improved and dangerous toys are more often identified before they are actually released to the public. However, risky toys could still make it onto store shelves. When kids receive gifts for Halloween or other holidays, parents need to be aware of how to check for recalls and should make sure that these new toys are safe before kids start playing.

Recalled Toy Dangers for Kids

Our Atlanta product liability attorneys are following recent news about Honda’s recall of 126,000 motorcycles with malfunctioning brakes, the second such recall done. These vehicle recalls show product defects in vehicles could potentially cause accidents, injuries, and even deaths.

The recalled motorcycles include GL-1800 motorcycles from 2001 through 2010, and those from 2012. Honda issued an initial recall of these motorcycles in December 2011, but continued receiving complaints. Honda told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the reason for the problharley davidsonem was undetermined, and they were still investigating the cause.

Through July 24 of this year, Honda received 533 complaints about problems with the bikes. It turns out the secondary brake master cylinder can cause the rear brake to drag, which in turn can cause a crash or fire. The complaints include reports of eight small fires; luckily, no reports of crashes or injuries related to these brake problems were received.

A 2008 salmonella outbreak caused by tainted peanut butter is the subject of a trial currently underway in Georgia. The outbreak, which sickened 700 people and killed at least nine more, led to one of the largest food recalls in US history. Our Atlanta product liability attorneys have been following the case, which made the news again this week.

file4761299722009The 76-count indictment (see our previous blog post about the trial here) names Michael Parnell, the owner of Peanut Corporation of America, Mary Wilkerson, the plant’s quality assurance manager, and another former manager, Samuel Lightsey. The indictment accuses the company of shipping tainted products and hiding lab tests that showed they contained salmonella. Wilkerson is also charged with obstructing justice.

Lightsey pled guilty in May, agreeing to testify for the prosecution in exchange for a lighter sentence. In six days of testimony, Lightsey spoke of how the Peanut Corporation of America shipped contaminated products with falsified documents stating they were free of salmonella, and of the presence of mold and mildew within the plant. He also told the court of how employees used a pellet gun to shoot birds that got inside the plant.

Our Atlanta product liability lawyers know that products in your own house can be dangerous, especially to children. A news story last week talked about a Georgia family’s saga with a home elevator, which caused their young son to become disabled.

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Michael and Brandi Helvey invested $20,000 for a National Wheel-O-Vator Destiny elevator in their home to help Michael’s 80 year old mother who moved in with them. It worked so well they recommended it to neighbors. But on Christmas Eve three years ago the elevators dangers became apparent. The Helvey’s have a son, Jacob, who was three years old at the time and curious about his surroundings. The parents thought they had been careful with child gates in their home. But Jacob stood on his tip toes and managed to open the elevator’s swinging outer door. That swinging outer door closed and latched, and trapped Jacob against the inner door on the elevator car. Brandi Helvey heard noises and pushed the elevator button from upstairs, and when it started the elevator dragged Jacob. They put the elevator back down once again, but the movement shoved Jacob feet first into the elevator shaft, trapping his chest tightly in the small space. The family tried to get him out for 10 minutes with no success. When the emergency crew finally arrived, he had nearly suffocated to death already. Jacob survived, but he suffered terrible injuries. He has brain damage from lack of oxygen to his brain, he cannot speak, and he is now a quadriplegic.

Jacob Helvey and the Helvey family are not alone, sadly. These swinging door elevators have become more popular in homes in recent years, particularly to help elderly family members. At least seven children have died due to accidents with these kind of elevators since 1995. Despite this, most who install these elevators don’t know of the dangers. “We never had any idea this could happen,” said Michael Helvey. “But we found out that the industry knows all about this. There are other cases. My son was just the only one we know of who survived.” He and his family settled a lawsuit this year against National Wheel-o-Vator and their parent company, ThyssenKrupp Access.

Monster Beverage Corp. faces multiple lawsuits claiming that product is linked to deaths and other serious health concerns.

