On Tuesday, May 25, two former Louisiana agricultural workers suffering from Parkinson’s disease filed historic lawsuits against the manufacturers of the herbicide, paraquat. The plaintiffs, including a former LSU AgCenter extension agent, worked in the Louisiana ag industry for decades and were exposed to the…
Dangerous and Defective Products Lawsuits
When purchasing a product, you probably assume it has undergone rigorous testing and regulation to ensure safety and effectiveness. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The entities in charge of these safeguards don’t always do what we trust them to do.
Dangerous and defective products can seriously harm or even kill their users; any one of the thousands of products we use every day has the potential to wreak havoc on our physical, mental and financial health. Medical bills, hospital stays, and even pain and suffering from injury or death of a loved one are all unnecessary burdens that consumers must bear if a manufacturer acts negligently.
If you are harmed by a dangerous or defective product, you have the right to file a product liability claim and hold the responsible parties accountable.
What Makes a Product Dangerous or Defective?
Dangerous products are classified under product liability, which means that every individual or party who designed, manufactured or sold a product from development to release can be held responsible for being inherently dangerous and causing harm to consumers.
Legally, there are three specific ways a product can be defective – you cannot just sue a company when their product doesn’t work.
Products with a design defect were designed in such a way that makes them likely to cause injury. Products with a manufacturing defect have been built with some flaws, but their design and marketing are not at fault. Products with a marketing defect have failed to instruct or adequately warn consumers about their known risks.
So, in short, anything that has been manufactured for use by consumers can be a dangerous or defective product – toys, household items, furniture and decor, automobiles, medical devices, tools, supplies, cleaning products; the list is endless.
Examples of Defective and Dangerous Products
Because consumer drugs, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription and medical devices, are designed to treat or prevent harm to the user, these products are often under fire for doing precisely the opposite. Also often prone to product liability claims are chemical-based products like pesticides and herbicides. Some examples of dangerous and defective products include:
Paraquat is a popular weed killer that has been on the market for more than 50 years. Ingesting just one sip of the highly toxic chemical can be fatal, and users exposed to it over long periods of time, such as farmers and agricultural workers, can develop a number of serious health risks.
Chronic paraquat exposure can cause damage to the lungs and respiratory system, including a condition known as “paraquat lung.” Inhaled paraquat travels to the brain, damaging the sense of smell and, in many cases, leading to the development of Parkinson’s disease. This devastating condition is progressive and incurable.
Victims around the country who have developed Parkinson’s after using paraquat are filing lawsuits against its manufacturers, alleging they knew that the product could cause the disease but outright concealed or failed to warn of that risk.
Roundup is the world’s most popular herbicide for commercial farms and backyard gardens alike. Its main ingredient, glyphosate, has been found to cause certain cancers, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After using Roundup, victims who developed cancer have filed over 100,000 lawsuits against Bayer, who took over ownership from the infamous Monsanto in 2018.
While Bayer maintains that Roundup is safe if used as directed, they recently announced a new version of the product made without glyphosate for release in 2023. They have lost several court cases already, in which juries agreed that Bayer knowingly misled and endangered the public by failing to warn them of Roundup’s carcinogenic properties, and their fight to pull themselves out of the legal mud is far from over.
Philips CPAP Machines
CPAP machines are medical devices that help sleep apnea patients breathe at night. Sleep apnea occurs when the patient stops breathing and starts again repeatedly, and it can cause severe heart problems and other health conditions.
In summer 2021, medical device company Philips recalled between three and four million of its CPAP machines and ventilators. A foam noise-muffling component of the machines is breaking down while in use, causing not only a choking hazard but possibly the release of a toxic carcinogen into the lungs.
Patients were forced to choose between continuing to use their Philips machines, knowing the risk, or going without and returning to a terrible nights’ sleep and worsening health. New devices weren’t going to be available for at least a year. Philips is now dealing with class action lawsuits alleging they knew about the foam piece problem and did nothing.
