Articles Tagged with “product liability”

Fidget spinner missing a piece in boy's hands

Fidget spinners have been one of the most popular gifts of 2017, but the small pieces can fall out and cause a child to choke.

By now, the children in your life have probably sent you their holiday toy wish lists. But just as important is the holiday “don’t buy” list.

W.A.T.C.H. released nominees for its “10 Worst Toys of 2017” list in mid-November, leading with Hallmark’s “Ittys Bitty” Baby Stacking Toy. This toy was recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in August. The fabric hats and bows on the Disney characters can detach and cause a young child to choke. This toy also has no safety warnings or age recommendations.

Toy 2: Tolo’s Tug Along Pony. This toy is marketed for children 12 months and older. It has a 19-inch cord, which is permitted for pull-along toys. But W.A.T.C.H. says this toy poses a strangulation hazard and does not carry any safety warnings.

Toy 3: The Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword. This toy is recommended for children age 6 and up. Before you buy, note that the sword is large and sharp enough to cause facial or impact injuries. The packaging also gets a failing grade. It encourages children to “fight alongside men in a war to end all wars.”

Continue reading

hoverboardWe saw the worst that can happen last week in Harrisburg, PA when a hoverboard caught on fire in a family’s home, claiming the life of a three-year-old child.

The hoverboard reportedly ignited while charging, destroying the home. The three-year-old girl died at a local hospital and two other girls were left in critical condition. The girl’s father and a teenage boy were treated for smoke inhalation.

This tragedy was compounded by another death; a local firefighter was reportedly killed in a motor vehicle accident while driving to the fire, the victim of an alleged drunk driver who now faces charges.

hoverboard.jpgDespite fires and hard falls, the hoverboard was one of the year’s most popular gifts.
Reports of hoverboard fires began before the holidays. Amazon even told consumers to return some models in mid-December and notified sellers that they must provide documentation showing hoverboards are compliant with safety standards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) opened an investigation on Dec. 16th, after reports of 10 hoverboard-related fires in Washington, California, New York and other states. The fires often happen during charging.

The CPSC has also received dozens of reports of hoverboard-related falls from hospital ERs, including concussions, fractures and internal organ injuries. Christmas Day brought more injuries, revealed as photos and videos were posted to social media.

Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida fell when he tried out his daughter’s hoverboard. He tweeted a photo of himself wearing a sling:

“Confirmed – #hoverboard is for kids. My daughter got it. I ended up in @BaptistHealthSF #ER. #hoverboardChristmas.”

We do not think this product is safe for any age. But we agree with his colleague, Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who tweeted back: “Ouch. At least it didn’t catch on fire!”


News Headlines
One headline from the Washington Post: “Thanks for ruining Christmas, hoverboards.” Below is a video from the report.

Our Thoughts

This is a dangerous product and safety concerns need to be addressed. If you received one, consider returning it. If you keep it, follow instructions for charging it. Do not charge it overnight or while you are outside the home. Also, remember most airlines have banned hoverboards due to the fire risk.

If you do ride, always wear a proper helmet and padding while using this product. Ask what the local traffic laws are before use.


Drones
Many people also received drones as holiday gifts. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted more than 1 million drones would be gifts on Christmas Day.

drone-186.jpgOn Christmas Day, photos and videos of drones crashing on the ground, into the neighbor’s roof and even into other family members filled social media. Read this Washington Post report, “Wear a Helmet: All those Christmas Drones are Falling Out of the Sky.”

The FAA has set up a website to register drones. Anyone with an aircraft weighing from a half-pound to 55 pounds must register with the FAA. Drone owners who are 13 and older must register on the FAA website. Parents with younger children are expected to register on their behalf.

Drone Owners Must Take Care
There are serious concerns about drones interfering with airplane traffic, but there are also very real concerns about general transportation safety. Drone owners must take care to be sure that they do not interfere with traffic, bicyclists or pedestrians. Be considerate and be aware of local laws and ordinances related to drone use.
Continue reading

20150112_honda.jpgLast week we learned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued Honda Motor Co. two safety fines totaling $70 million. The fines were announced last week but had been issued before the New Year. These are the largest penalties the NHTSA could impose. With them, automakers finish the year paying $126 million in civil penalties, the most ever for one year. The amount also exceeds the total amount collected in all 43 years of the NHTSA’s operation.

Honda’s Fines

  • Honda was fined $35 million for failure to report submit early warning reports (EWR reports) identifying potential or actually safety issues. The company failed to report 1,729 death and injury claims between 2003 and 2014.
  • Honda was fined a second $35 million for failure to report certain warranty claims and claims related to its customer satisfaction campaigns, in which a manufacturer quietly agrees to fix defects on cars even beyond the normal warranty period.

