Articles Posted in Products Liability

When someone is injured in a Washington, D.C. accident, the law allows them to file a civil suit against the responsible party to recover monetary damages for their injuries. Generally, this process requires proving four things. First, that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. Second, that the defendant breached that duty through some act or omission. Third, the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the defendant’s breach. Lastly, the plaintiff suffered actual damages. Failure to prove one of these elements can be fatal to a plaintiff’s claim. In Washington, D.C. personal injury lawsuits, plaintiffs may bring in expert witnesses to help prove these elements; expert witnesses can help explain how an accident happened or the extent of the resulting injuries to the court.

While expert witnesses can be extremely helpful for plaintiffs, there are certain situations where expert witnesses can be used by the defense against the plaintiff. Defendants can also call expert witnesses who may provide testimony stating that a plaintiff’s claim is false. This can damage the plaintiff’s claim, sometimes even ending it altogether; if a defendant has a reliable expert witness and a plaintiff has none, the plaintiff might automatically lose.

Take, for example a recent state appellate case against Johnson & Johnson. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff used Johnson & Johnson talc-based products—specifically Shower to Shower and Baby Powder—regularly for years. In 2016, she was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, and filed suit against Johnson & Johnson and their talc supplier, alleging that the company’s Shower to Shower and Baby Powder contained asbestos, causing her illness. In response, Johnson & Johnson produced the testimony of an expert witness, a geology Ph.D. specializing in characterizing asbestos in raw materials and the development of asbestos analytical methods. Based on his specialized knowledge and a review of various governmental and academic studies, the expert concluded that the talc sourced from the specific mines providing for the two products was asbestos-free.

Individuals in Washington, D.C. who use Johnson & Johnson baby powder might have been exposed to serious risks by using the company’s talc-based baby powder. The company, which produces a wide range of household products, is currently being sued by the state of New Mexico for misleading consumers about the safety of its baby powder and other talc-based products. If true, the allegations could have a serious impact on Washington, D.C. consumers who use the company’s products.

The lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson accuses them of concealing the dangers of their talc-based products, which allegedly contain carcinogenic asbestos. According to a major news report covering the suit, the products at issue have been associated with certain types of cancer and lung disease. The suit, brought by New Mexico’s Attorney General on behalf of the state, alleges that Johnson & Johnson is continuing to market these products to consumers, despite their dangers. This type of suit is what is commonly called a “failure to warn” case. All companies, regardless of size, are generally required by law to warn consumers about any potential dangers posed by their products. For example, a company producing hairdryers must include a warning about how the product can cause electric shock if dropped in water while turned on, and cigarette companies are required to include warnings about lung cancer on the boxes of their cartons.

Similarly, if talc-based products pose a danger to consumers, Johnson & Johnson has a legal duty to warn consumers of such. If instead of warning consumers, companies conceal information or fail to disclose it, they can be held liable under tort law. These lawsuits are typically high profile and can be very expensive, sometimes resulting in penalties of over one billion dollars.

Washington D.C. product liability lawsuits typically arise after someone is injured or killed because a product is defectively designed, manufactured, or lacks the appropriate warnings. Washington D.C. product liability laws encourage companies to act responsibly when releasing their products into the stream of commerce. Companies who fail to abide by safety regulations and rules may face liability for the injuries their product caused.

A product may be defective when it is capable of inflicting significant harm to a consumer. Washington D.C. injury victims may face difficulties establishing that a product is faulty, depending on the complexity and specific deficiency of the product. Design defect claims arise when the product is inherently dangerous based on its design. Manufacturing claims occur when the product has an appropriate design, but is defective because of a manufacturing error. Finally, defective warning claims arise when someone is injured because the product lacked adequate warnings. Product liability lawsuits are commonly brought based on defective pharmaceuticals, appliances, motor vehicles, toys, medical devices, and dangerous chemicals.

For example, recently, a national news report described a disastrous chemical explosion at a popular chain restaurant. A toxic mixture of cleaning agents led to the death of the restaurant’s general manager and the hospitalization of several patrons. The incident occurred after an employee mixed a bleach cleaner and detergent to clean the kitchen floor. The combination of the products resulted in lethal fumes. The cleanser is a popular restaurant and food service cleaning agent. The detergent’s information sheet indicates that it is not compatible with strong acids. However, an investigation into the incident and the product is still ongoing as the community copes with the tragic accident.

In some Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, there are complex issues beyond the understanding of the common juror. Typically, these issues involve the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and how they are traceable to the defendant’s conduct. In such cases, courts allow parties to call expert witnesses – often doctors – whose expertise can help the jury understand and contextualize the evidence.

Typically, when one party plans on calling an expert witness, the other side will also call an expert witness to offer a contrary position. This situation is referred to as the “battle of the experts,” because the outcome of the case may very well come down to which expert is more believable in the eyes of the jury. Thus, the decision of which expert to call is a critical determination that can make or break an accident victim’s case.

In a recent personal injury opinion released by a federal appellate court, the court discussed what a plaintiff must establish to present an expert witness. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in an on-the-job accident involving a machine used to crush automobiles and other large pieces of machinery. The plaintiff filed a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the crusher.

