Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf is a New York Plaintiff's personal injury law firm specializing in automobile accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, products liability, police misconduct and all types of New York personal injury litigation.

Articles Posted in Product Liability

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Elliot-KayeWhen a company discovers that one of its products is defective, the potentially harmful product must be recalled and consumers must be warned about the products hazards. Companies that fail to timely do so may be subject to multi-million-dollars civil lawsuits by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

In the past the CPSC had a weak reputation but since Elliot Kaye took over as Chairman, the Commission became much stricter. While in 2009 the total amount of penalties imposed by the CPSC didn’t even reach $10 million, the total penalties for last year  was $26.4 million. So far this year, this amount reached $31.25 million.  The lowest amount of 2009 is also related to the fact that up to 2008, CPSC penalties were capped at $8000 per violation. In 2008, after several children died after ingesting lead tinted toys the Congress decided to increase the cap to $100,000. The Congress also increased the  aggregate limit of $1.825 million for a series of related offenses to $15 million. Nominated by president Obama, Kaye was hoping to increase penalties even further.

Companies have often considered potential civil penalties related to defective products as a “cost of doing business”. This is exactly what Elliot Kaye has been fighting.  During his tenure at the head of the CPSC, several companies including Johnson Health Tech, Philips Lighting, Teavana, Jarden Consumer Solutions and Gree Electric Appliances had to pay multi-million-dollars settlements for failing to timely report product hazards.

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In Suarez v. W.M. Barr & Co., Inc. Docket#15-3602, a Product Liability case Juan Suarez purchased Professional Strength Goof Off to remove paint from a concrete basement floor; its primary active ingredient is acetone, which is extremely flammable and evaporates quickly at room temperature. The can contained warnings in English and Spanish and instructed users who wanted to remove concrete stains to “[a]pply directly. Agitate with brush.” Juan claims that he read most of the warnings and opened a window and two doors to the outside. It is unclear whether he turned off pilot lights for two water heaters and a furnace in a separate portion of the basement. While Juan was using a broom to spread the product, a fire erupted and severely burned his face, head, neck, and hands. Juan sued. The district judge rejected his claims on summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed rejection of a failure‐to‐warn claim. The warning label adequately identified the principal hazards and precautionary measures to be taken while using the product. The court reversed rejection of the design defect claims under both strict liability and negligence. Juan adequately established that the fire may have been caused by static sparks created when Juan agitated Goof Off with a brush as the label instructed. A genuine factual issue exists as to whether an ordinary consumer would expect a fire to erupt under these circumstances, whether this risk outweighs the product’s benefits, and whether the manufacturer should have known that agitation could create static sparks sufficient for ignition. Read Full Opinion here.

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Clarence Ditlow, a very influential and effective activist who protected consumers from unsafe vehicles died from colon cancer on November 10. He was 72 years old.

Clarence Ditlow who started as a lawyer for Ralph Nader’s Public Interest Research Group in 1971 had been at the head of the Center for Auto Safety for the last 40 years.  A lawyer and an engineer, Ditlow dedicated his life to improve the safety of anyone driving or riding a car. A workaholic who received only a modest salary, he spent his life going after negligent automakers and complaisant regulators.

Tirelessly assembling evidence about the causes of car accidents and the injuries or deaths resulting from these crashes, he exposed safety defects in millions of motor vehicles. His work lead to massive safety recalls and saved an untold number of consumers from deadly accidents.  He was considered the “guardian angel” of American motorists.

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Johnson and Johnson talcA jury found that Johnson & Johnson engaged in “negligent conduct” in making and marketing its talc products. In a trial that started a month ago, a St Louis jury found that Johnson & Johnson talc products have caused or contributed to the stage IV ovarian cancer of Deborah Giannecchini.

The 63 year old woman was awarded $67.5 million for punitive damages and $2.575 million in compensatory damages. $2 million of the punitive damages will come from Johnson & Johnson talc supplier, Imerys. This is the first time that the the talc supplier has also been held liable for damages. In two previous similar product liability lawsuits filled in St. Louis, Johnson and Johnson lost $ 55 million and $72 million and was the only company held accountable for damages. Approximately 2,000 similar cases have been filed against Johnson and Johnson with approximately half of them filled in St. Louis.

In New Jersey, two product liability cases against the talc manufacturer were rejected by a judge who decided that there was no reliable evidence that talc powder was linked to ovarian cancer.

