Posts tagged with "Product liability"

Product Liability Problems: When Healing Becomes Hurting

We’re in the middle of a cold New England winter and for many of us, that means we’re suffering the ubiquitous head cold. Not surprisingly, young children are particularly susceptible as their attendance in school subjects them to throngs of other children, many of whom are infected with a virus.

As parents, we seek to do all that we can to alleviate the unpleasantness experienced by our children when they are ill. Care must be taken, however, to ensure that our well-meaning efforts don’t create a bigger problem. Unfortunately, some of the products we buy are not designed with safety in mind and the devices we use to help our children can end up harming them.

For example, we recently represented a two-year-old girl who had previously developed symptoms of ordinary congestion. Her primary care doctor recommended she use a warm steam vaporizer. The girl’s parents purchased the defendant’s vaporizer, which contained warnings to keep the apparatus away from children. Even still, the parents placed the vaporizer on the child’s floor at bedtime.

The unit was equipped with a glowing orange night light that, the manufacturer advertised, promoted “safety.” The child unexpectedly woke in the middle of the night to notice a strange, glowing orange orb on her floor. When she approached closely to investigate, a burst of steam emanated from the vaporizer and scalded her face. She was left with a visible and permanent scar under her eye.

What Made This a Product Liability Case?

We hired an MIT engineer who tested the unit and opined that it emitted an exceedingly hot plume of steam which can disfigure upon only “momentary contact.” The expert also noted that the steam exhausted by the vaporizer should not have exceeded 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and should also have been equipped with a guard that would have diffused the scalding steam.

This device was not designed with personal safety in mind, and as a result, an innocent child was hurt. That’s the most heartbreaking aspect of product liability cases – the harm could easily be prevented if the company that made the device had just taken simple steps to ensure safety.

During several years of litigation, the manufacturer denied any responsibility only to ultimately settle the case with us for nearly $2 million.

The moral of the story is that sometimes products that we routinely purchase are not what they appear. Care must be taken to ensure that any such product can be used safely. This is particularly true if the product is being used around small children.

Protecting Your Family

If you or someone you know has been hurt because of a flawed product, give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657 or contact us and we can talk to you about your options.

Wrongful death cases are about making someone whole, not a backup to the criminal courts.

Wrongful death cases aren’t about revenge

Wrongful Death Cases and Revenge

There’s a misconception among a lot of adults today that the civil court system is a good back-up plan to punish a person who could not be convicted in the criminal court system. The idea is if they believe someone has committed a crime but was found Not Guilty or the case was thrown out, the victim’s family can always get a civil trial and try to sue the person.

That’s usually not a good legal strategy and that’s not what the civil courts are for. Generally speaking, wrongful death cases are about accidents, not murders.

Part of what spread this idea was the OJ Simpson murder trial that took place in 1994 and 1995. After Simpson was found Not Guilty, the families of the deceased pursued a wrongful death suit in 1997, which they won.

What many people don’t understand is that those two verdicts could both be consistent with the same pool of evidence. That’s because the burden of proof for criminal cases is higher than in civil cases. For the criminal case, where Simpson was found Not Guilty, the jury was required to have evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” to return a guilty verdict and they didn’t feel that standard was met. For the civil case, the requirement was much lower, “a preponderance of evidence.” That is, was it more likely than not that he did was he is accused of. Simpson was judged to be guilty and sentenced to pay $33.5 million.

In 2014 the lawyer for the plaintiff said Simpson has paid less than 1 percent of the settlement after 17 year. While Simpson was worth an estimated $11 million in 1994, all of that money was gone, most of it spent on legal fees. While personal injury firms like Colucci, Colluci Marcus & Flavin work on contingency and only bill clients if they win, Simpson’s defense team had to be paid either way. Efforts to collect money from Simpson have been largely unsuccessful.

If that’s what happened when someone won a wrongful death suit against a rich celebrity, imagine trying to collect from a member of the general public. Most murderers don’t have a lot of assets to draw from, and it doesn’t matter if they had insurance.

