Articles Posted in Dangerous Products

Lawsuits are being filed against Monsanto alleging that its product, Roundup, causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The active ingredient in Roundup is a chemical called glyphosate. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide. It is toxic to both broadleaf plants and grasses. It restricts the plants from making proteins that are necessary for life.

Glyphosate was developed in about 1974. It was found to be a very effective herbicide. There are over 700 products that contain this chemical. It can be absorbed through the skin, although at very low rates. It can also be ingested if care is not taken to clean up after using it. Monsanto and other big chemical corporations have developed roundup resistant seeds. This has been a boom to agriculture because the application of roundup to resistant crops will kill the weeds without effecting the useful plants.

Because roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world it is ubiquitous in the environment. Many of us have probably been exposed to this chemical. Roundup has been assumed to be safe. But more recently the International Agency for Research on Cancer has said that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic.” Studies have shown that glyphosate may cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

workplace-150x150Last week’s blog addressed the increase in work place injuries.  While worker’s compensation is generally the exclusive recovery source from the employer, there are other potential sources of recovery. Below are some common scenarios from work place injuries that may result in your ability to recover for your injuries:

Motor Vehicle Accidents/Car Wrecks:

A very common type of third-party claim arising from a workers’ compensation action is when someone gets into a motor vehicle accident or car wreck while driving for work.  Many people drive as part of their jobs: truck drivers, package delivery personnel, sales people who make on-site client visits, construction workers who haul materials, home health workers, even lawyers who have to drive to and from court.

heastone-150x150Lawsuits involving the death of a person in Alabama are generally governed by the Alabama Wrongful Death Statute.  Alabama handles lawsuits regarding a death in a unique way.  This article will address what is unique about Alabama’s wrongful death statute and the importance of hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney.

When someone is killed in a motor vehicle accident, or dies using a product like an ATV, or otherwise dies because of the fault of someone else, the civil case will be governed by the Alabama Wrongful Death Statute.  In Alabama, a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is appointed by the probate court and is entitled to pursue the claim on behalf of the deceased person’s estate.  Unlike many other states, any recovery made for a wrongful death in Alabama does not actually pass through the estate of the deceased person.  If a person has a will, the will does not determine who gets the proceeds of any recovery of the wrongful death case.  If the person’s estate owes money to creditors, the creditors are not allowed to recover any of the money won in the wrongful death case.  Instead, recovery from the wrongful death case is governed by the laws of intestacy in Alabama that govern how a person’s estate would be distributed if they did not have a will.  The typical order of preference under the intestacy statue is for proceeds to go to a spouse, to children, to parents, and then to other relatives in order of relation.  There are special rules, for instance, when someone dies with a spouse and children that are not from that spouse.

Alabama’s wrongful death statute is also unique in the kind of damages that are awarded.  In most states, a person’s lost income they would make in life had they not died comes in as damages.  In this way, different lives are valued differently.  Alabama does not even allow for such damages to be considered.  Alabama takes the view that all life is sacred and of equal worth.  Thus, the only damages that are awarded are punitive damages.  Punitive damages are damages that are designed to punish the party who caused the death for their conduct and to serve as a deterrent to others from engaging in conduct that may lead to someone else’s death.  Alabama treats all lives equally, and so the focus in an Alabama wrongful death case is on the conduct of the defendant rather than how much earning potential was lost when the person died.

Trial lawyers are often on the lookout for dangerous products.  We are up to date on the latest recalls and companies that have a reputation for making questionable products.  When shopping for our families, we often look for the presence or lack of certain safety features that others would not because we have spent years dealing with the damage and trauma dangerous products can cause a family.

