I have been wandering around the aerosol industry for the last 35+ years both as an employee of major CPG companies, and, for the past 15 years as an independent aerosol technical consultant. While the attention to safety issues has dramatically improved over time, I am still amazed how often the simplest safety precautions are sometimes overlooked when filling aerosols with flammable propellants. I'll save my horror stories for another time, except for one particularly relevant example at the end of this article.
In the United States, the most litigious country in the world, a products liability action may be brought, under state law, for express or implied breach of warranty, misrepresentation and negligence. Under the theory of strict liability, a lawsuit may be initiated on the grounds of manufacturing and design defects as well as poor and inadequate warning instructions. The best defensive strategy for a company to avoid becoming involved in any of the above is to manufacture the safest product possible within parameters of economic feasibility. If said manufacturer can vouch for safety factors in the design, production, testing, inspection and evaluation of its product as well as attentiveness to consumer complaints, it will be more likely to avoid litigation or at least be able to prevail in the courtroom.
While many accidents involving products are the result of a product defect that leads to injury of the product user, accidents can also be the result of a failure caused by lack of maintenance or inspection. This issue of Clues will examine the theory behind failure to maintain accidents, as well as provide examples of common accidents that are due to a lack of maintenance.
No one likes to see children get hurt, especially when it could be prevented. Poor design, manufacturing defects, material defects, assembly errors, and the lack of a hazard analysis can result in hazardous products that injure people. Many products are put in stores that may have never been looked at by a design engineer and/or a safety specialist.
Last month's issue of the Goldhaber Warnings Report focused on the dangers of added sugar to many products sold in the U.S. But sugar, while a major culprit in the causal chain leading to a variety of serious illnesses such as Type 2 Diabetes and other cardio-vascular diseases and certain cancers, is not the only food product that may need a safety warning. Let's look at a few potential examples of products that might benefit from a safety warning.
This term raises some vital issues that the engineer should be aware of when using it. First several definitions are available and thus it is perceived differently by different groups and individuals. From a legal standpoint, in many states, using the term to describe a product that was involved in an incident involving an injury means that the designer or manufacturer of that product may be financially liable for the injury. Engineers sometimes use the term simply to indicate an imperfection in a product without intending its frequent legal use. Further the engineer realizes that no material and no finished product is perfect. However, these variations from perfection do not necessarily mean they were cause for failure and thus the injury that may occur in a given incident. Some product liability attorneys may not readily acknowledge or understand this distinction.
If you buy a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese in the UK (the same Mac & Cheese that is sold in the U.S.), the following warning label appears on the package: Warning: This Product May Cause Adverse Effects Activity AndAttention in Children. This warning is required because the U.S. version of Kraft Mac & Cheese has artificial food dyes yellow #5 and yellow #6, which are proven to be linked to hyperactivity in children. The warning does NOT appear in the U.S.
Table saw accidents occur frequently, often resulting in serious accidents when the operator comes in contact with the saw blade. The difficulties in guarding table saw blades with conventional guarding techniques often leads to ineffective guards that are removed by saw operators due to their lack of function and flexibility.
Product Liability Reform has affected many attorneys, consumers, and experts negatively while failing in its goal of greater American competitiveness. This issue of Forensic Clues is dedicated to addressing the problems of tort reform, how this affects you, and what you as an attorney can do to reduce your costs and increase your chances of a successful product liability case, assuming that the case involves a legitimate product defect.
An attorney involved with crate litigation might readily recognize the need for a packaging expert, yet, not be sufficiently aware of the specific knowledge and capabilities that best qualify that expert.