Product Liability Lawsuit Case Study

Product liability cases are no laughing matter. People get hurt, and we represent them. Every now and then, news outlets report on product liability cases because of their large scale. Other times, the media sensationalizes product liability cases. Here are 7 you may or may not have heard about.

1. Philip Morris

It shouldn’t come as a surprise a tobacco company made the top of the list.  A woman sued the company, claiming cigarettes produced by Philip Morris caused her lung cancer and long-term addiction. The company was originally ordered to pay $28 billion in addition to $850,000 in compensations. While this did drop down to $28 million, it is a sizable liability case for the company.

2. General Motors

Vehicles using gas powered engines require coolant to prevent overheating in the summer and freezing up in the winter. A lawsuit against General Motors stated the coolant in vehicle engines contained a dangerous chemical. GM had to pay out around $20 billion for its 25 million customers. Each person ended up receiving from $400 to $800.

3. Dow Corning

In the 1990’s, Dow Corning was repeatedly sued by several women who stated their breast implants were rupturing, causing infections, disfigurement and even death. The company ended up settling the law suit for $2 billion.

4. McDonald’s Restaurants

The famous McDonald’s coffee case gets a bad rap: can a company really be at fault for customers not knowing the coffee is hot? The answer is no, when you phrase it that way. However, the facts of the case show negligence on the part of the company and definitely meet the standards of proving liability in product injury cases. Learn the truth, and impress people at parties.

5. Owens Corning

Asbestos is an extremely dangerous building material. However, it used to be commonplace in construction before people knew about the dangers. Over 176,000 individuals signed up for the Owens Corning Corp bill, which eventually paid out around $1.2 billion.

6. Remington Rifles

Most of the time, consumers are responsible for gun safety. This assumes the manufacturer made a safe product in the first place. In this case, faulty 700 and 710 series rifles would fire when the safety released, instead of when the trigger was pulled. The safety often disengaged by accident, causing the gun to fire and culminating in a $15 million suit. Remington appealed the decision recently, leading some consumer advocates to claim they got off easy.

7. Merck Pharmaceuticals

There’s no shortage of new prescription drugs on the market. In this 2006 case, the manufacturers of a painkiller called Vioxx were found guilty of misleading the FDA regarding the product’s safety. The plaintiff was awarded $4.5 million to cover four years’ worth of side effects culminating in a heart attack, plus punitive damages.

People like to think that product liability cases are get rich quick schemes by clever plaintiffs. However, when you’ve seen as many cases as we have, it’s clear that companies need to be held accountable for negligence and strict liability that can result in crippling injuries and death. Most people would rather avoid the injury, illness and legal proceedings altogether. When enforced, product liability laws hold companies accountable and offer compensation to victims who have truly suffered. Please contact us if you have been injured by a defective product.

Each year thousands of product liability claims are filed, which eventually lead to a plethora of settlements and verdicts being awarded to consumers who have been injured indirectly or directly by faulty or sub-standard products. These lawsuits, filed by consumers like you, require companies to maintain safety standards and spend more resources for product testing. Here we present some notable products that correspond with 5 Unbelievable Product Liability Lawsuits.These cases show how product safety and reliability are crucial and also help you understand your rights as a consumer.

1. Blitz gas cans

Blitz was the largest producer of portable gas cans in the United States. Headquartered in Miami, Oklahoma, this company filed for bankruptcy in mid-2012 because of a barrage of product liability lawsuits against it. Many consumers from different parts of the country have filed cases against the company because the cans would explode when used to pour gas to start a fire. Each of these claims cost the company an average of $4 million and more than 30 cases were filed in 2012 alone causing the company to close its operations.

A product liability lawsuit was brought against Blitz for the unreliability of its gas cans, which would explode when used to pour gasoline on fires.

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2. McDonald’s coffee

The Liebeck v. McDonald’s case of 1994 is one of the most prominent unbelievable product liability cases in U.S. history. In this case, Stella Liebeck accidentally poured hot coffee, purchased from McDonald’s, on her lower body and suffered third degree burns on her thighs, groin and buttocks. Liebeck’s lawyers argued that the company served coffee at a temperature of 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit while other companies served coffee only at a reasonable 140 degrees. Liebeck was awarded a jury verdict of $2.7 million in punitive damages and $160,000 for medical expenses.

In 1994, after accidentally spilling hot coffee on her lower body and suffering third degree burns, Stella Liebeck filed a suit against McDonald’s, claiming the fast food restaurant served coffee at too high of a temperature.

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3. Remington rifle models 700 and 710

The Remington rifle models 700 and 710 were proven to have a faulty fire control system, which caused the rifle to fire even when the trigger wasn’t pulled. All that was needed to fire the rifle was the release of the safety latch, which could easily be released when the rifle was simply bumped or jarred. Many product liability lawsuits have been filed against the Remington Rifle company, but the most prominent jury verdict was $15 million awarded to a Texas man in 1994 when he accidentally shot himself in the right foot while hunting.

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4. Ledraplastic balancing ball

In 2009 Francisco Garcia of the Sacramento Kings was balancing on a 75 centimeter Ledraplastic balancing ball along with weights when the ball burst and he was injured. He fractured his right forearm and was unable to play the first four months in his first-year contract with the Kings. The Kings and Garcia filed a product liability claim against Ledraplastic for $4 million in lost salaries and $29.6 million in damages and eventually won the case.

A Sacramento Kings’ basketball player filed a product liability case after sustaining injuries from a balancing ball that exploded during a workout.

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5. Toyota cars

In 2010, Toyota issued a massive recall for many of its cars. A safety feature known as “brake to idle fail safe” was not installed in many cars and, therefore, increased the chances of an accident when the accelerator malfunctioned. The aim of the fail-safe system is to prompt the engine to ignore the gas pedal when the brakes are pressed, greatly reducing the chances of an accident, even when there is a problem with the accelerator. The failure to include this fail-safe mechanism in many Toyota models resulted in one of the biggest litigation cases in recent history, as well as a class action lawsuit. Toyota agreed to pay a whopping $1.1 billion to settle the suit.

We would love to know what you think of these 5 Unbelievable Product Liability Lawsuits. Have we missed any notable cases, particularly ones that leave you scratching your head? If there’s one that should have made our list, leave a comment below!

Is your company in need of a liability expert who specializes in building construction and design? Check out Ivey Engineering’s professional liability consulting services.


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