Premature infants are already at risk for many health problems, but some have developed a life-threatening and sometimes fatal illness called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after consuming cow’s milk baby formula.
Preemies can’t always rely on breast milk, the healthiest option, for various reasons such as lacking the strength to breastfeed, so they are often given formula while in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Two bovine formula brands are facing an avalanche of lawsuits from parents whose infants contracted or died from NEC. The lawsuits claim that Similac and Enfamil manufacturers left out warnings about NEC on their product packaging and materials.
While medication commercials make us believe that manufacturers put our health first, the reality is that they often rush through research and testing to maximize products. This means that drugs are often available before developers really know how safe the drugs are and what side effects they may have. It can also mean that they know plenty about these side effects and fail to warn consumers.
Every drug has some potential side effects. Most are mild and common to many drugs (e.g., headache, nausea, drowsiness, indigestion). But some can be serious or life-threatening. And, of course, no one person reacts to a drug the same way. This is why your doctor and pharmacist can also be held liable if you have a significant reaction to your medication.
Louisiana Product Liability Laws
Each state has its own version of product liability. Louisiana’s dates back to the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) of 1988, which establishes theories of liability for damage caused by manufacturers. These tenets include:
- The product was built incorrectly, making it unreasonably dangerous
- A design flaw making the product unreasonably dangerous was obvious, and the manufacturer did not find an alternative
- The manufacturer failed to warn consumers of the risks of using the product, whether disclosed or undisclosed
- The manufacturer was in non-compliance with the product’s stated warranty, rendering it invalid
These characteristics must apply in order for a plaintiff to recover damages in a lawsuit successfully. The injury must have been sustained while using the product and while using it in a reasonable way.
If you’re considering a lawsuit, there are four major types of liability claims.
A manufacturing defect happens during the product’s physical assembly. Poor materials, faulty machinery, careless inspections and untrained employees can all contribute to a product that doesn’t meet its own design requirements.
A design defect means that a change in the product’s initial design could have prevented the injury; the manufacturer did not choose the safer alternative. In this case, it doesn’t matter how the product was manufactured.
Failure to warn simply means that the manufacturer failed to adequately inform consumers about a product’s risks, whether through purposeful omission or hard-to-find label information.
Finally, a breach of warranty occurs when the product doesn’t perform the way the manufacturer promised and causes subsequent harm.
Notably, manufacturers aren’t the only ones open to liability claims. Most products are designed, manufactured, distributed and sold by different companies. An injured user could hold them all liable.
Plaintiffs hoping to win compensation under the Louisiana Products Liability Act must prove:
- An injury or loss occurred
- The product is actually defective
- The defect in question caused the harm
- The product was being used as intended
If successful, plaintiffs are eligible for past and future medical bills, lost wages or ability to work, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and more.
Have You Been Injured By a Dangerous Product?
Dangerous and defective product cases are in the news every day. With the sheer amount of products we use in our lives, there’s a good chance you may be a victim of product manufacturing negligence at some point.
In August 2022, e-commerce king Amazon announced that it would now pay customers up to $1,000 for defective products sold by third-party sellers that cause personal injury or property damage. Amazon has consistently been hit with product liability suits over the past few years, partially because there is a vast market for third-party vendors. Initially, they fought against these claims in court, saying they shouldn’t be liable for products they did not manufacture, but relented after pushback from injured customers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
While Amazon also made clear in the policy that they aren’t legally responsible for injuries by third-party products, the change is encouraging for victims who think they can’t possibly win against powerful companies.
The strict requirements and complicated language of the Louisiana Products Liability Act mean that having an experienced product liability lawyer is essential if you’ve been injured. Winning a lawsuit against a large manufacturer is virtually impossible without a law firm knowledgeable in dangerous and defective product cases on your side. The team at Herman, Herman & Katz has been winning these cases for our clients for decades. For more information or a free case review, call 844-943-7627 or fill out our online contact form to see if you have a claim.