Honda was ordered to submit injury reports as part of the NHTSA’s investigation on defective Takata airbags last year. Some of the drivers who died as a result of the Takata airbag defects were driving Honda vehicles. The airbag defects are linked to at least five deaths and dozens of injuries in the U.S. Automakers have recalled nearly 14 million cars with these airbags worldwide. Takata, a Japanese company, has limited its recalls to Florida, Hawaii and other warm weather states, despite pressure from the NHTSA to expand the recall nationwide.

Other Companies Which Were Fined
Among the companies the NHTSA fined last year: Gwinnett Place Nissan, Ferrari S.p.A. and Ferrari North America, Chapman Chevrolet LLC, Hyundai Motor America, General Motors Company and Prevost and Southern Honda Powersports.

Then of course there was General Motors, which was fined $35 million for how it handled a recall of more than 2 million vehicles with ignition switch problems. It also paid a separate $441,000 fine for failure to fully respond to a special order by a specified due date.

Toyota is not on the list of companies which paid civil penalties in 2014. But it paid the U.S. government a $1.2 billion criminal fine for it actions during a safety investigation.

Proposed Safety Changes for 2015
In the New Year, the U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA are proposing to increase the maximum fine for auto safety violations from $35 million to $300 million. The agencies also want the NHTSA to have additional authority to compel companies to recall unsafe products.

Related:
U.S. Department of Transportation Fines Honda $70 Million for Failing to Comply with Laws That Safeguard the Public, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Continue reading

20141124_holidayshopping.jpgReady or not, the holiday shopping season begins in earnest this week. Enjoy shopping for loved ones, but remember to buy with caution, especially when selecting toys and products used by young children. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled millions of unsafe toys this year, and also many of the most basic children’s products, including car seats, strollers and furniture. Shoppers should closely examine every purchase. Here are a few holiday shopping tips:

Check for recalls. Search the CPSC database to see if a specific product has been recalled. You can also search by company.

Here are some of the important ones to remember:

Graco Recalls. Graco recalled millions of car seats earlier this year because of sticky-buckles which were trapping children in the seats. Just last week, it also recalled 4.7 million defective strollers which can cause finger amputation. Graco recalled the 11 stroller models after 10 fingertip amputations and one finger laceration. The strollers were sold from 2010 until earlier this month at a number of retailers, including Target, Toys R Us, Walmart, Amazon.com and Walmart.com. Read the recall notice.

Furniture Recalls. Common home furniture also caused child injuries this year. In August, Ace Bayou recalled 2.2 million bean bag chairs after two children unzipped them, crawled inside and suffocated to death. Anyone with one of these defective chairs should call the company for a repair kit to disable the zipper.

Another serious recall impacted in Massachusetts. Earlier in the year, Lane furniture renewed its recall of wooden cedar chests after two children in Franklin became trapped in one and suffocated. The children had apparently been playing hide-and-seek and became locked inside. The company first recalled the chests in 1996, but millions of the defective chests are believed to still be in use without the necessary repair.

In the Massachusetts case, the children’s family is believed to have bought the used chest at a second-hand store more than a decade ago. Second-hand sales are challenging to regulate, as are families and friends who pass along used products to each other. This makes it important to know the characteristics of an unsafe product as well as specific products which have been recalled.

Buy age-appropriate. Read the age recommendation on toys and children’s products. Consider a child’s family. If you are buying for a child with younger siblings, buy something which is safe for all ages in the household.

Be careful buying online. After a product is recalled, it is against the law to sell it in stores or online. But some auction and online listing websites do not police private sellers closely. Avoid these sites when holiday shopping for children.

If you purchase through a merchant website such as Amazon.com, make sure you receive the right product and that it has the same age appropriate label and pieces as shown online.

Beware of suffocation and choking hazards. Avoid balloons, marbles and toys with small pieces which children can put in their mouth. Also avoid small magnets. Remember these things come with many toys, but they also come from other gifts and products that enter a home. For instance, the magnet desk sets which were so popular many years ago for adults turned out to be extremely dangerous for children. In some cases with the Buckyball magnet sets (which have been recalled), children found small magnets years after families brought the set into their home in hard-to-reach places, such as under a couch. Our point is: Please consider every gift carefully.
Continue reading

20141027_airbag.jpgLast week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an advisory urging the public to act immediately on recall notices impacting 7.8 million cars with Takata airbags. The airbags are now linked to four deaths and more than 100 injuries.

