Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in Product Liability

Not dissimilar to the asbestos trust created for victims of asbestos related diseases, GM is now creating a fund to pay out claims stemming from auto accidents in recalled vehicles. GM has indicated, rightly so, that it will not matter if the accident occurred before or after the safety recall so long as it can be proven that a defect caused or contributed to the injury sustained.

GM has been hit very hard with safety recalls in the past year with over 20 million cars affected by some form of recall. This compensation fund is intended to directly address the 2.6 million defective small cars with faulty air bag switches. GM has come under very heavy criticism regarding these defects which they allegedly knew about for over 11 years without taking proper action. GM is offering settlements based on the severity of injury if the air bag’s failure to deploy caused or contributed to the victims injury. Wrongful death claims will be compensated by at least 1 million dollars.

Creation of a fund like this does not limit a persons civil right to bring a product liability claims but it creates a means for settlement while limiting the extensive costs of a product liability claim. If you or someone you know was injured in an automobile accident with a GM vehicle and the airbag either failed to delpoy or improperly deployed, contact our office right away for a free consultation.

This is an unfortunate story that seems unable to run out of steam. A nationwide outbreak of meningitis is being linked to a specialty pharmacy company here in Massachusetts. Every day the Center for Disease Control has increased the number of victims who have caught a deadly strain of meningitis after receiving a tainted steroid shot intended to relieve back pain. The current number stands at 119 cases of meningitis with 11 documented deaths related to the tainted steroid injections. The cases of reported illnesses has spread to ten States.

The company voluntarily recalled the steroid that was sent to clinics in 23 States after a tainted vial was found on their own premises. They have since expanded the recall to include everything they have distributed.

While there are no confirmed cases of meningitis here in Rhode Island, the Department of Health continues to notify potential victims of the possible exposure. An additional 50 patients have been notified of the link today. Victims who have contracted meningitis from the tainted injections will have a strong product liability case against the manufacturer who clearly released an unsafe and defective product into the market.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It is an extremely serious and potentially fatal disease because of the bacteria’s proximity to the brain and spinal column. The most common symptoms of meningitis include headaches, neck stiffness, photophobia (aversion to bright light), fever and confusion. Antibiotics and antiviral drugs are used to treat meningitis once discovered by lumbar puncture.

UPDATE – October 30, 2012

Yesterday, the first confirmed case of meningitis has extended into Rhode Island. The total number of people sickened by the tainted injections is now over 300 with 25 associated deaths. This is a sad story that continues to develop each day.

If you or anyone that you know contracted meningitis after receiving the tainted steroid injections, should contact our office right away. Our experience in product liability and medical malpractice cases will help ensure that you obtain everything to which you are entitled.

Approximately four million Bumbo Baby Seats have been recalled from the manufacturer due to increasing safety concerns. This story from Boston.com was sent to me by a friend and I took notice because both of my children have used and enjoyed the Bumbo seats. My wife and I have always been very careful with the Bumbo seats because there is no seat belt or other restraint to protect our kids and we were aware of the chance of injury. After reading this report, I am not surprised to find that dozens of cases have been reported of children suffering skull fractures and other very serious injuries after falling out of or escaping from Bumbo Baby Seats.

Bumbo Baby Seats were recalled once before several years ago when increased warning labels were placed on the units. While the unit has long since warned parents not to leave children unattended, the new warnings advised parents to never use the Bumbo Baby Seat on a raised surface, such as a kitchen counter, for fear that the child could fall a great distance. Unfortunately, even with the increased warnings, at least 50 known cases have been reported of children suffering very serious injury after falling from a raised surface. Following this new recall, the company that makes the Bumbo Baby Seat is voluntarily providing a free repair kit that includes a safety belt restraint.

If your child was injured while using a Bumbo Baby Seat, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, both current and future, and any pain and suffering that your child has experienced or will experience in the future. The reported skull fractures are obviously a very serious injury and can also result in long term permanent brain damage. The compensation may be made by filing a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the Bumbo Baby Seat, and potentially the many retailers selling the product.

If you can prove that a product is defective, then you may be able to place liability on the manufacturer entitling you to compensation. There are three common methods of attempting to demonstrate that a product is defective:

  • Defective product design;
  • Defective product manufacturing;
  • Inadequate or insufficient warning.

From the outset, it looks like a viable case can be made against the manufacturers of the Bumbo Baby Seat under categories one and three above.

Defective Product Design

A product is defectively designed if it is dangerous even when assembled and used correctly. In this case, the fact that children can fall or “roll” out of the chair and injure themselves may be enough to establish negligent design. Furthermore, the fact that seat belts could easily be added to the Bumbo Baby Seat, increasing the safety of the chair, raises the question as to why seat belts were not included from the very beginning. Perhaps, some of these horrible injuries could have been prevented.

