Defective Retail Products: What are My Rights?

Doug Mann

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Table of Contents
  1. Who Handles Recalled Products?
  2. Recalled Products That Can Harm You
  3. Steps to Take After Becoming Ill or Injured
  4. Fighting Against Defective Products

Every year, millions of various consumer products enter the stream of commerce in the United States and end up in the hands of consumers who rely on them to be safe. Of course, there are the outlier instances of products that are defective in some way and that do not affect the entire lot. But what about in cases where an entire batch of a product suffers from a dangerous defect that could injure hundreds — or even thousands — of people?

In these cases, a recall may be initiated.

Various consumer products are regulated by the alphabet-soup agencies of the United States, such as the FDAUSDANHTSA, and the CPSC. All of these agencies handle recalls differently, and the procedural intricacies of recalls within the United States could alone be discussed at length.

What should you do if a recalled product is making you ill?

As a consumer, the most important thing is that all recalls should be taken seriously, whether they are voluntary or mandatory, and failure to pay attention to them can result in serious injuries.

When people think about the kinds of products that could potentially cause illness, they tend to think about consumables like food, drink, or medicine.

A somewhat alarming reality of the modern world is that there are often substances used in the manufacture of seemingly harmless products that could be leaching into your environment and causing you or your family to get sick. One such example is the dangers of talcum powder, commonly found in cosmetics and baby powder. Talcum powder has been linked to lung and ovarian cancer because of talc deposits often becoming mixed with asbestos deposits found in nature — and it’s been the subject of several lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, including one case that resulted in a $72 million settlement.

Some of the categories of products that have the potential to cause illness include the following:

  • Food products
  • Cosmetics
  • Hygiene products
  • Cleaners
  • Household appliances
  • Vehicles
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Medical devices
  • Household chemicals
  • Children’s toys
  • Paints
  • Insecticides
  • Pesticides
  • Drinks
  • Boats
  • Clothing
  • Laundry detergents
  • Furniture

As a safety-conscious consumer, you should keep your eyes and ears open for news of recalled products that may affect you. As mentioned above, various government agencies are responsible for the regulation of different types of products, but the federal government has made things easy for consumers by creating Recalls.gov, a website that lists recalls related to consumer products, motor vehicles, boats, food, medicine, cosmetics, and environmental products.

Once you have determined that a product in your home or that you use is subject to a recall, here are the steps that you should take to protect your health and your legal rights:

Stop Using the Recalled Product — Generally speaking, you should stop using recalled products immediately. In many cases, the agency responsible for the regulation of the particular product will have specific actionable advice for consumers. For example, with many consumer products, the agency recommends returning the product to the manufacturer or retailer. For products that you cannot stop using immediately, such as an implanted medical device, the agency may recommend you speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

Document Information — Document information about the product and your illness, including when you purchased it, when your symptoms started, the way in which your illness has affected your day-to-day life, and whether anyone else in your household has experienced the same or similar symptoms. You should continue to keep notes about the way your illness has affected you until your symptoms have completely subsided.

See Your Physician — If you believe that a recalled product is making you sick, it is critical to see your physician as soon as possible. Doing so will ensure that an official record of your condition is created and that the exact issue that is causing your symptoms is properly identified. It also allows you to take steps to immediately mitigate the adverse effects being caused by the recalled product. In some cases, this step may come first, as it may not be clear that a product is causing an illness until after a doctor performs tests that indicate that you may have been exposed to a harmful chemical or substance.

Call a Lawyer — Finally, you should contact an attorney as soon as you suspect that you have been made ill by a product that has been recalled. In many cases, you may be able to recover for any damages you have sustained, including your medical expenses, lost income, loss of quality of life, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.

Our experienced attorneys work with defective products cases on a contingent fee basis, and can help with compensation if you’ve been injured by a defective medical device. Past results include cases against da Vinci Robotic Surgery, Johnson & Johnson DuPuy hip implants, shoulder pain pumps, transvaginal mesh, and others.

The da Vinci system, for example, carries risks of heavy bleeding, adverse reaction to anesthesia, and accidental damage to other tissues, among problems that can arise in the post-surgery recovery period. Doctors also need extensive training to use the da Vinci system, and because it’s a machine, there’s more of a chance for malfunction or failure — small defects in parts have even sparked and caused burn injuries during surgery. In one case, the system seriously burned the internal organs of a hysterectomy patient, who passed away a short time later. In early 2014, more than $67 million was set aside for settlements for product liability claims.

Transvaginal mesh also has seen recent settlements for injuries caused by the polypropylene mesh that strengthens pelvic floor muscles to treat hernias. However, the mesh has been found to irritate the tissues of the pelvic floor, causing them to degrade. Because tissues grow around the mesh, removal is painful and nearly impossible, and many women are left with chronic pain or even worsening incontinence. In 2014, a Texas woman was awarded damages of $73 million for injuries caused by the implantation of transvaginal mesh for her stress urinary incontinence — $50 million of which was for punitive damages, as punishment against her doctor and Boston Scientific, the manufacturer.

Our defective products attorneys are ready to review your case at no cost. Contact us today to see how we can help.

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