If you have not already done so, please immediately check if your vehicle’s airbags have been recalled. Visit Safercar.gov. Select your auto manufacturer and enter your vehicle identification number, or VIN.

While car manufacturers are required to notify owners of recalls, do not wait to receive a letter for the company. While many of the airbags were previously recalled, you may have missed an earlier letter or may not have appreciated how serious the recall actually is.

chevy-cobalt.jpgToyota issues its second largest safety recall ever while GM CEO addresses Congress and Mazda reports a new web of problems

Toyota has more bad news for drivers. Just a few weeks ago, Toyota agreed to pay a record $1.2 billion criminal penalty to the federal government. The Japanese automaker, which has recalled over 9 million vehicles worldwide in recent years, recalled another 6.4 million vehicles on Wednesday for steering, airbag and other safety defects. This is the company’s second largest single recall announcement. Toyota states that it is not aware of any crashes or injuries involving these defects.

In March, Toyota agreed to pay the $1.2 billion criminal penalty to federal government for misleading consumers and the government about unintended acceleration in its cars and trucks. The Justice Department had charged Toyota with wire fraud, but agreed to defer the criminal charge for three years while the company submits to government monitoring.

This week’s recalls involve 27 Toyota models, including the RAV4 and Yaris. The largest recall involves 3.5 million vehicles which have defective spiral cables that can be damaged when the steering wheel is turned. Other defects involve a seat rail that can be pushed forward in a crash, as well as faulty steering column brackets, windshield wiper motors and engine starters.

GM ignition defects draw Congressional inquiry. Last week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra was questioned by Congress about faulty ignition switches in GM vehicles, and about her company’s slow response to protecting the public after learning about at least 13 deaths linked to the defect. GM has recalled over 2.5 million vehicles which may be equipped with the faulty ignition switch.

A week later, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is waiting on more answers from General Motors. It reports the company has failed to respond to more than a third of its written questions. The company is being fined $7,000 each day for failing to fully respond, and the NHTSA is expected to hand the matter over to the Justice Department shortly.

Spiders and hoses and gas, oh my! Mazda also issued a recall this week, one involving an unusual, but familiar safety problem. For the second time in three years, Mazda has recalled 42,000 Mazda6 sedans. This recall involved vehicles from 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The problem is the yellow sac spider. The spiders are attracted to the smell of gasoline and can weave a web in the evaporative fuel hose, causing pressure to build up in the fuel tank. Too much pressure can cause fuel tank cracks, leaks and fires.

In 2011, Mazda had recalled 65,000 Mazda6s from 2009 and 2010 for this defect. The car manufacturer attempted to remedy the defect by installing a spring inside the vehicle’s fuel line, but recently reported nine cases in which this was not adequate. The company is not aware of any fires due to the defect, but will now notify car owners. The remedy requires checking of the evaporative canister vent line and software reprogramming.
Continue reading

carseat-010314.jpgParents across the country are checking their backseats after Graco issued one of the largest child safety seat recalls in history this week. It may not be the last recall either; the Georgia-based company is facing pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall 1.8 million additional seats.

Graco recalled 3.7 million car seats manufactured between 2009 and 2013, the fourth largest recall ever for safety seats and the largest in five years, according to media reports. The NHTSA announced Tuesday that Graco was voluntarily recalling 11 models, though the agency had sought recalls of 18 models. The agency has stated it could take legal action to force the recall of the other models, which are rear-facing models for infants.

The car seats have defective buckles, which can be difficult to unlatch or become stuck. Graco said it was not aware of any injuries resulting from the car seat, but the New York Times reports the NHTSA began investigating Graco in 2012, after parents complained to regulators about having to cut children out of the seats from straps. One parent said it took her 45 minutes to loosen the straps enough to pull her daughter out.

But there is at least one case of serious injury. In a Jan. 14 letter to Graco, the NHTSA noted the company was a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in which a two-year-old child was killed in a fire following a car crash. The child was traveling in a Graco Nautilus car seat. The company has said the wrongful death case was resolved by a confidential settlement agreement.

Read the full list of recalled car seats. Parents who have defective car seats can contact Graco for a free replacement buckle. Graco says the seats are safe to use until parents obtain a replacement, but the NHTSA is urging parents to find other seats until they receive the new buckles.

Parents want to be able to trust the car seats, strollers and cribs they use to care for their children. Because these are important purchases, many parents and family members spend time researching and reading consumer reviews on Internet shopping sites such as Amazon.com before purchasing.

These reviews are helpful, as is feedback from other parents. But there are a few other steps parents can take:

Mail in the product registration. You want to make sure the company knows you have its product and need to be notified of any defect or recall and be included in the remedy process.