Common household items can often pose unknown hazards.  Button batteries, commonly used in automobile key fobs, watches, and many toys, have become a recent hazard for small children.  Over a 14 year period ending in 2010, approximately 40,000 ER visits resulted from children ingesting batteries, and over half of these cases involved these button batteries.  Button batteries pose several serious health issues for children that have resulted in severe injury and death.  Choking is a major concern that can happen immediately.  Chemical burns to internal organs can also result is serious health issues and can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms often do not appear until days after a child has ingested a battery.

battery-e1483564735814Many toy makers now require a screwdriver to enter the battery compartment of their toys.  While annoying to parents, this is a protection against small children ingesting batteries that is useful.  Some makers of these batteries have ignored the problem, some have begun to warn against the problem, and others have begun to take action to protect children from these now-known dangers.  For instance, a recent trip to the drug store revealed a company with a two-fold approach to preventing children from swallowing these button batteries.  They place a warning directly on the battery to let parents know of the danger.  They also seal the packaging for the batteries so that scissors are needed to open them.  This is the proactive approach to preventing a known harm that some companies are taking to protect the public.  Unfortunately, it can often take years of knowing about a problem and many lawsuits before some companies finally come around to preventing such accidents.  For some companies, customer safety is important enough.  For others, the threat of money damages from their product harming the public is what is needed to improve product safety.

Samsung recently announced the recall of its popular Note 7 smartphone. After its batteries were shown to overheat and cause fires, the company issued a recall to replace the batteries. Unfortunately, the recall was not able to fix the overheating problem, and Samsung did the right thing and pulled the items from the shelf.

More recently, Samsung was forced to recall 2.8 million washing machines due to a defect that allows the drum to become loosened on the inside of the machine and come into contact with the user, causing significant injuries. Given the speed and force with which new washers spin clothes, the danger of the drum coming loose is severe.

Samsung has faced complaints and lawsuits about injuries from these products, and fortunately they are doing the right thing at this point by recalling the dangerous items. Sometimes companies find defects on their own and recall products. More often, it takes complaints, and often injuries, from many consumers before recalls are issued. And unfortunately, even after numerous complaints, injuries, and even lawsuits, sometimes companies still refuse to recall dangerous products.

car-accident-2-14492951-e1449528550287When a loved one is in an automobile accident that results in a serious injury or even death, it is not uncommon for a family to hire a law firm to represent their interests.  Medical bills, lost wages, the inability to pay for basic things in life because of a loss of income, pain, rehabilitation, loss of life or loss of the enjoyment of life – these are all things that no one is truly able to understand until they have to go through it.  If a serious injury or death is caused by the bad driving or bad decisions of another driver, that person needs to be held accountable for the harm they caused.

Unfortunately, most people driving the roads are not adequately insured to cover a serious injury or death claim.  In Alabama, the minimum insurance limits that are required by law for a driver is $25,000.  If a person with minimum limits seriously injures or kills your loved one, $25,000 is all that is available from the opposing driver’s insurance, which is a drop in the bucket for a serious injury or loss of a loved one.  Many people carry their own underinsured motorist coverage that can also pay, but it is extremely rare for these policies to provide adequate coverage for a serious injury or loss of life.

While most people assume the insurance of the opposing driver and your own insurance is the only possible source of recovery, there are always others avenues that need to be explored by a lawyer in a serious injury or fatal car accident.  One of the main areas our firm researches when helping a family with a serious injury or loss of life is defects in the vehicles themselves.  An issue with steering or a defective tire that blew out may have cause the other car to lose control.  There may have been a defective part on one of the cars that could have prevented the accident from happening in the first place.

photo_1373_20060329-300x200Every year, approximately 36 million people are injured and 34,000 people are killed by using everyday consumer products.  This includes everything from falls off ladders to appliances that malfunction and catch fire.  These are staggering numbers.  While many of the injuries and deaths are the result of someone misusing a product, many also result from dangers built into the products themselves that could be prevented.

There is a concept in design engineering called the safety hierarchy.  It is also called the hazard control hierarchy.  It is supposed to govern decisions about how products are made, tested, and redesigned before they come to market and are used by the public.  It is a set of checks to eliminate or drastically reduce the number of injuries and deaths associated with using a product.  If a danger is found in a product, the hierarchy goes like this:  1. Design out the danger, 2. Guard against the danger, 3. Warn against the danger.  Unfortunately, the hierarchy is not always followed.

Design out the danger

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