Products that are made for young children and marketed to parents are assumed to be safe. However, that is not always the case. Each year, hundreds of Washington, D.C. product liability lawsuits are filed based on dangerous or defective products; many of these products are designed for children.

In April, the toy giant Fisher-Price issued a recall of its popular baby sleeper, the Rock ‘n Play, after there had been more than 30 reports of babies dying while using the sleeper. According to an article by the Washington Post, the Rock ‘n Play was created in 2009 in response to the common concern for many parents that their babies would not sleep through the night.

Unlike cribs, bassinets, and other baby sleepers, the Rock ‘n Play allows babies to lie at a 30-degree angle, which was believed to help infants sleep longer. In fact, the company advertised that, “Baby can sleep at a comfortable incline all night long!” However, according to the Washington Post, Fisher-Price developed the sleeper without any clinical research, based on what have now come to be faulty beliefs about babies and how they sleep.

To successfully bring a Washington, D.C. personal injury case, a plaintiff must be able to prove not just that the defendant was negligent but also that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of their injuries. While the concept of causation may sound like a straightforward determination, in practice, the element can be exceedingly complex.

Causation can be broken down into two separate inquiries, the first being “but for” causation, or cause-in-fact. To satisfy the cause-in-fact element, the plaintiff must show that absent the defendant’s negligence, the accident would not have occurred. In most cases, cause-in-fact is not difficult to establish.

The second part of a causation inquiry is called proximate cause, or legal cause. Not only is proximate cause much more complicated, but it is also more challenging to prove. Proximate cause requires that a plaintiff prove that the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injuries are sufficiently related to say that the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

When a product is released for sale to the general public, the manufacturer of the product is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe for its intended use and does not present an unreasonable risk of injury. If someone is injured due to a product that suffers from a design defect, the injury victim can file a Washington, D.C. product liability claim against the manufacturer.

Typically, Maryland product liability claims are brought under the theory of strict liability, meaning that an injury victim does not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent; only that the defectively designed product caused their injuries. However, certain exceptions to this general rule exist. A recent case involving a rented Bobcat light-construction vehicle discusses one of the more common exceptions.

According to the court’s opinion, a man rented a Bobcat skid-steer loader from a rental agency. The machine was an open-framed vehicle that was used for light construction and demolition tasks that could be fitted with hundreds of attachments, depending on the intended use of the machine. A door-kit was one of these add-ons.

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating the importance of expert selection in Washington, D.C. product liability cases. The case required the court to determine if the testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses was based on sufficiently reliable methodology. Ultimately, the court concluded that the testimony of both witnesses was properly excluded by the trial court.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a college student who died in a fire that started in the boy’s room. Investigators found the boy’s laptop among the debris. The plaintiffs presented two expert witnesses to testify that, in their opinion, the fire was started when the battery in the laptop malfunctioned.

The first expert had a PhD in inorganic chemistry and was an expert in battery safety. He testified that upon inspecting the batteries in the laptop, one of the three cells had ruptured. He further explained that a battery cell can only rupture in certain circumstances, including electrically abusive condition,s mechanically abusive conditions, high temperatures (such as a fire), or an internal problem with the battery.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Utah issued a written opinion in a product liability lawsuit discussing the liability of a retailer that had nothing to do with the design or manufacture of a reclining chair that crushed the plaintiff’s foot. The court held that, although a previous legal doctrine shielded passive retailers from liability in these circumstances, that doctrine was now outdated and no longer applicable.

The case is instructive to Washington, D.C. residents who have recently been injured due to a dangerous or defective product and may be considering a Washington, D.C. product liability lawsuit.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff purchased a reclining chair from the defendant furniture store. The chair purchased by the plaintiff came with a foot-massage feature. While the plaintiff was using the feature, the chair crushed his left foot. The plaintiff filed a product liability claim against both the manufacturer of the chair as well as the defendant furniture retailer. This appeal deals only with the furniture retailer.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a product liability case brought by a homeowner who sustained serious injuries after he fell while using the ladder manufactured by the defendant. The court hearing the case had to determine if the expert testimony provided by the plaintiff was properly admitted by the trial judge. Finding that it was, the court affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a homeowner who was using a ladder manufactured by the defendant to change a few rusty screws in the gutter above his garage. The homeowner climbed the ladder, but before he could complete the job, the ladder buckled under his weight. The homeowner struck his head on the pavement of his driveway, causing bleeding and bruising in his brain. As a result, the homeowner now suffers from seizures, dementia, and quadriplegia.

The homeowner filed a product liability lawsuit against the ladder’s manufacturer, claiming that the ladder was not designed to support a 200-pound person and that a safer and feasible alternative existed. In support of his claim, the homeowner provided two experts. One expert focused his testimony on the durability of the ladder and whether it could support a 200-pound person. This expert concluded that the ladder may not have been able to support a 200-pound person, depending on how the weight was distributed. The other expert testified that the way the homeowner had placed the ladder was proper and that more substantial support beams on the ladder could have prevented it from buckling under the homeowner’s weight.

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