Ineffective or Inadequate Warning

The Bumbo Baby Seat was already recalled once for inadequate warnings about using the Baby chair on raised surfaces, but the warnings apparently did not get through to consumers. If it was not clearly explained that children can roll out of the Bumbo Baby Seat causing a fall, then the manufacturer may be liable. If the risk of injury was not clearly expressed, then the manufacturer may be liable.

If your child has been injured while using a Bumbo Baby Seat, contact my office right away for a free consultation. We are experienced product liability attorneys and will begin working on your case right away. A great deal of investigation and discovery will be required to prove that the manufacturer sold a defective product so it is imperative that you contact a personal injury attorney right away. There is never any fee unless we are successful in obtaining compensation for you and your child.

I woke up this morning to a tragic story in the Providence Journal in which a Delaware woman was struck and killed in Rhode Island by a wheel that had “flown off” of a Hummer. Apparently the two vehicles were traveling on the highway in opposite directions when the wheel came free of the Hummer and traveled all the way across the divider into oncoming traffic striking the poor victim.

The comments section to the story included many questions as to fault in this accident, in particular, whether the owner of the Hummer should be held responsible. The answer is absolutely, yes. Not unlike my recent post discussing sudden illness and auto accidents, in which I explained that a person needs to be aware of their medical condition and accepts the risk of causing an accident because they fall ill, a person needs to be aware of the overall condition of their vehicle. Similarly, if our vehicle malfunctions in such a way as to cause injury to another person, then we are responsible for not properly maintaining the car. Driving an unsafe vehicle or ignoring loud noises or other warnings that the car is not operating properly is negligence and a person is definitely responsible if that negligence leads to another’s damages.

The facts of this case, however, suggest that additional defendants will also be responsible. There may be several potential defendants for a product liability claim in connection with this auto accident. The personal injury attorney should explore how and why the wheel came off of this vehicle. Were defective lugnuts or wheel bearings on this vehicle? I have seen other online articles suggesting that the wheels of a Hummer H2 can come off at high speeds which leads to question whether the Hummer is designed defectively. If so, GM may find themselves a party to this lawsuit.

Additionally, one would have to see if the Hummer was recently serviced or repaired. Perhaps it was recently inspected and the inspection facility failed to identify the problem with the wheel. When a strange and tragic accident like this occurs, there are inevitably hundreds of questions. Yes, the driver of the vehicle will be liable for damages, but so too may other defendants as the facts of this loss are uncovered.

My deepest condolences to the family.

Truck accidents, in particular, truck rollover accidents are among the most serious vehicular accidents on the road and often result in serious personal injury or wrongful death. Truck rollover can occur to both commercial vehicles and private use vehicles. In some circumstances they can also result in a product liability case if the tire and/or truck was negligently designed.

800_truck_rollover_101016.jpg

Commercial Truck Rollover Cases

Commerical tractor trailers are all over the road at all times of the day. They can be incredibly dangerous for a number of reasons. For one, tractor trailers are often carrying loads in excess of 50,000 pounds. This tremendous weight makes the vehicle difficult to maneuver or take evasive action if necessary. The stopping time and turning time of a long 18-wheeler carrying a ton of weight is very long. If the truck driver makes too hasty a motion in the vehicle it can cause all or part of the tractor trailer to capsize or rollover causing a potentially very serious accident.

Commercial truck rollovers may also occur because the driver is too tired to safely operate his vehicle, yet stays on the road in an effort to meet a deadline or finish a job on time. Commercial truck drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel causing them to jackknife or run off the road. All too often, other drivers on the road are unable to avoid collision with these incredibly large vehicles.

Truck Rollovers in Personal Use Vehicles

SUVs and other non-commercial trucks have also had a long history of rollovers in accidents. While newer model SUVs and crossovers have a more stable weight balance and are less likely to rollover, the danger of a rollover remains, particularly in older SUVs. SUVs are trucks and can not be driven like a car. They are much heavier, possess different weight distributions, and may be “top heavy” when compared to other automobiles. Quick lane changes, sudden movements or slamming on the brakes may cause an SUV to rollover. When rollover occurs, the injuries to the driver and passengers are likely to be much more serious than in an ordinary motor vehicle accident.

SUV Rollover and Product Liability Claims

If you were injured in an SUV rollover, like any other auto accident, you may be entitled to personal injury compensation through your auto insurance or the at-fault driver’s auto insurance. In addition, however, if it appears that the SUV had a negligent design causing an unnecessary rollover of the vehicle, you may also have a product liability claim. Product liability cases regarding SUV design have included: improper seatbelt design, failure of airbag to deploy, insufficient strength and design to the roof causing roof collapse, tire blowouts, poor stability design, poorly designed stability systems and ineffective braking systems among others.