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GMTwo product liability cases related to General Motor’s defective ignition switches (see previous blog) have been settled in federal court this week. The cases are two of several bellwether trials that will provide guidance from the hundreds of lawsuits that have been brought against General Motors.  So far 3 of these bellwether cases have been settled by GM, 2 were won by GM and another one was dropped before trial.

The two cases settled for an undisclosed amount involved two women who were driving at low speeds. In the first case, Stephanie Cockram from Virginia struck a wall after losing control of her vehicle. The airbag never opened and she suffered head injury, jaw injury and a broken hip. In the other case Amy Norville from Kentucky lost control of her vehicle after trying to avoid a deer. She hit a tree and again the airbag didn’t deploy. Her neck was fractured and her sternum broken.

 

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New York Product Liability Attorneys Tony Gair and en RubinowitzSuccessful product liability lawyers possess an exceptional set of skills. Not only do they have to be able to sit for hours to decipher  extremely technical documents but  they also have to deal with clients suffering life changing injuries or grieving over a loved one who wrongfully died, most of the time in dramatic manner. They also need to juggle tight deadlines, keep their calm and always be courteous with all parties involved. A recent article  in Law 360 describes the 5 top qualities of a top product liability attorney as:

  1. Having a head for science and engineering
  2. Being able to deal with serious injury and death
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Anton YelchinA defective car killed Anton Yelchin and his parents are suing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, manufacturer ZF North America and car dealership chain AutoNation for the wrongful death of their son. 29 year old Anton Yelchin, a “Star Trek” actor was killed last June in front of his house. The actor had just exited his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Because of a defect in the design of the electronic gear shift position indicator, Yelchin thought his car was in “Park” position but it wasn’t. Therefore the parking break wasn’t engaged. The vehicle started to move toward him rolling backward and  fatally crushed him against the security gate.

The car maker was aware of the design defect and in April it had recalled more that 1.1. million Jeep Grand Cherokees after receiving 41 reports of injuries related to the gear shift. According to Yelchin’s parents, a recall notice was received in the mail seven days after the death of their son. The parents said that it was too little too late.

See our previous blog for more info about the recall and read more about Anton Yelchin parents’ lawsuit in US Magazine

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imageSome potentially contaminated flour was recalled by General Mills and the FDA has warned consumers not to eat raw dough. Since last December the FDA has received reports of 38 people that have been contaminated by a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121,  while eating or handling raw dough from flour produced last November by General Mills in Kansas City. 10 of the 38  people had to be hospitalized.  Patients usually recover within a week but severe infections can lead to a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. Children below 5 years old as well as adults with a weak immune system are the most at risk.

The dough is only dangerous for consumption while eaten raw which happen mostly when consumers eat the scraps while preparing cookies or other baked goods. Children who play with home made play clay are also at risk of being contaminated.

The following types of flour were recalled: Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens and Gold Medal Wondra. Consumers who have bought these types of flour and have then in their pantry should discard them.

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A defectively designed gear-shifting control in some previously recalled 2014 and 2015 Fiat Chrysler Jeep Cherokee models caused 266 crashes and 68 injuries according to a report that was recently published by the National Highway  Traffic Safety Administration.  The report doesn’t mention any deaths despite the fact that Star Treck actor Anton Yelchin was killed on June 19 after his 2015  Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backward and  fatally pinned him against a wall. According to the report, rollaway crashes are prone to happen with these types of gear-shifting controls because they are confusing for the driver. Most reported cases involved drivers who believed they were in the Park  position and exited the car. Read more in the Claims Journal

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Another defective Takata airbag killed a woman last Sunday in Malaysia. The victim had a minor accident and the airbag deployed and exploded spraying metal shards. Her chest was bleeding and she died moments later. More than 100 people have been injured and 11 have died so far from defective Takata airbag accidents. For a detailed analysis of the recall see “Takata Airbag Recall-Everything You Need to Know” in Consumer Reports. Last May in Texas a 17 year old girl died the same way. Takata airbags are found on most Asian branded cars and more than 100 million vehicles have already been recalled worldwide making this recall the biggest and most complex worldwide recall ever. The recalls of defective airbags are still ongoing. The last victim was driving a Honda City subcompact and her accident happened just days after Honda Malaysia announced a recall of an additional 145,000 vehicles. Read more in the NY Daily News