Insurance is for accidents. If someone commits a murder, that’s not an accident and no insurance policy covers intentional murders committed by the policy holder. That doesn’t mean lawful death suits can’t win – they certainly can and do, but most of them aren’t for murder and are more likely to involve accidents that are covered by insurance.

We’re not in the revenge business. You would not get any measure of comfort from hearing that the person who harmed your family is ordered to pay a large dollar amount that will never materialize.

Wrongful death cases include more steps than normal and timetables are tight

Don’t wait on a wrongful death case

A wrongful death case is the most emotionally-trying of the cases we work on. Surviving family members are mourning the loss of a loved ones and in cases where a working spouse of parent is killed, have the added stress of worrying about how they will pay their bills in the future. Comforting young children, planning a funeral and grieving all take a high priority at these times.

Unfortunately, this leads many people to delay talking to legal counsel, and in some cases that causes them to miss important deadlines in the civil court system. For example, only one person can become the “personal representative” who brings forth the claim in a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased, and the courts determine who that person is early in process. That needs to be resolved before any suit can go forward and if you don’t act quickly you may miss other deadlines.

Legally speaking, the courts treat wrongful death cases as personal injury case. Death is considered an injury by the courts. To be able to file a lawsuit for a wrongful death, or any other injury, the defendant must have committed some sort of civil wrong, such as negligence, that lead to the death.

It’s not simply enough for a person to have died on a property owned by someone else; the property owner had to do something wrong, such as fail to maintain the property. For example, if someone were to fall down the stairs at a building, there may not be grounds for a lawsuit to the building owner.

But, if there was a section of carpet at the top of the stairs that was bunched up and caused the person to trip, the hand rail was loose and unable to support the person’s weight, and the property owner had been told about those problems for months but never attempted to fix them, then there’s a strong case that the building owner’s negligence contributed to the person falling down the stairs.

Each case is different and many aren’t this clear cut, but if you or someone you know lost a relative in what could have come from the actions of another person, than you need to act quickly. Your want someone protecting your rights immediately and you can’t do that without an experienced lawyer.

who is defendant in wrongful death cases

Don’t assume who the defendant is in a wrongful death case

Consider this scenario. A young man in an apartment building starts lighting matches for fun and accidentally starts a fire that burns the building down. A woman in another apartment dies and her family pursues a wrongful death lawsuit.

Who is the defendant for that wrongful death lawsuit?

While some people will say it’s the young man, the real answer is that we don’t have enough information to answer the question. There are far too many unknowns to make a determination yet.

It’s easy to consider the young man responsible for the death. On a moral level he is to some degree. However, that’s not the purpose of a wrongful death suit, which is to collect damages for the surviving family members. If that young man has a lot of assets to his name, such as money or an insurance policy, he is worth including in the lawsuit. If he doesn’t, there is little purpose in trying to squeeze money out of him that he doesn’t have.

A competent attorney will investigate the matter further. Why did the fire spread so quickly? Was the building up to code? Were the smoke detectors working? Was the apartment building constructed improperly? Was the building manager warned about faulty safety equipment but never did anything to help?

We investigate to figure out what happened and what factors contributed to the tragedy. Even if the fire was set on purpose and the young man was arrested and prosecuted in the criminal court, the building owner could still be held responsible in a wrongful death case if he acted negligently, such as if it was shown that he allowed the fire escapes to rust up and fall apart.

Sometimes these cases go far down the rabbit hole. If we found out the smoke detector failed to work because of a faulty computer component inside of it, we may end up adding as defendants the smoke detector manufacturer and the company that made the smoke detector’s faulty component.

While moral guilt may belong to the young man, in a wrongful death suit, or any other personal injury suit, we pursue compensation from all negligent parties that contributed to the tragedy by failing to take reasonable precautions that could have protected people.

Wrongful Death Attorneys Boston MA, wrongful death who represents

Who gets to bring a wrongful death case to court?

Determining the wrongful death case?

The civil court system views a wrongful death case as a type of personal injury with one big difference: The deceased can not file a lawsuit.

If you break your arm because someone hit you with their car, you can call an attorney and talk about your rights and options. If that car strike and kills you, you can’t.

