Product Recalls vs. Product Defects

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 What Is a Product Recall?

Consumers rely on laws to protect them from injuring themselves every time they use a new product or an existing product. A product recall can occur when the majority of a product becomes unsafe to use.

If this occurs, the manufacturer or a government agency may provide recommendations to the public to ensure their safety while using the product. The Consumer Product Safety Act was enacted to protect consumers from exposure to products that create an unreasonable risk of injury when used.

Most recalled products are recalled because they are defective in some manner. A defective product is unreasonably dangerous when it is being used for its intended purpose without any interference or alteration.

A product may be recalled due to:

  • Manufacturing defects: The product was produced or manufactured in such a way that caused it to be dangerous. An example of this would be when a part was not installed correctly while on the assembly line.
  • Design defects: There is a danger or safety risks contained within the design of the product. An example of this would be a child’s toy that was designed with a dangerously sharp edge.
  • Warning label defects: A warning label is defective when it is:
    • Missing;
    • Too small to read;
    • Misleading;
    • Uses vague language.

What Types of Products Are Commonly Recalled?

Certain categories of consumer products are often subject to recalls. These include products that pose a higher risk of injury.

However, it is important to note that any product may be subject to a recall at any time. The categories of products that are most commonly recalled include:

  • Food and drugs;
  • Vehicles and related parts and products;
  • Cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, and skin products;
  • Children’s products and toys, for example, strollers and safety seats;
  • Tools, hardware, and electronics;
  • Furnaces with carbon monoxide leaks.

As noted above, a product is typically recalled when it is defective in some manner. A manufacturer may issue a recall of a defective product in order to reduce their liability.

Product liability arises when a manufacturer, seller, or retailer of a product is held liable for allowing that defective product to reach consumers. They may be held liable regardless of the consumer’s own negligence that contributed to how the dangerous product may have injured them.

The laws governing product liability cases determine what party can be held responsible for a dangerous or defective product. It is important to note that any party involved in a product’s distribution chain may be held liable in a product liability case.

The state laws that govern product liability claims can vary. However, each state has commercial statutes that are typically molded after the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC).

The UCC contains warranty rules that apply to product liability issues.

How Does the Government Play a Role in Product Recalls?

A product recall provides a means for a manufacturer or a company to remove a product that causes problems or injuries and offer a remedy to the injured party. The government plays a significant role in this process and mandates product recalls in some cases.

Government agencies help to ensure that products with defective designs are immediately recalled in order to warn customers of the defects. It is important for consumers to check government websites often to ensure that products they have purchased are not on the recall list.

The following government agencies are permitted to require a product recall:

  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission;
  • The Food and Drug Administration;
  • The Food Safety and Inspection Services;
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration;
  • The Coast Guard; and
  • The Environmental Protection Agency.

The rules that govern product recalls differ across government agencies. Because of this, it is helpful to research and browse their websites to determine the guidelines required for recalls.

As a smart consumer, it is essential to check if a product has been recalled before purchasing it.

What Happens After a Product Is Recalled?

Once a product is recalled, the manufacturer needs to take specific actions, including:

  • Contacting their regulators;
  • Notifying their insurers;
  • Seeking legal counseling to evaluate the company’s liability exposure and financial stability.

For example, it may be good to draft a plan to pay a certain amount of money in settlements to those individuals who were injured by the products. A plan should be created before recalling a certain defective product from the market.

Drafting a plan before recalling a defective product provides the company a way to adequately warn its consumers as well as limit exposure to greater liability. There can be legal consequences for companies when they recall a defective product.

In addition, a simple recall for a defective product may not be a sufficient resolution for a government agency. The type of product defect will determine the damages that are recoverable from the responsible party.

How Do the Different Types of Product Defects Operate?

Design defects occur before a product is made. These defects make the product dangerous to use.

For example, with a child’s toy, there may be a choking hazard that causes it to become unsafe for the child to use. Another type of defect that may arise is a manufacturing defect that occurs during the production process.

For instance, a baby crib may be missing a key component that was omitted during the manufacturing process. If this occurs, and the crib breaks while it is in use, the baby can sustain serious injuries due to this malfunction, and the product manufacturer would be liable for the injuries caused to the baby.

Marketing defects arise when a product is unsafe to use based on the advertising materials with it. One example of this would be the failure to provide adequate warnings or improper labeling for the consumer who is using the product.

How Do I Determine Which Party Is Responsible for the Defective Product?

A consumer who is injured by a defective product may recover for their injuries. Any of the following parties may be held liable for product defects:

  • The product manufacturer;
  • A manufacturer of the component parts;
  • The party that installs or assembles the product;
  • The wholesaler;
  • The retail store that sold the product.

In order to determine the responsible party, it will be necessary to determine the type of defect a product has. From there, a plaintiff, or injured party, can determine what party will be liable based on the parties involved in the process.

It can be challenging to determine which party is responsible based on the type of product defect. In some instances, the doctrine of strict liability will apply.

For this doctrine to apply, the product must be sold in the regular course of business. Regular course of business excludes purchases from casual sellers, such as individuals at a garage sale or other similar situations.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

Suppose you or a loved one have suffered injuries from a defective product that has been recalled. In that case, it is important to consult with a defective products lawyer about recovering from your injuries. Your lawyer can advise you on proceeding with a case against the company, the manufacturer, or any other party in the chain of commerce.

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