Articles Posted in Products Liability

If anyone suffers an injury or sickness caused by a recalled food, they may be able to file a Washington, D.C. product liability claim to recover compensation. Recalls generally involve foods contaminated by various pathogens, such as E. coli or Salmonella. Food recalls can also occur due to a foreign object being present in the food. The Food and Drug Administration monitors the safety of most food products, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service is responsible for ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products.

A recall does not automatically establish that a defendant is liable, but it may serve as evidence in a product liability case. A court may not always allow such evidence, but even if it does, the plaintiff must still prove that the specific food that the plaintiff consumed was defective and that the defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Cases like this may require the testimony of an expert who can explain the link between the defect and the plaintiff’s symptoms and injuries. If there is evidence of a recall, that may help prove that the food the plaintiff purchase was contaminated. Testing may also be done in some situations to determine if the food was actually affected. Testing may also be done on the plaintiff to show whether certain pathogens were present in the plaintiff’s body.

Over 760,000 Pounds of Hot Pockets Recalled

A product recall is not required for a viable Washington, D.C. product liability claim, just as a product recall does not automatically mean that a consumer has a viable Washington, D.C. product liability claim. However, if a product is recalled, it is a sign that a product is not safe. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) investigates injuries associated with consumer products. The CPSC can issue a voluntary recall notice or a mandatory recall notice, depending on the nature of the defect.

Although a consumer of a recalled product may be able to have the product refunded or replaced pursuant to a recall, the consumer must have been injured by the defective product in order to file a product liability claim. A plaintiff in a product liability case in Washington, D.C. must establish that the defendant manufacturer, distributor, or retailer is liable for the injuries caused by the defendant’s defective product. In a strict liability claim, this generally means proving that the seller was engaged in the business of selling the defective product, that the seller expected the product to reach the consumer, that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous when it was sold, that the product was not substantially changed when it reached the consumer, and that the defect in the product caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Crockpots Recalled After Burn Injuries

One company is recalling almost a million crockpots sold by various retailers after consumers reported burns after the lids on the crockpots blew off. According to one news source, around 100 consumers were burned after the lids blew off the crockpots while they were in use, spewing hot food and liquid. The crockpots were able to pressurize even though the lid was not fully locked, causing the lid to blow off while it was being used. There were 119 reports of lids detaching, causing a reported 99 injuries. Some consumers suffered serious injuries, including third-degree burns.

Continue reading ›

In a Washington, D.C. product liability case, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant is responsible for harm to the plaintiff caused by the defendant’s product. Different parties in the chain of production may be liable for a harmful product, including a manufacturer and a retail store owner. A products liability case is based on strict liability, meaning that the defendant is strictly liable as long as there is a defect. In a Washington, D.C. strict liability case, a plaintiff has to show: that the seller engaged in the business of selling the product at issue; that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous when it was sold to the consumer; that the seller expected to reach and the product reached the consumer without any substantial change in the product’s condition; and that the defect directly and proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

In general, there are two tests often used to determine if a product’s design was defective. The first is the consumer-expectations test. Under the consumer-expectations test, the relevant question is whether a product failed to perform in the manner that the ordinary consumer would reasonably expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. The second test is the risk-utility test. Under the risk-utility test, the question is whether the product’s inherent risk of harm outweighed the product’s utility. Potentially, either the consumer-expectation test or the risk-utility test may apply in a Washington, D.C. injury case, depending on the facts of the case.

A federal appeals court recently upheld a product liability award of $4,050,000 after the man was injured by an unguarded blade on a meat saw at work. The plaintiff was the manager of a meat market at a supermarket. He was cutting meat and cut through his arm after he was called away and forgot to put on the meat saw’s blade guard. When he had returned to the saw, he did not realize that the saw was active and unguarded and reached for a box cutter, making contact with the active blade. He had to have his arm amputated as a result.

In the event that a consumer is injured by a defective product, a number of parties may be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Under Washington, D.C. product liability law, a person or an entity that engages in selling or distributing products is liable for harm caused by a defective product sold or distributed by that person or entity. Therefore, manufacturers and sellers are strictly liable for their defective products.