Do your research. Search the NHTSA database for car seat recalls.

Car seat inspection. Visit this NHTSA website page to search for sites where you can get your car seat inspected. Watch as the certified professional fits your child’s car seat and what to watch as you go about your daily driving routine.

Check your product. Remember a few basics about all children products, from toys to car seats. First, make sure they do not have small parts which can easily break and become a choking hazard. Make sure your child can move freely in seats with straps. Make sure the product can fully support your child by reading the age and weight requirements.
Continue reading

Last weekend, two young children in Franklin tragically died after getting trapped in a defective wooden hope chest during a game of hide and seek. The chest was one of 12 million manufactured by the Lane furniture company of Virginia between 1912 and 1987.
Attorney David White from the Boston product liability firm, Breakstone, White & Gluck, commented on ways consumers can avoid injuries from defective products, including second-hand goods.

According to reports, the Franklin children were probably playing a game when they got into the chest and the lid closed. The lid automatically latched shut when closed and could not be opened from the inside. When the family purchased the second-hand chest 15 years ago, they had no warning of the defect or the fact that the product had been recalled.

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

The chests were recognized as defective after four children were trapped in them and died prior to 1996, leading to a product recall 1997. In 2001, Lane paid a $900,000 civil penalty to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to settle claims that it had provided late notice of the deaths to those four children.

Even after the recall, probably six million of the chests still have the defective locks. Although there have been sporadic efforts to notify the public of this widespread and serious hazard, it is not clear how aggressively Lane has tried to make sure the defective latches are either removed or replaced.

White, a Boston attorney who specializes in injury and liability cases, said companies have a responsibility to inform clients of recalls and stores have a responsibility not to sell recalled products, but sometimes consumers still do not receive notice, including in cases involving products purchased in second-hand stores. He said defective products are causing injury.

White told Fox 25 that the problem is no one registers a hope chest with a company as they would an electronic product such as a new television. His safety tips:

1) Consumers can learn what hazard signs to look for in products and remove unsafe products on their own, even if they have not been recalled.

2) A few products to watch carefully:

  • Cribs, car seats, bassinets, strollers and other products which hold babies.
  • Products with small pieces that break off.
  • Novelty toys with magnets which children can easily swallow. These have been recalled.

3) Consumers can check the CPSC website for recalls.

4) Read age-appropriate labels on toys. Your younger children may not be old enough to play with their older siblings’ toys.
Continue reading

doctor-expectingmother-blog.jpgJanssen Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, has been ordered to pay $11 million to a mother who was prescribed Topomax and gave birth to a son with a cleft lip. It is the second recent multi-million dollar verdict involving Topomax, an anti-epilepsy drug.

In this case, Haley Powell’s lawyers argued Janssen failed to adequately warn her doctors that Topomax use could lead to birth defects, but said the company had long known. The lawyers stated animal studies as far back as the 1990s showed the risks for birth defects. A jury in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County awarded the verdict on November 18.

In 2007, a year after Powell began taking Topomax, she gave birth to her son Brayden. Now 5 years old, he faces at least five surgeries before age 21 to repair the defects and nasal deformities it has caused, her lawyers said.

There are 134 Topomax lawsuits pending in Philadelphia. Janssen said it will appeal the Powell verdict along with another one from Oct. 30. On that day, a Philadelphia jury awarded April Czimmer $4.2 million for her son’s cleft lip/cleft palate.

About Topomax

  • Topomax, an anti-epilepsy drug, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996.
  • Topomax is still on the market. It was never recalled and is prescribed under the name Topomax. The generic – Topomirate – has been available since 2009.
  • The FDA has also approved it as a treatment to prevent migraines, but not to take after a migraine has set in.
  • The FDA has not approved it for these uses, but Topomax has been used experimentally by some doctors to treat psychiatric conditions and side effects of medications to treat psychiatric conditions.
  • In 2011, the FDA asked Janssen to update the Topomax drug labeling. The labeling now states, “If you take topiramate during pregnancy, there is a higher risk that your baby will develop a cleft lip and/or cleft palate.” Read the rest here.
  • If you are a woman of a child-bearing age and your doctor prescribes Topomax, thoroughly question them about other options. Also do you own research and visit another doctor. If you take the medication, make sure to use proper birth control and be closely monitored.
  • If your family has suffered a child birth defect as a result of Topomax or other medication, it is important to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Birth defects may require multiple surgeries over many years. It is important to obtain the right medical treatment as soon as possible.

Related:
J&J’s Janssen Loses $11 Million Jury Verdict Over Topomax, Bloomberg

Continue reading