Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Home Appliances Can Cause Injury

In early November of 2016, consumer electronics giant Samsung announced that it would be recalling 34 models of its top-load washing machines sold between March 2011 and 2016.1 The issue, it claimed, was that the drums in the top-load washers lost balance at high speeds, causing vibrations so strong that the tops of the washing machines could detach. Samsung received 733 reports of excessive vibration or the top detaching from the unit, as well as 9 reports of injuries, including broken jaws and injured shoulders. Consumers who purchased the affected washing machines were offered either a free repair or a rebate to purchase a new machine. This recall comes at a sensitive time for Samsung, given that the company also recently recalled its entire line of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones due to reports that their lithium-ion batteries were exploding.

The Samsung washers incident raises a larger question: What should you do if you have purchased a defective, dangerous product? The law governing products liability2 varies little from state to state, and is generally based upon a theory of strict liability. Under traditional negligence law, a defendant’s conduct must fall below the standard expected of a reasonably prudent person in defendant’s position. Strict liability, however, removes this requirement. In order to prevail on a theory of strict liability, a plaintiff must show merely that:

-A product was sold in an unreasonably dangerous condition
-The seller expected and intended that the product would reach the consumer without changes, and
-The plaintiff or the plaintiff’s property was injured by the defective product

Although the burden of proof for strict products liability is lower than for a showing of traditional negligence, there are several defenses available to a defendant in a products liability action that will preclude a plaintiff’s recovery, or at least reduce it, including:

-The plaintiff used the product in a way he or she knew could lead to injury (known as “assumption of the risk”)
-The plaintiff’s own careless use of the product contributed to the injury
-Some other person other than the manufacturer and plaintiff interacted with the product to the extent that the product itself was not the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injury

When it comes to the type of defect that can inform a cause of action for products liability, there are three major categories: Defective manufacture, defective design, and failure of adequate warning. Defective manufacturing defects arise when the product is flawed because of an error in the construction of the product, making that particular product more dangerous than other products in the line. For example, a coffee machine with a faulty auto-off feature would be an example of a defect of manufacture. A product has a defective design if the product’s design is inherently dangerous, affecting the entire line of products. For example, the Samsung washers would arguably be a case of defective design. A failure of adequate warning defect arises when a product is dangerous in a way that’s not obvious to the user and requires the user to take extra precautions. A tooth-whitening solution that does not include a warning that prolonged exposure could lead to chemical burns is an example of failure of adequate warning.

Contact a Clearwater, FL Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Case

If you’ve been injured by a consumer product and believe you may have a products liability claim, please contact the Clearwater products liability attorneys at the Dolman Law Group for a free