In a strict liability claim under Washington, D.C. law, a plaintiff must prove that the seller engaged in the business of selling the product that caused the harm, the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous when it was sold to the consumer, the seller expected to and reached the consumer without any substantial change in the product’s condition, and the defect directly and proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

In a recent case before a state appellate court, the court considered the reach of strict liability laws in the online shopping era. Specifically, the court considered whether Amazon could be held liable for a defective product sold on its site. The plaintiff purchased a replacement laptop computer battery on Amazon. The listing identified the seller as “E-life,” and was sold by Lenoge Technology. Amazon charged the plaintiff, packaged the battery for shipment in Amazon packaging, and sent it to the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that several months after she bought it, the battery exploded and caused her severe burns. She filed suit against Amazon, Lenoge, and others. The plaintiff claimed in part that Amazon was strictly liable for the defective product. Amazon argued that it did not distribute, manufacture, or sell the product, and thus it could not be held liable under strict liability laws. The trial court agreed, and the plaintiff appealed.

Onions are a staple in many foods that Washington, D.C. residents eat every day. However, currently, red onions are linked to a salmonella outbreak across the United States and Canada. This means that many foods involving onions—from onion rings to burgers and salads with onions on them—may be making people sick. The outbreak and affected onions may be involved in future Washington, D.C. product liability cases. Washington, D.C. residents should be aware of the concern and their legal rights if they fall ill.

According to a New York Times article covering the incident, more than 500 cases of salmonella and at least 75 hospitalizations have been reported in the U.S. and Canada. The cases are all thought to have come from red onions grown in California and transported across the two countries. In the U.S., there have been confirmed cases in at least 34 states. The majority of illnesses and hospitalizations are in the U.S. Salmonella is an illness that causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, and can persist for four to seven days. Those who are older or have weak immune systems are more likely to develop severe cases, and may also experience high fever, headaches, or rashes.

The produce supplier thought to have supplied the contaminated red onions recalled red, yellow, white, and sweet onions as a result of the outbreak. Recalls are not easy—the onions have been sent to wholesalers, restaurants, and grocery stores all across North America. Health officials recommend that consumers throw away any onions (or food made with onions) supplied by Thomson—the distributor. If they are not sure where they got their onions, they are also encouraged to throw them away to be safe.

The rapidly spreading coronavirus (the virus) has highlighted the glaring issues that Americans face when they are medically fragile or experience poverty. Many of these individuals and their families have suffered serious health and financial tolls because of the virus. Although the virus has wrought havoc on people across the socioeconomic and health spectrum, those residing in Washington D.C. nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, prisons, and shelters have suffered at alarming rates. The disparity in the number of cases at these facilities may be due to many factors; however, one common denominator is the lack of effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees and residents. The government provides these industries with protection from lawsuits for negligence claims related to their conduct during the crisis; however, there are limitations to this protection.

Although the country understands that these companies seek to help individuals survive the crisis, some situations may warrant a lawsuit. For example, one national news source described the harrowing accounts of healthcare workers who received shipments of outdated, ineffective PPE during a critical time. According to reports, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided some nursing homes with shipments of PPE; however, the shipments included loose gloves, masks made from underwear, and isolation gowns without openings. Regulators advised these facilities not to use the equipment, because they may present an infection-management risk. FEMA explained that the equipment met federal industry standards, but asked the private contractor to provide replacement equipment. They also claimed that the majority of their shipments were met without complaint.

Ineffective PPE, faulty medical devices, and unsafe drugs can take a devastating and potentially fatal toll on those that rely on the efficacy of these products. The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), affords the manufacturers and suppliers of these products with broad protection against lawsuits. However, the entities evoking protection must be a covered business, supply covered countermeasure products, and be engage in covered activities.

Summer is officially here, and soon, families will be heading to water parks where they can escape the heat, enjoy the water, and cool down for a few hours. Others with a taste for adventure may seek the excitement of a rollercoaster or a waterslide during their visit. These trips are usually filled with fond memories and amusement parks often do take the necessary precautions to adequately protect guests’ safety. However, when a preventable injury occurs, these parks can often be held accountable through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit. In addition, a recent case illustrates that amusement parks may also be liable for guest’s injuries under a product liability theory.

