Product recalls are requests by manufacturers to have a specific product removed from sales shelves and returned, generally for a refund or a similar product exchange. Common examples of products that may be recalled include a stroller or a Segway.

Products are recalled when the manufacturer believes that the product poses a health or safety risk to consumers. By recalling the product, the manufacturer is attempting to avoid violations of product safety laws while also decreasing any potential legal action for products liability injuries.

Most recalled products are called back because they are defective in some way. This can be any product that is unreasonably dangerous when being used for its intended purpose, without any alterations or interference.

A product can 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: Simply put, there are dangers 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; and/or
  • Warning Label Defects: A product’s warning label is considered to be defective when it is missing, too small to read, misleading, or uses vague language.

What Types Of Products Are Commonly Recalled?

There are specific categories of consumer products that are subject to frequent recalls. These include products that pose a higher potential risk of injury, although any product can be subject to a recall at any time. The following categories are examples of products that are most commonly recalled:

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

As previously mentioned, products are generally recalled when they are defective in some way. And, manufacturers may issue a recall in order to reduce their liability. Product liability refers to when a manufacturer, retailer, or seller of a product is held liable for allowing a defective product to reach the consumer. This is regardless of the consumer’s own negligence contributing to how they may have been injured by the dangerous products.

The laws that govern product liability determine who is to be held responsible for defective or dangerous products. An example of this would be a product manufacturer being held liable for placing a defective product into the stream of commerce.

However, all parties involved in the distribution chain of the product may be found guilty of product liability. State laws regarding product liability claims vary, although commercial statutes in each state are commonly modeled after the Uniform Commercial Code. The UCC contains warranty rules which affect product liability.

What Should I Do If I Was Injured By a Product Before It Was Recalled?

A product recall can greatly reduce the liability of a manufacturer, especially if a consumer knowingly continues to use a product that has been recalled as dangerous. What this means is that the potential for an injured consumer to recover damages may be considerably limited. However, it is sometimes still possible to recover damages even after a product has been recalled.

If you have been injured by a product that has not yet been recalled, you should file a report with the manufacturer and ask about compensation. If the case is serious enough, you may need to file a lawsuit against them for damages.

Another option would be to join a class action lawsuit. This specific type of lawsuit is common for product recalls, so it is helpful to discuss further. A class action is a lawsuit brought by one or more people on behalf of a group of others that are in a similar situation. In order to bring a class action lawsuit, each participant is required to share similar legal issues and there must be enough individuals affected by the issue that it would not make sense to bring separate lawsuits.

To begin the process, a person or group of people will bring a putative class action lawsuit against the defendant. The court then decides whether to certify the lawsuit as a class action; in which case, the original group will represent the entire class action group, and the claim will move forward as a class action lawsuit. If the court refuses to certify the class, it is generally because they do not think the class is complete. What this means is that there could be more potential plaintiffs to join the class, which would strengthen the case.

Class action settlements frequently occur. Generally speaking, the two parties will create a settlement and present it to the court. If the court approves the settlement, members of the suit can opt out of the settlement, and any member can object to the settlement with the court.

Taking into consideration the injury suffered by the plaintiffs, as well as the size of the class, the court will decide if the settlement is fair. If the settlement is considered to be low for a large class, each class member will receive a considerably small portion. Because of this, depending on the nature of the injury, the court may require a larger settlement so that each class member can receive a more fair portion.

What Else Should I Know About Product Safety Laws?

Product safety laws are intended to regulate the design, manufacturing, distribution, sale, and resale of products. They ensure that consumers are safe from dangerous products, and that they receive adequate warnings of potential dangers associated with the product. Product safety laws frequently change, as the different types of products available on the market also evolve.

Product safety laws also address the consumer’s duty to consider their own safety. The Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972 (“CPSA”) provides a standard to prevent any risks and dangers that are associated with consumer products. The products are also recalled if they are found to be dangerous or hazardous in nature.

Among other provisions, the Act established the Consumer Product Safety Commission to develop various standards related to safety and product recalls. The Commission works alongside other administrative agencies to regulate products, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Transportation.

Additionally, each state maintains its own body of laws addressing product safety laws. Many state laws are modeled after CPSA provisions; however, state laws often include more detailed provisions that are specific to the economic needs of that area.

To summarize, product safety laws are intended to:

  1. Protect the public against unreasonable dangers and risks of injury associated with products used by consumers;
  2. Assist the users of products in evaluating the safety of consumer products;
  3. Develop a uniform safety standard for products in order to minimize state and local regulations involving products; and
  4. Promote increased safety regulations as well as research into the causes and prevention of product related death, injuries, and illnesses.

Do I Need An Attorney For Assistance With Product Recalls?

If you have been injured by a product that is being recalled, or has yet to be recalled, you should consult with an experienced and local consumer lawyer. Because state laws vary in terms of product safety and liability, an area attorney will be best suited to helping you determine your legal options according to your state’s specific regulations.

An experienced attorney will also be able to represent you in court, and will be aware of any class action lawsuits you can join.