If the SUV rollover was not caused exclusively by driver error, there may be a product liability case in addition to damages recovered from the auto insurance policies.

Continue Reading

Depuy orthopedics announced a formal recall of their ASR hip implant in August of this year and it has since become an increasingly talked about story. The recall affects two products, namely, the ASR hip resurfacing system and the ASR XL acetabular system. Hundreds of lawsuits have already been filed and many more are expected.

The ASR hip implant was marketed and sold in this country for approximately six years and has been implanted in nearly 100,000 patients. The reason for the recall is that approximately 13% of the patients who received the Depuy hip replacement required a second unnecessary surgery. Hip surgery is extremely painful and recovery can take many months of grueling therapy.

If you received a Depuy implant you may have a valid product liability claim. There are three common types of product liability claims:

  • Defective product design
  • Defective manufacturing
  • Inadequate warning and/or instruction

The Depuy hip replacement qualifies as a defective product design. The device is defectively designed and manufactured so that high levels of metal ions are released from the ASR hip implant. These metal ions released in the body can cause serious injury including, tumors, damaged muscle tissue, and osteolysis requiring hip surgery for correction.

It is also well established that the problems with the ASR device were known for quite some time. Many adverse reports were published highlighting the dangers with the Depuy ASR device and the FDA received hundred of complaints. The product was recalled in other countries as long as one year ago due to the serious risk.

Product liability cases are extremely complex and you need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you with this case. If you had hip surgery in Rhode Island or Massachusetts and received a Depuy ASR hip implant, contact our office right away for a free consultation. There is no fee unless we are successful in obtaining the compensation that you deserve.

A Tennessee father has settled a case against Crocs on behalf of his four-year old daughter. Crocs, the soft-rubber soled shoes and favorite of Mario Batali, have become wildly popular over the last few years. The soft rubber sole, however, is potentially very dangerous and lawsuits have been springing up across the Country.

In this case, the four year old girl was riding on the elevator with her foot close to the edge. The soft rubber eventually became entwined in the teeth of the escalator and the four year old girl was trapped. She suffered permanent and serious injuries as her foot was mutilated by the escalator. Warnings are now placed on Crocs and similar soft rubber shoes highlighting the risk of riding on escalators, but millions of pairs were sold without such warning and much of the general public may be unaware that Crocs post such a danger.

The product liability attorney trying the case cited several studies which demonstrate the inherent risk of Crocs:

Studies, including one conducted by a Japanese consumer safety testing firm, showed the Crocs and their imitators that “appear to be prone to entrapment when pressed against the (side) skirt guard or step riser while standing on the yellow line of an escalator.”

Children were at particular risk because Crocs for kids were smaller, thinner and more elastic, the Japanese study stated.

A successful product liability lawsuit must show that the product:

  1. Was manufactured improperly and was therefore defective; or
  2. Was designed improperly and was therefore defective; or
  3. Lacked adequate or sufficient warning of dangers that the product might present.

In this case, an experienced product liability attorney could make a case for point 2 and point 3 above. The design was such that the soft rubber sole could easily become caught in an escalator which is a device used everyday by millions of people. Therefore, the danger of using such a product on an escalator should have been foreseeable. However, the easier argument is point 3. For years, tens of millions of Crocs were sold without adequate warning to tell people they needed to be careful on escalators else their feet may become trapped in the belt. Hundreds of accidents, with injuries ranging from cuts to severed toes, were reported over the years and it was not until 2009 that Crocs were finally sold with a warning regarding escalators.

Continue Reading

It has been a tough year for the auto industry. This year alone Toyota, Ford, and GM have recalled over 15 million vehicles for various safety related issues! Technological breakthroughs might helps sell new cars, but the single most important characteristic of a vehicle is it’s safety record.

It is important to understand that if you or a family member have been seriously injured or killed in an auto accident that resulted in a rollover or post-collision fire, that you may be able to pursue a product liability claim in addition to the at-fault driver’s auto insurance. if the vehicle’s design either caused the accident (i.e. the sudden acceleration accidents caused by Toyota’s) or made the injuries worse (i.e. bursting into flames after impact) then you may be able to seek damages against the manufacturer.