Recently a lawsuit was filed against Monster Beverage Corp., manufacturers of the Monster Energy drink. The lawsuit was filed by a mother who alleges that her nineteen year old son died of cardiac arrhythmia last July due to his consumption of Monster Energy drinks. The mother claims that her son would not have died but for the fact that he drank two cans of Monster Energy drinks every day for the three years preceding his death.

Monster Beverage Corp. denies these allegations. They argue that there is no causal connection between the boy’s cardiac arrest and his consumption of Monster Energy drinks. The Company cites the coroner’s report which does not provide any indication that the boy died as a result of drinking Monster Energy drinks. They suggest that the facts show the boy drank Monster Energy drinks for years without incident.

In 2009, the US had one of the worst salmonella outbreaks in recent times, prompting one of the biggest product recalls in US history. Over 700 individuals got sick and the outbreak was linked to nine deaths. From this tragedy, nine wrongful death lawsuits were already approved in 2010. And now a criminal case has been set to start in Albany, Georgia, in February 2014 for the former owner of the company at issue and several of his employees.

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The company is Peanut Corporation of America, which no longer exists due to the ramifications of this outbreak, which were linked to the company’s processing plants in Texas and Georgia. Two of those charged are brothers- Stewart Parnell, the former owner of PCA, and Michael Parnell who worked for a broker on behalf of the company. Others involved in the criminal case are Mary Wilkerson and Samuel Lightsey, who managed a PCA plant in Blakely, Georgia. In February this group was charged with 72 counts. The indictment alleges that they covered up knowledge of the presence of salmonella for years, all the way back to 2003, even faking certificates for products when lab tests were positive for salmonella. Among the 72 charges are conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and adulterated or misbranded food in interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead. It also includes a charge that three of the four misled federal officials. Stewart Parnell is also charged with obstruction of justice. A statement issued at the time of the indictment by the Justice Department’s Civil Division head, Stuart Delery, said, “When those responsible for producing or supplying our food lie and cut corners, as alleged in the indictment, they put all of us at risk.”

Early this month a federal judge at the US District Court in Albany set the start of the trial for February 10, 2014. The trial was originally scheduled to start on October 7, but it has been delayed because discovery of evidence by both sides is taking longer than expected. The two Parnell brothers are trying to get the case severed so they can have separate trials. They say their cases are “antagonistic and mutually exclusive”. Joint trials are more efficient and prosecutors want a joint trial here especially because of the conspiracy charges. Both Stewart and Michael Parnell claim they are not guilty to the charges against them.

Technology seems to be progressing at a crazy pace these days. Think of all the gadgets and things we take for granted now. So when our Atlanta product liability lawyers saw an article about driverless cars, it seemed like something that could possibly be not too far in the future of our lives. Google has a fleet of driverless cars and Audi and BMW are investing in the new technology too. Driverless cars are already being tested in some parts of the US.

Most car accidents are due to some kind of human error, whether negligent or reckless or otherwise. It is the number one cause of road accidents and as much as 90 percent of fatal car accidents are due to a human mistake. So theoretically, new driverless cars could save thousands of lives by reducing the risk of many accidents. It could especially counter the more extreme forms of dangerous driver behavior, such as road rage. And of course it could also impact drunk driving, as well, if those intoxicated could mainly, or someday entirely, depend on their car to drive them home.

The new question that will be faced once these driverless cars are on the roads is who will be liable in a car crash. The auto industry knows that there is a high likelihood of product liability law being more prevalent in car crash cases in the driverless future, although industry experts note that there will still, at least in the foreseeable future, be drivers in the car, just with less active driving than now. This is an issue that will have to be addressed and sorted out. Last year, Arizona introduced a law to cover driverless cars. Nevada and California have laws on the books about driverless cars, too, including a provision that requires a licensed driver to be in the car ready to take over driving at any time. So that driver would still have the potential for liability in crashes involving these new cars, as they do with regular driver-operated cars. It won’t be long before most states will have provisions to face this new technology. Jeff Dial, who introduced the Arizona law, said, “The more you deal with this issue, the more the issue grows and grows.” One other idea to confront the product liability issue is to model driverless car liability after the way vaccine liability is handled. Congress created a special way to handle these cases in the 1980s, and now the cases go to special hearings and victims are paid through funding provided by a tax on vaccines.

