A medicine that is supposed to make us better but gives us cancer. A car part that fails and leads to a tragic car accident. A material that is supposed to work wonders, but exposure makes us ill. These are just a few of the more common examples of products that were supposed to help us, to make our lives better, but actually caused injury.
In some cases the injury or illness is truly an accident, the manufacturer or inventor did not realize the harm that came with their product. They may remove the product and try to make amends. But others are more nefarious.
What happens when the corporation knows their product could cause injury or illness?
There is a popular Saturday Night Live sketch that makes light of the corporate greed that can fuel these situations. Candice Bergen plays the role of a Consumer Reporter interviewing Dan Aykroyd’s role as president of a toy manufacturer. She questions the corporate leader about selling a “Bag O’ Glass” to kids, noting the dangerous of the product. The president counters that it’s safe because it has a warning.
But is this warning enough? If the corporation knows their product can cause injury, can they get out of the responsibility simply by pointing to a warning and continue to make money off the product?
Manufacturers have a duty to warn consumers of any reasonably foreseeable danger and a failure to do so can result in liability for injury or illness. Although this warning can help protect the manufacturer, it is not infallible. The warning must be adequate, and this will depend on the facts of the situation. A lack of proper instructions can also lead to liability.
What are my rights if a product causes injury or illness?
Consumers that can establish liability can hold that business accountable for the costs that come with treating the illness or injury caused by their product. This is referred to as a product liability claim and can lead to financial compensation to help cover medical bills, missed wages and other expenses the victim incurs from the injury or illness.
Are these cases successful?
If the victim meets their requirements when filing the claim, a product liability case can be very successful. The tobacco industry is one example, where a smoker filed a product liability case against Philip Morris and was awarded $28 million. In another, an asbestos company agreed to pay over $1 billion to settle claims exposure to its product caused lung cancer and death.