So who has the legal standing to contact an attorney and bring forth a wrongful death case lawsuit?

That’s something the probate court decides, and it only does so when someone attempts to claim standing. Say the deceased person’s brother wanted to bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit. The brother’s lawyer would file in court that they wish to be the deceased’s “personal representative” and notify all heirs to the deceased, such as a spouse, other siblings, parents, etc. Those people would have a limited time to contact the probate court and say they would prefer to be the personal representative.

The probate court would hear the claims of the different people and appoint one person as the personal representative, and that personal representative would then “stand in the shoes of the deceased.” They are expected to act on the deceased’s behalf and act in good faith towards the deceased’s interests.

Suppose a person became the personal representative, filed a wrongful death claim and that claim won the judgment. The personal representative would not get to determine what happens to the money. Instead, the judgment would go into the deceased’s estate and if there was no will the government would use an existing flow chart to distribute the money, such as giving any children or spouse the money first.

The danger of E-cig explosions

The safety discussions about E-cigarette devices – a high-tech alternative to smoking that uses vapor instead of smoke – have been focused on the health risks of inhaling vapors or “vaping,” but there are a growing numbers of cases where people have been horribly injured by the e-cigarette devices themselves when they explode or burst into flames.

We’ll update this article if things change, but right now e-cigarette devices have little government oversight. The FDA is focused on the chemicals or “juice” that are used in vaping, but not on the e-cigarette devices themselves. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has declared that the devices are not under its jurisdiction.

That’s terrible news, because there’s a very simple hazard in e-cig devices that leads to explosions that has been identified by the U.S. Fire Administration. (1)

The e-cig devices have a lithium-ion battery that powers the device and can be recharged using a USB cable. Unfortunately, most people today have a collection of USB charging adapters kicking around, not knowing they provide different voltages and electrical currents.

If an e-cig device is plugged into a high-voltage adapter meant for another device, the lithium battery will get too strong a charge and can burst into flames or explode. A 2014 U.S. Fire Administration report found that 80% of e-cigarette fires and explosions happened while the device was plugged in. Of course, that means that the remaining 20% happened when the device was not plugged in, meaning there are other possible design flaws that can harm or even kill a user.

If you’ve encountered any issue with an e-cigarette device, please give us a call immediately at 617-698-6000 and we’ll let you know what your options and rights are.

  1. https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/electronic_cigarettes.pdf

 

Vertical roasters recalled after reports of shattering

The truth is that most companies are very aware of the potential dangers with their products, and they do all that they can to minimize or eliminate those dangers. Companies are aware that when a dangerous product is released onto the market, and someone is injured or killed as a result, not only will the company be forced to recall the product and likely payout a settlement to the victim, the public’s perception will shift against the company. Because a defective product can be so damaging to a company, both financially and publically, they often issue recalls as soon as they are aware of potential dangers. Vertical roasters recalledTCC Cooking Company recently recalled a line of vertical roasters after receiving more than two dozen reports of breaking or shattering. Though no injuries were reported, such breaking can easily cause lacerations or burns to consumers. The company has recalled nearly 4,000 units in an effort to prevent such injuries, offering full refunds to customers who purchased the defective product.

It is always refreshing to see a company recall a product when it is made aware of potential safety hazards, before any serious injuries occur. Unfortunately, not all companies issue such recalls, and sometimes the company simply does not know about the danger until it is too late. In such cases, victims of injury by defective product may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit, Boston MA to be compensated for their injuries.

Like nearly every injury, if another party’s negligence is responsible, then that party will likely have to pay for medical expenses and other damages. When companies release dangerous or defective products, they can often be considered negligent in their business practices. If you have been injured by a defective product in Massachusetts, consider meeting with an attorney to help you learn more about how you can prove that a defective product caused your injury.

Source: cps.gov, “TCC Cooking Company Recalls CHEFS Vertical Roasters Due to Burn and Laceration Hazards,” Oct. 14, 2015

What is Massachusetts’s product liability statute of limitations?

