Articles Posted in Product Liability

Products are not supposed to hurt people. When products injure people, lawyers are often asked to look into whether a recovery can be made against the manufacturer and seller of the product. In Alabama, products liability law is governed by the Alabama Extended Manufacturers’ Liability Doctrine (AEMLD).

To be able to pursue a product liability claim in Alabama, you’ve got to show generally that you were injured and that the product was dangerous. The first part, being injured, may seem obvious, but people often call lawyers when a product destroys itself or it proves to be dangerous and almost hurts them. These are times to count your blessings that you were not hurt.

The second part, proving that product was dangerous, involves several things.

First, you have to show that you were using the product either as it was intended to be used or in a way that was reasonably foreseeable that it would be used. People have different ideas for how to use products than the original idea of the manufacturer, and sometimes pieces go missing from products after use and people use them with pieces missing – that is just life, and manufacturers know this, and the law places a duty on them to try to protect people in ways they could foresee the product being used. However, there is also a concept in Alabama called contributory negligence which means that if you were doing something you knew was dangerous with the product, then you will not be able to recover.

A product is defective and unreasonably dangerous if it creates an unforeseen hazardous condition when put to its normal or foreseeable use. There are several ways this can happen and that lawyers prove these cases.

The first is a design defect. This simply means there is something about the design of the product that is defective and makes it dangerous. You can think of a saw that was designed without a guard or a guard that can easily break and fall off. This would be a dangerous condition because the saw can obviously hurt someone if it comes into contact with them. There are product defects in all types of consumer products – lead in toys, ladders that are not made strong enough or with certain fall protections, smoke detectors that don’t go off or warn when the battery is out, ATVs that roll over, electronic appliances that can catch fire. These are a few examples.

The next way to prove a product is defective is a manufacturing defect. The product could have been designed safely, but it was not put together correctly. A faulty weld, missing screws or missing pieces of a product can turn an otherwise safe product into one that can cause serious injury or death.

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As with all products guns are sometimes defective. The difference between guns and other products is obvious. Guns are designed to kill. Therefore, they are much more dangerous, especially if manufactured with a defect. Gun manufactures know this and should take special care in the design, manufacture and sale of their products.

There are several ways in which guns can be defective or marketed improperly, thus leading to a viable claim. Sometimes guns are sold without proper instructions or warnings. Everybody knows that there are foreseeable risks related to guns. Most of the time the risks are associated with user negligence or misconduct. However, some guns are manufactured in such a way that they might be more easily misused or improperly used than other guns. For example a gun manufactured with a specially sensitive trigger mechanism should come with warnings as to that aspect of the gun.

Another way in which a gun may be defective is called a design defect. If a gun is manufactured with a defect in its design that makes it unreasonable dangerous, then an accident involving that gun could lead to a viable product liability lawsuit.   A recent settlement involving Remington’s 700 series is an example of an alleged design defect. Under the terms of this settlement, Remington has agreed to retrofit a number if its models to eliminate an alleged defect in its unique trigger mechanism. This mechanism was designed by Remington engineer Mike Walker in the 1940s. The allegations are that Remington was aware of a possible unsafe condition related to the gun’s safety that allowed the gun to fire accidentally. The settlement covers the model 700, Sportsman’s 78, 673, 710, 715, 770, 600,660, XP-100, 721, 722 and 725.

The recent recall of over 4.7 million cars due to potentially faulty airbags underscores the importance of airbags as an essential tool for vehicle safety. We no doubt trust that our airbags will deploy timely and appropriately. Unfortunately, defective airbags can fail to protect us, causing injuries and death. There are several different types of airbag defects, including:

-Failure to deploy – airbag fails to deploy when it should have

-Deploying too readily – airbag deploys too fast or when it should not have deployed at all

Motor vehicle accidents, while unfortunate, are foreseeable. Manufacturers of motor vehicles know this. Most motor vehicle collisions are survivable. Manufacturers have a duty to design vehicles that will not catch on fire after a collision occurs.

Three things must be present for a post collision fire to occur: 1) Fuel, 2) Oxygen and 3) a source of ignition. The second element, oxygen, is always present as this exists naturally in the environment. In a post collision situation, there are several fuel sources that come into play. The most obvious of these is gasoline or diesel fuel. These liquids are highly combustible. However, transmission fluid, brake fluid and motor oil are also combustible.

The average temperature on the surface of the manifold of an ordinary passenger car is 1200 to 1400 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, the lowest ignition point of any of the fluids named above is only approximately 700 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, it is imperative for manufacturers of motor vehicles to design systems which ensure that, in a crash, none of these fluids come into contact with the manifold or any part of the electrical system of the car that could ignite a fire.

In emergency medical situations, time is everything. With a catastrophic injury, minutes and seconds can mean the difference between recovery and permanent injury, or even between life and death.

The same principle is often true in investigating an accident involving a catastrophic injury or death to protect yourself and your right to recovery. Critical evidence can become lost or damaged if not preserved in the days immediately following an accident. Having an experienced catastrophic injury attorney begin the investigation immediately is like emergency medical assistance – it can mean the chance at preserving all the evidence and your chance for a complete recovery. Our firm has years of experience and a team of experts on hand to begin investigating virtually any catastrophic injury or fatality. Here is a brief summary of our firm’s approach to auto accident investigation, why we do what we do, and why it is important to begin this process immediately.  The same principle is true for how we investigate fire and product defect cases as well.

