Product Liability Lawsuits arise when a design, manufacturing, or marketing flaw damages a product, or makes it unsafe, and causes harm to the consumer. Such injuries can range from a small inconvenience to serious harm, and even death. While product liability is not uncommon, unfortunately, you can arm yourself with the knowledge of past cases, and their outcomes.
Below, we have listed 5 Product Liability Cases you should know about, and how they might still impact you today!
5 Product Liability Cases You Should Know About
Being harmed by a product you purchased and put your faith in is a scenario that no one wants to entertain, and yet it happens quite a bit. You can discover more in out article a brief history of Product Liability laws. From faulty medical products, to improperly manufactured automobiles, to toxic building materials; you should be on guard with as much information as possible. If you know what’s come before, you may be able to protect yourself from a similar scenario.
Liebeck v. McDonald’s
When there is an episode of Seinfeld about your product liability case, you know that you have touched a nerve in the cultural zeitgeist. Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurant took place in 1992, when 79 year old Stella Liebeck was scalded when she spilled a hot cup of coffee on herself after receiving it from the McDonald’s drive-thru. The case was decided by the New Mexico Courts in 1994. The jury found McDoanld’s to be 80% at fault, and guilty of gross negligence. They awarded Liebeck $160,000 to cover her medical costs, and $2.7 million in punitive damages.
This case was often mocked, and for years was held up as the example of frivolous lawsuits in America, but that shows a gross misunderstanding of the facts of the case. The coffee was heated to such a temperature that Liebeck received 3rd degree burns from only 3 seconds of exposure to the liquid. She had burns on over 16% of her body. Liebeck spent 8 days in the hospital receiving skin grafts, and spent 2 years in recovery. When she attempted to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses, she was rebuffed by the corporation.
Only after this action by McDonald’s did Liebeck and her attorneys pursue a product liability claim.
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder
In 2019, Johnson & Johnson was found guilty of being the cause of multiple cases of ovarian cancer in women. This was the result from a faulty process of mining talc to make baby powder. When the process of mining the talc was taking place, the company was also negligently mining asbestos, a well known carcinogen. The asbestos was being ground with the talc, and the whole mix was going into the baby powder line.
To this day Johnson & Johnson has denied any wrongdoing and has yet to pay any damages because of certain appeals courts wins. However, they have suspended all talc mining processes, as well as suspended the sale of their baby powder line. This was previously one of the most successful lines in the Jonhson & Johnson catalog. They have also attempted to block more than 40,000 women from filing new lawsuits.
This is also not the only time Johnson and Johnson has faced a product liability issue. Hence why they are listed in this guide of 5 product liability cases to know about.
Johnson v. Monsanto
Many people had long suspected that the chemical makeup of the weedkiller Round-up was making them sick. But the first case to actually come to trial and hold Monsanto responsible occurred in a San Francisco court in 2018. It was here that the jury found in favor of Dewayne Lee Johnson, who claimed that the chemical glyphosate was the cause of him developing non hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The jury awarded $289 million in punitive damages. When Monsanto was bought by the Bayer Corporation, they appealed this verdict, but again lost. However, the damages were lowered on appeal to $78 million. By the time they actually have to pay any amount of damages, the appeals process had lowered the sum all the way down to $21 million.
Over the course of decades, General Motors has had several issues regarding negligence. Particularly when it comes to their automobiles causing preventable accidents. This is why we felt the need to include one of their cases in the 5 product liability cases to know about. They have been forced to pay a staggering amount of money. Specifically regarding lawsuits that arise from the installation of faulty ignition switches in their cars. When a car has a faulty ignition switch installed, this exponentially raises the likelihood that the car could turn off while being operated. If this happened, it would prevent the airbags from inflating on impact, meaning a collision that happened would have a much higher likelihood of injury and death.
In 2014, General Motors recalled over 800,000 vehicles because of faulty ignition switches that had been installed. Most recently, in 2020, GM was forced to pay out over $120 million because of faulty ignition switches.
Bullock v. Philip Morris
Betty Bullock sued Philip Morris over the carcinogens in their cigarettes, as well as the nicotine that made them addictive. Bullock developed inoperable lung cancer, and sued the tobacco magnate for product liability, negligence, and fraud. Since the 1950’s, tobacco companies had been wildly successful at beating back product liability suits. However, this changed when Bullock’s team proved that tobacco companies had known of both the addictiveness, and inherent risks of their products for decades. They also proved that companies had been destroying the results of any research that claimed cigarettes were harmful.
The California jury awarded Bullock $850,000 in compensatory damages. They then went on to award her a staggering $28 billion in punitive damages. This is, as of this writing, the largest punitive award ever handed down. It marked a stark reversal in how the public and the legal system viewed the tobacco industry. While the final award was only $28 million through appeals, the precedent remains to this day.
Take the First Step Towards Becoming Whole
If you have been injured because of faulty products, you do not have to go through this alone. There are legal avenues to pursue to make sure that your rights are enforced. You can help ensure that a company doesn’t keep harming its customers. If you are looking to begin a product liability suit, you should Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an attorney in your area!