Articles Posted in Defective Products

While we presume household appliances are safe, many of the products we used on a daily basis pose some risk of harm. If a person sustains injuries due to a defective product, he or she may be able to recover damages from the manufacture of the product. In Mary Sheffield v. Conair Corporation,  a Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed that in assessing whether the design of a product is unreasonably dangerous a court must engage in a risk-utility analysis in which they assess whether the risks inherent in a design outweigh the usefulness of a product. If you are a Georgia resident who sustained injuries due to a defective product you should retain an experienced Georgia products liability attorney to assess your case and whether you may be able to recover damages.

Plaintiff’s Allegations

Allegedly, the plaintiff and her mother lived together in an apartment. The plaintiff was using a heating pad manufactured by the defendant on her neck. Approximately an hour and a half after the plaintiff began used the heating pad, her mother came to check on her and noticed an unusual odor. The plaintiff’s mother then pulled back the sheets and noticed the heating pad had burned the mattress. The plaintiff got out of bed, after which flames spread through the mattress and nearby curtains. The apartment subsequently burned down. The fire department conducted an investigation and the fire chief stated he believed the fire started in the area of the heating pad. The plaintiff filed a suit against the defendant alleged the heating pad had a design defect and alleged claims of negligence, strict liability, and failure to warn against the defendant.


Takata Settles Airbag Cases to Reorganize

Last week, every major news outlet had an article about the news that Takata has settled its airbag litigations with everyone from injured victims to car makers. They did this to move out of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and reorganize. The overall settlement sets up a trust fund that will be used to settle the many lawsuits still outstanding. Thus far, the faulty airbags have caused 16 deaths and caused nearly 185 injuries. That is tragic for those whose loved ones were lost due to the company’s failures to inform consumers and auto manufacturers about this problem or to correct this defect until it was too late. Their lives cannot be restored. Our trust in parts manufacturers might be restored over time.

We depend on car manufacturers and those who provide parts to our vehicles, to live up to the safety standards established under American laws and regulations. It shakes our trust when a device that is supposed to protect the driver and passengers from harm or injury in an auto crash, instead causes harm or death. Airbags have saved many lives since they were required in American vehicles. But when we get into our vehicles we don’t think that a safety device can malfunction and harm us, either by detonating for no reason or detonating in a car crash but causes additional harm. Over forty million American cars have these potentially faulty airbags. Any many many vehicles are still on the roads with them, since replacements have been difficult to obtain.

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car-ignition0switch-faulty-300x200We have posted several times over the past few years about the major recall and consequences of faulty ignition switches in General Motors’ vehicles. One case garnered a great deal of attention when the parents of a young Georgia woman who died due to a faulty ignition switch, sued GM. About 125 deaths were originally considered to be due to the faulty switches. Now there are more. The defective devices resulted in the recall of 2.6 million vehicles. Since the early stages of this recall, there are now hundreds of personal injury and wrongful death cases.

According to Reuters, attorneys for vehicle owners with defective switches who have suffered various damages, including fatal injury, are on the verge of losing a deal they were about to enter into with a trust holding GM assets. The plaintiffs lawyers are calling foul on GM, arguing that the company interfered with resolving the case through settlement using unsavory tactics, including threats. The “deal” would have resolved millions of claims, although about 2.5 million would have remained in another court. It took nearly half a year to come up with the settlement which now is at risk of unwinding. The trust, which maintains pre-bankruptcy assets of the company, was integral to this deal.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys are claiming that General Motors met with trust representatives and put undue pressure on the trust to pull away from the resolution of this huge case. Immediately after this meeting, the trust reneged on the deal they had reached (although had not yet signed) with the plaintiffs. Although no agreements had been signed, the negotiations were months and months of work for both the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the trust representatives.

1330873_27868463The fatal injuries sustained by an actor, along with literally hundreds of dangerous events, have propelled the filing of class action lawsuits against Jeep carmaker, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). As the seventh largest car maker in the world, FCA has a major safety issue — a basic safety component of just about every car made, seems to be failing in the Jeep. The problem is with the gear shifter which can be left in gear when the user thinks it is in park. As a result of injuries and the high-profile fatality caused by this problem, and after a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation, some vehicles are now subject to a major recall. The recall involves over 800,000 motor vehicles.