Rollover Accidents

Every car designer will accept that at a bare minimum a car on pavement should never flip over. The introduction of SUVs in the past few decades, however, showed that top heavy vehicles may, in fact, rollover in certain collisions. If a car rolls over, an investigation may be warranted to determine if a flawed design made the vehicle unstable. In addition, since it is well known that a vehicle might rollover in certain accidents, car manufacturers need to prepare for the possibility. That means that the roof should be able to withstand a certain amount of pressure without collapsing and crushing the occupants inside. Doors, windows, and safety glass should be designed in such a way as to limit or reduce vehicle ejection (being thrown from the car).

Safety Device Failure

We rely on seatbelts and air bags to save us from serious harm in an accident and even if a car is nine years old we expect that these safety devices will work. If a seat belt fails or an airbag fails to deploy it may be caused by faulty design or installation. Without these safety devices in place, a relatively minor accident can become extremely serious.

Post Collision Fires

Vehicles igniting into flames after an accident is not a very common occurrence following the disastrous Pinto and the massive lawsuits that Ford faced. If you recall, the Ford Pinto had a gas tank dangerously close to the rear bumper which caused Pintos to burst into flames after a simple rear-end accident. Today, designers are very aware of the need to protect and insulate the gas tank from impact. However, modern cars have complex gas combustion engines and fuel lines criss-cross up and down the length of the car. Inappropriate positioning of any of these lines or the breach of a line in a simple accident might cause a preventable post-accident fire.

It is important that you hire an attorney who is familiar with product liability cases and who can see potential cases when a car accident has caused very serious injury. If you feel the vehicle you were in failed to keep its occupants safe, do not hire an attorney who stops short at the auto insurance policy.

Continue Reading

The story begins in the 30’s and 40’s. Despite the known harmful side effects of lead based paints, manufacturers continued to produce the product AND advertise that it was a safe kid friendly product. Finally, the truth came out and the United States banned lead based paint in 1978. The story is not unlike the litigation surrounding cigarettes and asbestos.

Paint manufacturers made billions and children across the country were placed at serious risk from lead based paint. In fact, many children today who live in pre-1978 housing remain at risk. Rhode Island was hit particularly hard and many children were poisoned. Our AG at the time, Sheldon Whitehouse, hired outside plaintiff counsel to sue the paint manufacturers to absorb the massive costs that lead based paint placed on the State due to increased health care costs and housing costs. The state won…billions!

The money was to be used to remove lead based paint from hundreds of thousands of Rhode Island homes. Despite this important ruling which sent a clear message to corporations placing profits before safety, the Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned the jury verdict.

The paint manufacturers, seemingly convinced of their own righteousness and believing the lawsuit to have been frivolous, sought to be reimbursed for all of their trial costs. Yesterday, Judge Silverstein ruled that the defendants were not entitled to defense costs because the case was neither frivolous nor in bad faith. Furthermore, forcing the state to pay the defense costs would deter the State from bringing future litigation intended to protect the public welfare.

I have written about the ongoing debacle at Toyota Motor Corp. regarding their accelerator problems and numerous product liability lawsuits, and I have received a lot of calls from people who feel they have been victimized by a defective Toyota vehicle.

0209-Toyota-recall-chart_full_238.jpg

The more I investigate the situation, the more incredible it becomes. Toyota apparently was well aware of their problems, hid the evidence, and chose to ignore the problems. This may go down in history as a classic example of corporate greed overtaking public safety…not unlike the Ford Pinto, the tobacco industry, or asbestos manufacturers.

As product liability cases are launched across the country, attorneys have discovered that Toyota withheld potentially damaging information in previous lawsuits. The so-called “Book of Knowledge” was uncovered under subpoena by the House Committe on Oversight and Government Reform. According to Committee chair, Edolphus Towns, Toyota conducted a “systematic disregard for the law” and routinely violated “court discovery orders in litigation.”

Among the information uncovered, Toyota has been concerned about the unintended acceleration problems as far back as 2005 and conducted numerous meetings and safety assessments. Toyota would often enter into negotiations during these early product liability lawsuits rather than disclose damaging evidence in discovery. These early plaintiffs would walk away satisfied that they were able to settle the case, but future victims were left in the dark regarding the dangers of these Toyota vehicles. The Committee has already placed the death toll from “runaway toyotas” at 39 (12 more than the afformentioned Pinto disaster).

One of the most interesting stories (at least to me) to develop from the recent discoveries at Toyota, involves a Minnesota man, Koua Fong Lee, who was convicted of vehicular manslaughter after an accident he caused killed a family of three. Mr. Lee defended from the onset that he was unable to stop his car or avoid the crash, but the Minnesota jury did not believe his testimony and he was subsequently convicted and sent to prison. In light of recent information, his case will be reviewed. I certainly hope for Mr. Lee that justice will prevail if he truly was not at fault for this accident.

Continue Reading