We receive a call about a terrible automobile accident the day before. Our client’s family member is in ICU with a traumatic brain injury. Our first meeting is one of prayer and compassion with the family and to tell them to focus all their attention on caring for their loved one while we take care of investigating the accident. Our firm handles all the expense and manpower needed to investigate the accident while allowing the family to focus 100% on their loved one’s recovery.

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An Alabama woman was killed when her 2006 Chrysler 300LX was struck on the driver’s side by a tractor trailer. The representatives of her estate sued the manufacturer, claiming that she could have survived the crash if her car had been reasonably crashworthy,  equipped with side curtain airbags and side impact protection, including side/torso airbags. The 300LX had been manufactured by Chrysler Canada.

Chrysler Canada asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming not to be subject to the Alabama federal court’s jurisdiction. Its position was that it had no physical presence in Alabama: no offices, telephone numbers, bank accounts, or  employees. Chrysler Canada also denied ever seeking business from potential customers in Alabama, since it did not advertise here.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama considered whether it could try the plaintiffs’ claims under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine (the “AEMLD”), as well as for negligence, wantonness, and breach of warranty, after Chrysler Canada moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

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            When corporations that manufacture consumer products put profit ahead of safety innocent people can be killed or sustain catastrophic, permanent injuries.  For example, when a car manufacturer like GM keeps quiet about problems with an ignition system that it knows can cause accidents and fails for many years to recall these defective cars, dozens of people can die.  Or when drug manufacturers play fast and loose with the FDA drug approval process, severe injury and death result.

                Corporate governance describes the way in which the company is managed.  It also has everything to do with the culture in which the corporation exists and in which it designs, manufactures and markets its products.  Every corporation has a structure that enables it to operate and have continued existence.  There are several different models for corporate governance.  Some models focus almost exclusively on the interests of the stockholders and other models focus on the interest of all the stakeholders of the corporations, such as workers, creditors, suppliers, customers and the environment, in addition to the stockholders.  The model that the management of a particular corporation adopts can have a great effect on the safety of the products that the company designs, manufactures and sells.  Here’s why:

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A manufacturer of an allegedly defective product may attempt to remove a personal injury lawsuit from state court to federal court, in the belief that a federal jury will be less sympathetic to plaintiffs. The most common basis for removal in such a case is diversity of citizenship, that the parties are citizens of different states and, therefore, as long as certain other conditions are met, the proper jurisdiction is federal court.

In this case, Ford Motor Company, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC, and two other companies, Woodmere Motors and M&D Automotive (“the Bridgestone Defendants”), filed a notice of removal after a lawsuit was filed following the deaths of a man and woman when a Bridgestone tire on their 1995 Ford Explorer failed catastrophically.

The basis for removal in this proceeding was that plaintiffs, citizens of Alabama, had no case against Woodmere, a corporation which was also a citizen of Alabama, and that without that defendant, the opposing parties would be from different states and the case should go to federal court. Continue reading

With the announcement this week by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Bed Handles Inc. of a voluntary recall of about 113,000 adult portable bed handles, our attention is once again drawn to how to help keep elderly people safe. The bed handles that are being recalled can shift out of place, creating a dangerous gap between the bed handle and the side of the mattress. This gap poses a serious risk of entrapment, strangulation and death. This defective product has already resulted in the death of three women.

Recalled models include the Original Bedside Assistant® (BA10W), the Travel Handles™ (BA11W) which is sold as a set of two bed handles, and the Adjustable Bedside Assistant® (AJ1). The bed handles are intended to assist adults with getting in and out of bed by giving them a bar to grip and were sold by home health care stores, drug stores and medical equipment stores nationwide and in home and health care catalogs from January 1994 through December 2007 for about $100.

This is just one example of a number of products that are designed for elderly users that can cause problems both in the home and in a commercial setting, such as a nursing home. Other examples include consumer goods that may be safe for younger users but can be dangerous for elderly users who have reduced reaction times and less strength.

Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a Texas jury to pay $1.2 million to a woman who was injured after being treated for incontinence with one of Johnson & Johnson’s vaginal-mesh implants.  Ms. Batiste obtained the first jury verdict against Johnson & Johnson in the vaginal-mesh litigation.  Ms. Batiste suffered pelvic pain when the device eroded inside her.

There are over 12,000 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson related to the mesh implants, including the slings, which are alleged to damage women’s organs and make sex painful when they begin to deteriorate.

Transvaginal mesh gained in popularity as a treatment option for Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Stress Urinary Incontinence in the mid-2000s.  As that treatment option’s popularity grew, so did the manufacturers.  There are over 30 manufacturers of these types of devices, including Ethicon (a division of Johnson & Johnson), CR Bard, American Medical System and Boston Scientific.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) has ordered the manufacturers to study the rates of organ damage and complications linked to the implants.  There are other, similar products that have been the subject of litigation as well, such as the Prolift implant which is implanted to support sagging organs.

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