Currently there are over ten law suits that have been filed against FCA. The plaintiffs include seriously injured vehicle owners whose cars rolled when they thought their vehicles were in park. Some owners have been injured trying to stop the vehicles from continuing to roll. The lawsuits are seeking a replacement to the dangerous gear shift and a correction that would cause the vehicle to be in park if the brake is released and driver door is open. The vehicles targeted in the class actions include the 2012-14 Dodge Charger, 2012-14 Chrysler 300 or 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The gear shift issue gained high-profile status when the well-known StarTrek actor Anton Yelchin was killed when his Jeep rolled and pinned him against a security fence and brick pillar at his home. His parents have filed a lawsuit in California for their son’s death; his accident is under investigation by authorities.

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airbagWe have posted in the recent past about the wide-spread knowledge on the part of Volkswagen leadership regarding its rigged diesel car emissions. VW is paying a huge price for this fraud on the global consumer. We have also posted about General Motors’ knowledge of safety issues with its faulty ignition switches resulting in serious and fatal injuries around the country and in Georgia. American car buyers and car owners are rightfully concerned about the safety of the cars they buy. This confidence is undermined when the headlines continue to be full of admissions of both wrongdoing and hiding key information and when safety is front and center to these admissions.

Now it is Takata Corporation’s turn. The airbag maker has been under scrutiny for a long while now for the injuries and deaths occurring after airbags explode with shrapnel inside them. The safety failures have resulted in the biggest recall of airbags, ever. We are learning now that Takata too has hidden information from the public. This has been determined after an audit sought by Takata and Honda. Turns out that the audit reveals that Takata engineers knew that their airbags were at times failing tests for their proper performance, but failed to do anything about it.

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1330873_27868463After months of revelations related to Volkswagen’s fraudulent programming of its “clean diesel” cars to outsmart emissions tests, the company’s woes have found a litigation home. Both dealers and consumers are feeling betrayed by the car manufacturer’s defrauding of the car-buying market. Although sold to consumers as “clean,” its diesel cars were emitting as much as 40 times the amount of pollutants permitted under United States law. VW has admitted to creating a program that would effectively “lie” when emissions testing was done. The VW scandal has forced the car giant to admit that its fraudulent behavior included a powerful tool that enabled cars to pass pollution control tests and then go right back to extremely high emissions when driven.

Although no serious injuries have been connected to this scandal, USA Today and the Associated Press say the scandal goes beyond emissions alone. Arguably, the high emissions has led to some deaths, including fatal lung diseases. Although the victims cannot be pinpointed, the methodology to determine that pollutants so significant could have caused fatalities has been reviewed and confirmed as valid by qualified scientists. Over the past seven years, it is possible that as many as 95 people died due to these high levels of pollutants, not to mention the impact on the environment.

About 500 class action lawsuits were filed against Volkswagen across the country. Essentially these cases involve the claim that consumers paid higher prices for these vehicles which are now worthless because they cannot pass emissions and dealers will not accept them back from owners. Now the many cases brought by consumers who purchased these diesel cars have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation or MDL. MDL litigation is used by the federal courts in situations where there are many litigants across the country with essentially the same or similar claims against a defendant.

airbagAs if there weren’t enough reasons to be concerned about motor vehicle safety, another major safety scandal has erupted and continues to unfold. Atlanta and Georgia residents are undoubtedly aware of news of auto industry deceptions that include major car manufacturers. The recall of General Motors’ cars with faulty ignition switches has been in the news for some time now. The ignition switch recall has been more intensely covered locally. An Atlanta area victim lost her life due to the faulty switch and her family filed an Atlanta wrongful death action against the car manufacturer which was ultimately settled out of court.

Another recall that is making news is that of Takata Industries’ airbags. Takata manufactures airbags that have been installed in many vehicles made by various manufacturers. This recall is pervasive because the airbags are found in so many vehicles. The defective airbags can cause serious injury and death due to shrapnel that is inside them. Georgia also has a connection to the defective airbags, some of which were manufactured in a LaGrange plant which has been closed for some time now. Several of the fatalities involving the airbags were from the LaGrange, Georgia plant. Initially, Takata denied the problem with its airbags, but then entered into an agreement with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and has been cooperating with regulators to recall the millions of impacted vehicles which hopefully will avoid future fatal or catastrophic injuries. The problem with the airbags is in part due to the infiltration of moisture into the devices and has been more of a concern in the southern states. The serious injuries and deaths have been caused when the airbag’s inflator has ignited with such force that it causes the inflator housing to rupture. The metal shards from the airbag can be propelled into the vehicle’s cabin causing harm to both driver and passengers.