According to the recent opinion, a man brought a product liability claim against a water park after he was injured while going down a waterslide. The plaintiff had slipped from a sitting position on an inner tube and landed on his stomach. When the plaintiff splashed into the pool below, he hit his feet on the bottom of the pool, leaving him with a fractured pelvis and hip. Even though the plaintiff had ample evidence of his injury and the water park’s role in causing it, the trial court ruled against him in his product liability claim.

In front of the appellate court, the defense argued that their water park provided its guests with a service, and not a product, and thus the plaintiff’s product liability claim must fail. Because product liability claims can only apply to products and not services, the defense argued that patrons visit the water park to obtain a service involving the use of waterslides, rather than paying a fee to primarily use waterslides as a product.

Washington, D.C. product liability cases often require expert testimony concerning the connection between the defective product and the resulting injuries. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the highest court for the District of Columbia, decided in 2016 that District of Columbia courts would apply the Daubert standard embodied in Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence to determine the admission of expert testimony in civil and criminal cases.

Under Rule 702, a witness is qualified as an expert if:

  1. The expert’s specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence in the case or to determine a fact in issue;
  2. The expert’s testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; the testimony is based on reliable principles and methods; and
  3. The expert has “reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.”

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals determined this rule is broad enough to permit testimony “that is the product of competing principles or methods in the same field of expertise.”

Continue reading ›

Popular fast-food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill recently agreed to pay $25,000,000 to resolve criminal charges they faced for serving tainted food to consumers. According to the New York Times, federal prosecutors charged Chipotle with two counts of violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by serving food from 2015 to 2018 that made over 1,000 people across the United States, including Washington, D.C., sick. In addition to the fine—the largest ever imposed in a food safety case—Chipotle has also agreed to adhere to a new food safety program, to avoid incidents like this in the future.

In the agreement, Chipotle admitted to being connected to several foodborne illness outbreaks, including several outbreaks of norovirus. Norovirus, which spreads easily, is associated with stomach upsets, vomiting, and nausea. It is said that these outbreaks were largely due to Chipotle employees not following food safety protocols. Additionally, Chipotle employees acknowledged feeling pressure to come to work even when sick, which contributed to the spread of illness to others.

This case highlights the importance of food providers and restaurants taking great care when preparing food. Federal prosecutors take credit for holding Chipotle responsible for the illnesses they caused and have promised to continue to actively enforce food safety laws to protect the public health. Food safety advocates hope that the case will set an example for others in the industry, reminding them to review and improve their own food safety policies and ensure they are being followed.

When someone is injured using a product in Washington, D.C., they may assume that it was their fault, and they have no course of action against anyone else. This is especially true if they have used the machine before, or if no one else was around when they were injured. Often, those injured in these scenarios will blame themselves. However, these instances may be suitable for a product liability lawsuit. Washington, D.C. law allows individuals injured while using a dangerous or defective product to sue the product’s manufacturer. If successful, these suits may allow injured victims to recover for lost wages, pain and suffering, and past and future medical expenses.

However, potential plaintiffs need to understand how complicated these cases may be. It is usually not enough to show that you were injured while using the product. Typically, the plaintiff must prove several other elements to hold a manufacturer liable. The exact requirements depend on what type of products liability claim the plaintiff is making, but one important one that comes up often is having to prove that the product was defective or dangerous at the time that it was sold.

Recently, a federal appellate court considered a case that hinged on this requirement. According to the court’s written opinion, the product in question was a tube-end forming machine. The user would load tube into the machine, and then press a foot pedal to activate the hydraulic press, which brought clamps around the tube and shaped the end of the tube. The machine at issue was sold originally by the manufacturer in 1992 but passed along to several companies before being sold to the plaintiff’s employer in 2014. When sold in 1992, there was a finger guard to prevent a user’s fingers from being crushed by the machine, but the original guard was lost over the years and replaced with a new guard that only worked for a certain size of tube.

Contact Information