Articles Posted in Products Liability

Presenting strong expert witness testimony is essential in many Washington, D.C. injury cases. But before the testimony can be considered, it must be admissible under evidentiary rules. In 2016, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued a decision adopting Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the Daubert test articulated in the Supreme Court case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). The Daubert standard now applies in all civil and criminal cases in Washington, D.C. and focuses on the relevance and reliability of the evidence.

Under Rule 702, a witness who is qualified to testify as an expert based on knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify if:

  1. The testimony will be helpful in order to understand the evidence or determine a fact at issue;
  2. The testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
  3. The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
  4. The expert witness reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

In a recent case before a federal appeals court, the court excluded expert testimony in a personal injury case, finding that the testimony was not reliable. In that case, the plaintiff severely injured his right leg, foot, and ankle when a skid-steer loader he was operating at work tipped over. When it began to tip forward, the plaintiff braced his right foot near the front opening. His foot slipped out the front and he brought the lift down on it, crushing his foot. He and his wife filed a strict liability claim against the manufacturer alleging that the machine was defectively designed.

Continue reading ›

Self-driving cars were introduced several years ago, but as crashes continue to occur, they raise safety concerns for everyone on the road. Many say that self-driving cars employ safety features that make them safer than other cars and that drivers are cautioned to keep their eyes on the road. However, others say these vehicles are ripe for misuse and multiple crashes seem to support the fact that they present unique safety issues. Victims of a Washington, D.C. car accident involving a self-driving car or a negligent driver may be able to recover compensation from the driver or other entities at fault, as discussed further below.

A recent Tesla crash in Detroit has raised questions about the safety of the vehicle after multiple incidents, as one news source reported. In 2016, a man died in a crash in Florida when the vehicle was on Autopilot and failed to recognize the trailer of a truck crossing the highway. In 2019, another Tesla similarly crashed into a tractor-trailer when Autopilot was engaged. The recent incident in Detroit also involved a Tesla that crashed into the trailer of a truck. The company has not reported whether the vehicle was using Autopilot at the time. As in the 2016 accident, the Tesla drove under the tractor-trailer and tore off the roof of the car. The driver and the passenger suffered serious injuries in the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident, as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA reported that it was investigating 23 similar crashes.

The Autopilot system uses radar and cameras to detect vehicles and objects in the road and can steer, accelerate, and brake automatically. The company maintains that drivers are supposed to pay close attention to the road when using Autopilot and should be ready to take control of the car. Yet, critics say that the company lacks safeguards to prevent drivers from misusing the system. Another vehicle with similar features switches off the autopilot when the driver looks away from the road and can only be used on major highways.

A recent congressional report revealed that many baby foods sold in the Washington, D.C. area contain high levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, and cadmium. As one news source reported, investigators raised concern over the levels which surpassed levels allowed in products like bottled water. The report highlights the U.S. government’s lenient approach to oversight of the safety of baby food.

Exposure to heavy metals has been linked to behavioral impairments, brain damage, and death. Four companies, Nurture, Inc. (which sells HappyBABY), Beech-Nut, Gerber, and Hain Celestial Group (which sells Earth’s Best), provided information about their testing policies and results. Three other companies, Walmart (which sells Parent’s Choice brand), Sprout Organic Foods, and Campbell Soup Company (which makes Plum Organics brand), did not provide information regarding testing policies and results. Lawmakers raised concerns over the potentially higher levels contained in the products that did not provide the requested information.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration does not set limits on heavy metal limits for baby foods, apart from arsenic levels in rice cereal. The levels of inorganic arsenic from two companies that tested such levels exceeded the levels set for infant rice cereal. Although heavy metals occur naturally in some vegetables in grains, the amounts may increase if manufacturers add other ingredients to the food, such as vitamin and mineral mixes.

Knowing the applicable filing deadlines is essential in a Washington, D.C. personal injury lawsuit. Failure to abide by the deadlines will often result in a dismissal of one’s case, and in some circumstances, the case cannot be refiled. The statute of limitations refers to the deadline for filing certain types of claims after a cause of action accrues. In general, there is a three-year statute of limitations for Washington, D.C. personal injury cases and a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. The deadline may be able to be tolled, or extended, in some circumstances.

A statute of repose is similar to the statute of limitations but is more strictly construed. It puts a fixed deadline on filing for certain claims. Some states have statutes of repose for personal injury claims—Washington, D.C. does not have a general statute of repose for such claims, though it does have statutes of repose for certain claims. For example, the District of Columbia has a statute of repose of ten years for damages to real property based on the defective or unsafe condition of an improvement to real property.

A recent case demonstrates how statutes of repose and statutes of limitations can be applied and why they must be adhered to. In 2003, the plaintiff underwent surgery during which a TVT transvaginal mesh sling device was implanted. She later began experiencing pain, urinary issues, and scarring. Her doctor told her that the mesh had eroded and had a procedure to remove the implant in 2006. That same year, she had a similar mesh sling implanted, which was later eroded and removed in 2011. She claimed that she learned of the injury in July 2012 after a physician said that the mesh was the likely cause of her injuries.

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.

Contact Information