Medical procedures already carry with them dangers and risks, and this is worsened when medical products are defective. Our Atlanta product liability lawyers have been following a story about dialysis solutions and the lawsuits being filed around the country, including those in Georgia. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recall for the particular solutions in question, Naturalyte Liquid Acid Concentrate and GranuFlo (powder) Acid Concentrate. The products were manufactured, distributed, and used by Fresenius Medical Care during dialysis. The company is the largest operator of dialysis clinics in the U.S. and also manufactures dialysis solutions and equipment. The FDA recall notice reads, “This product may cause serious adverse health consequences, including death.” toxic.png

Lawsuits have been filed in 37 cases in federal courts, including one involving a patient in Georgia. The plaintiffs claim that the aforementioned dialysis products caused the patients to suffer a cardiac arrest, heart attack, or sudden death, either during the dialysis treatment or within 48 hours thereafter. The various lawsuits allege that Fresenius failed to provide warnings to doctors about the importance of monitoring bicarbonate levels among patients during dialysis. The solutions contain an element that transforms into bicarbonate at levels that are often too high, leading to cardiac arrest or sudden death. The lawsuits claim that Fresenius knew as early as 2010 that their GranuFlo patients died at rates six times higher than those occurring with competing products. In 2011, the company clarified to doctors at their own dialysis centers about the problems, but didn’t issue any information or instructions outside their centers until March 2012. This led the lawsuits to claim the company knew, or should have known, about these fatal consequences of the dialysis solutions.

The deaths allegedly connected to the products occurred between 2010 and 2012. These cases involve patients from across the age spectrum, from 23 years old to 89 years old. An internal review by Fresenius found that at 667 of their dialysis centers, there were at least 941 cases of patients suffering cardiac arrest during dialysis in 2010 alone. This information is what prompted the FDA recall last year.

Our Atlanta product liability lawyers, like many around the country, have followed the gun control debate that has become particularly heated since the December Newtown shootings. And the national debate on this issue will impact Georgia and Georgia’s laws.

California Representative, Adam Schiff, a former prosecutor and member of a Congressional task force on gun violence, said recently that he will introduce a bill in Congress to lift the legal immunity of gun manufacturers and dealers. He has had some success in passing crime related bills, as the President just signed his bill encouraging the collection of DNA profiles of arrested felons. His new bill on immunity is called the Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, and he believes that Americans have reached a tipping point on gun violence after the Newtown shootings. Currently, there is the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act from 2005 on the books, which gives gun dealers immunity from most product liability and negligence lawsuits. But Representative Schiff says it isn’t needed. He said, “Good gun companies don’t need special protection from the law. Bad companies don’t deserve it.” He also noted that other industries do not benefit from protection under the law, and that the gun industry shouldn’t be given a blank check. Guns are currently the only consumer product not subject to federal safety regulations, as well.

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His proposal, if passed, would allow federal and state courts to move forward lawsuits that could prove gun manufacturers or dealers were negligent. This would include negligence in failing to protect weapon merchandise and selling guns to convicted felons. Representative Schiff is working with the Brady Center on the legislation. Both he and the Center claim that not only is the current law unnecessary, but that courts have interpreted the law too broadly. The law as applied protects gun sellers from liability when selling hundreds of weapons to dealers who then sell them to customers with no background checks. Representative Schiff says, “When someone makes a dangerous product or acts negligently, they ought to be held liable otherwise it encourages irresponsibility.”