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iStock_000016154978XSmallAtlanta residents can learn the lesson of a local family that suffered a different type of vehicle injury — carbon monoxide poisoning from a keyless ignition. This growing problem is now being widely publicized, but something more is needed before there are more families who are impacted by this issue. ABC News reports that an injury lawsuit was recently filed in Los Angeles federal district court against a number of vehicle manufacturers whose cars include keyless ignitions. And an Atlanta news report has investigated this problem and has revealed injuries and deaths from keyless car ignitions across the nation. Many of us own vehicles with the type of ignition that caused injury to a Marietta infant and his mother. At the time of the carbon monoxide injury, the infant and his mom were living in Florida. The child’s mother apparently left the car ignition on, but did not know she had. In an innocent moment she hit a button to close the garage door so that she could take a business call, but she did not hit her car ignition button. This meant that the vehicle was actually still running while she went into the home. This mistake nearly cost her dearly. Fortunately, her baby woke her up in the middle of the night crying. And her own symptoms were significant enough to realize that something was very wrong and they were able to get out of the house before they both perished.

Keyless ignition presents the potential for a very dangerous situation. Many of us were unaware of this potential. Sadly, an Atlanta family whose parents resided in Greenville, lost them after they went to sleep not knowing that they had left their keyless ignition vehicle on in their garage. They filed a lawsuit against Toyota, the vehicle’s manufacturer, which has been settled. Another Chicago area family has filed a similar action for wrongful death of their parents whose vehicle was left on in their garage and who perished from carbon monoxide poisoning. The potential for Atlanta keyless ignition carbon monoxide poisonings are something about which we all need to be aware. It is very important to have carbon monoxide detectors in our homes, that warn of high levels of the odorless, colorless gas.

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iStock_000003411145XSmallIconic American motor vehicle manufacturer General Motors has recently agreed to pay $900 million for its failure to disclose a serious issue with a critical auto part — an ignition-switch with a defect that is alleged to have caused over 100 deaths and nearly 300 injuries. The faulty switch could cut power and cause airbags to fail in serious crashes. The company has had a lot to answer for with regard to this defective part after it was discovered that the company knew the ignition switch was unsafe and yet still allowed it to be installed in their new vehicles for many years.

Among other charges brought by the United States Justice Department, GM was said to have engaged “in a scheme to conceal a deadly safety defect” from the public and governmental agencies. Although no individuals have been charged with any crimes, there is no assurance that eventually some will be named. The internal cover-up was widespread in that not only the company’s engineers, but management and others knowingly allowed the defective part to be used for more than ten years.

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airbagLast month, history was made in America. But not the way we would like it to be made. The federal government issued the largest recall in our history and one involving a Japanese company’s safety products. We have posted in the past about the airbag woes of Takata. The company has been sued by a number of injured victims and has been the focus of media and consumer concern about the potentially dangerous and defective airbags. The problem with these airbags is that they eject sharp shrapnel that could cause greater injury than the accident that triggers them to inflate.

The majority of the potentially deadly and dangerous airbags are thought to have been manufactured and put into cars made between 2002 and 2008. However, it is possible that vehicles made through 2014 could be included. The frightening potential for crash victims to be harmed by airbags they rely on for protection, has many car owners concerned about their safety and the safety of their passengers. There might not be one cause of the defect, but the danger of an airbag malfunction appears to be more likely in locations in which there is high heat and humidity. These conditions are thought to break down some of the internal parts that then causes the airbag’s propellant to burn too quickly which, in turn, places too much pressure within the inflation device.

Although this is a pervasive problem … and 34 million cars are involved in the recall … it has not been easy for consumers to find resources to determine which cars are part of the recall. The original notification by Takata to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), involved  vehicles made by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota. To determine whether a specific vehicle is part of the recall, car owners can go to and search their vehicle’s specific VIN number. This number can be found on the driver’s side of the dashboard of your vehicle. It is easiest to see this when standing outside your car and looking where the dash and windshield connect. The NHTSA VIN site states that owners checking to determine whether their vehicle might be involved in the airbag recall are encouraged to check back often, since VIN numbers are provided by the car manufacturers and this process is taking time.

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