Product liability refers to instances in which individuals are injured by defects or faults in products. These defects could occur in either the design or manufacturing phase of a product’s lifestyle, but if a consumer is injured by a product, they could file a product liability lawsuit. However, if the statute of limitations for such a case expires, then your chances of filing a successful claim will dramatically reduce.

Because product liability falls under the personal injury area of legal practice, it is affected by the personal injury statute of limitations. As this article states, the statute of limitations for injury to person in Massachusetts is three years. This means that if you are injured by a defective product, you have three years to file a claim. If you do not file a claim within this time, there is a strong chance that your case will be dismissed outright.

Even though the time limit for the statute of limitations is very clear, the beginning of that timeline is a bit more ambiguous. The clock for the statute of limitations generally does not begin ticking until the injured party should have reasonably been able to determine that they were injured by the product. Depending on your injury, you may not realize that you were injured for a good long while.

Even if you are afraid that the statute of limitations for your injury has expired, it is still in your best interests to meet with an attorney. An attorney who has experience with product liability injuries may be able to look at your case from a different angle or prove that you could not have reasonably detected the injury immediately. You do not have to pay for an injury that was someone else’s fault.

Massachusetts residents beware of large product recall

Massachusetts residents need to beware and do a quick check on their home thermostats. This is because a recall has been announced for more than 1 million thermostats. This is due to a problem that can cause a fire due to battery leakage. The defective products have been sold in hardware stores and other places under various brand names, including such names as Emerson, Maytag, Frigidaire, and Ruud.

When people are injured and property is damaged due to a defective product, there is legal recourse available to those who have been affected. Massachusetts attorneys familiar with laws surrounding product liability may be able to explain consumer rights. These attorneys can also explain what legal remedies are available. These may include seeking financial compensation to cover losses and expenses incurred due to the product defect.

Though no injuries caused by the defective units have been reported to date, there have been reports of seven units sustaining burn damage caused by the defect, so it is fortuitous that no one was hurt. The thermostats were manufactured in China and sold from 2006 through 2013 in both the U.S. and Canada, among other locales. The recalled units original cost ranged from $30 and $70 each.

One way consumers can check their own thermostat to determine if it is a unit that has been recalled is to look for a battery icon. This icon will be found on the blue lighted screen on the thermostat. If the unit has one, it is not part of the recall; the recalled units are not configured in this manner.

It is unreasonable to think that consumers can stay abreast of every recall there is. If you believe you have a defective product that has damaged your home or hurt your person, it may be prudent to seek legal counsel immediately

Source: Boston.com, “1 million thermostats recalled for fire risk,” April 30, 2014

With cold weather comes the use of space heaters — and fire risk

Many people are using space heaters to keep warm during these winter months. If you use a space heater, you must be very cautious. Recently, there were two house fires that investigators are saying may have been caused by space heaters. During the coldest months in Boston, the use of space heaters is quite common. With the recent conclusion of Burn Awareness Week, it is good to discuss and keep in mind how common a burn injury can be, and how it might lead to a product liability case.

These fires are just two examples of how dangerous a product can be. While both events happened in Texas, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that even more houses in the wintry state of Massachusetts make use of these potentially dangerous products. It was reported that a few pets died due to the fire; however, no people were injured. Not everybody is as lucky as the people in these two incidents. These kinds of fires may cause serious burn injuries or death — especially in the overnight hours when people are sleeping.

In both cases authorities believe the fire was caused by the use of a space heater. This demonstrates that space heaters can be dangerous products and that many things can go wrong with their use. It is possible that the heaters may have been defective or may have had insufficient warning labels. They can easily catch on fire if placed near a flammable object such as furniture or fabric. There also may be something wrong with the wiring if it was not correctly assembled.

If you are burned by the use of a space heater, it is good to know your legal options. If defects are found due to manufacturer negligence or various other flaws in a product such as a space heater, you could receive compensation for your injuries. With the continued cold weather, it is advisable to take note of these two accidents and be careful when using space heaters.

Source: KTRK-TV, “Houston firefighters battle two house fires, both blamed on space heaters,” Feb. 7, 2014