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Specific Product Liability Cases

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Specific Product Liability Cases

Brien Roche

Machine Entrapment

Machine entrapment cases are considerably less common today than they were years ago principally because of guarding techniques that have been employed by manufacturers and the success of product liability lawyers in promoting safety.  The most common entrapment accidents involve legs or arms that are caught between two or more moving or compressing  machine parts.The analysis to be employed in looking at a product liability claim is first whether or not the alleged defect could have been designed out, if not could it be guarded against and finally if neither of those are practical then a warning must be provided.  From a cost point of view designing the hazard out is typically the most expensive.  Guarding is frequently almost as expensive and the least expensive is simply providing a warning which in and of itself may be inadequate.

In looking at machine entrapment cases frequently the operators that are involved are reliable, fastidious workers but they make critical errors consisting of:

  • Misjudging reaction times in that they assume they may be able to see a hazard and react to it in time to avoid it.
  • Misjudging visual perception in that they believe that they will always be able to see the hazard.  Unfortunately, sometimes rotating objects such as blades literally appear to be standing still even though they are moving at high speed.
  • Momentary distraction may disrupt the rhythm of the worker.  Frequently operators who become distracted lose their rhythm and it is that loss of rhythm that results in the entrapment.

There are a number of different standards applicable to entrapment cases published by ANSI and also the Product Standards Index.

Propane Heaters Cause Carbon Monoxide Injury

Propane heaters can cause carbon monoxide injury as reported by injury attorney Brien Roche. These heaters are intended for outdoors usage by campers but can be a source of serious carbon monoxide injury.  Many of these heaters contain no warnings that if the heaters are used in an enclosed area they can cause injury.  The whole advertising concept that such a propane heater is an outdoor instrument is a bit of an oxymoron.  These heaters are not commonly used outdoors.  Propane heaters are commonly used inside a tent, recreational vehicle, or other enclosed space to warm the area.  Many propane heaters do have warnings stating that there is a need for adequate ventilation.  That again is inconsistent with usage in a tent, RV, or other enclosed space.

There are a number of different potential theories of liability relating to propane heaters injuries:

  • When a propane heater is used in a restricted space the heater sucks up available oxygen while at the same time producing levels of carbon monoxide.  There are ways  to design these types of heaters so that the user is audibly warned if the oxygen level is being depleted below a certain level.  In addition, there are “flame out” features that will actually cause the heater to turn off if the carbon monoxide level gets too high.
  • The failure to warn by manufacturers can be another theory of recovery.  That failure to warn may come in the failure to advise the user of the carbon monoxide hazard, its consequences and how to avoid the hazard.  The warning should be unambiguous as to the consequences from the use of such a heater in a confined space where oxygen is being depleted and carbon monoxide is being produced.  The consequence can be death.

Auto Glass Defects

Auto glass defects cause injuries in failing to contain passengers and in allowing glass to become a projectile according to accident lawyer Brien Roche. Many side and rear windows and sunroofs  in motor vehicles are made of tempered glass.Tempered glass is different than laminated glass in that the tempered glass when it breaks it shatters and can become  flying instruments of death within a motor vehicle.  A laminated piece of glass however, when it breaks, tends to stay in place.  Front windshields on vehicles are now mandated to be made of laminated glass.  The importance of laminated glass is that not only does it not become a mechanism of further injury but it also serves to contain the occupants within the vehicle.  Occupants who remain inside the vehicle during an impact tend not to suffer the same traumatic injuries as those that are projected through the window opening.

The cost of providing side and rear windows with laminated glass is not excessive.  It is estimated to be approximately $1o0.00 per vehicle.  There is substantial government and private industry testing that shows the benefits of laminated glass.

Indeed, laminated glass was widely used back in the 1970’s and 1980’s on a number of American made vehicles.  In addition, the suppliers of laminated glass have long espoused the need for it in motor vehicles.

The argument to be made for laminated glass is the common sense notion that passengers in motor vehicles in the course of an  impact should not be exposed to jagged pieces of glass flying around in the interior of the vehicle.

If  you have been injured as a result of the lack of laminated glass in a vehicle that you are riding in, contact us.

Product Liability:Energy Drinks

Teenagers and young adults have recently become the focus of marketing for energy drinks.  The two most famous such drinks are Red Bull and Monster.

The scientific data shows that these flavored drinks contain high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants that stimulate the central nervous system, cardiovascular system and can cause caffeine shock, heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, strokes and other problems.

The industry in 2011 grossed $8.9 billion.  That is up from the previous year.

These types of drinks being dietary supplements are not governed by the FDA nor are they regulated by any federal authority.  As such these drinks can be purchased by children or anybody else who simply has the money to pay for them.

Companies that manufacture these drinks have engaged in a very systematic marketing approach advertising these products to promote concerts and other things that young people are particularly interested in.

Since these drinks are not regulated by the federal government there is no obligation on the part of the manufacturer to disclose the true ingredients.

Research up to this point has indicated there are several dangers associated with these items:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate which can affect even healthy young people but is potentially devastating to those with known high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.
  • Anyone with any undiagnosed heart disease is at risk;
  • These drinks can interact dangerously with any blood pressure medication.
  • People who are not used to caffeine intake are particularly vulnerable since the high dose of caffeine can produce adverse reactions.
  • Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to late miscarriage, stillbirths and poor gestational development.

The warning that is on the Monster product states simply that the product should be consumed responsibly, consumers should limit themselves to 2 cans per day and that it is not recommended for children, pregnant women or people that are sensitive to caffeine.  Although that warning may be better than nothing, it really tells the user very little about the potential risk.

In looking at a case involving this product, it is important of course to be able to identify the actual manufacturer and it is also necessary to be able to expressly link causation to that manufacturer.  Typically this can be done through either the autopsy report if there is a resulting death or bloodwork that was done after the adverse event.

If the potential plaintiff has consumed more than one product, that may be a significant problem as far as proving causation.  Likewise if the user has consumed the product with alcohol or other dietary supplements, is a smoker or is advanced in age, those may all be factors to consider closely in terms of making a decision whether or not a case is viable.  The potential defendant in a case such as this is not only the manufacturer but may in some circumstances be the retailer.

Fertilizer Explosions

On April 17, 2013 a fertilizer plant in Texas exploded.  The fertilizer plant had no sprinklers.  It had no fire walls.  It had no water deluge system.  Safety inspections at the plant were, at best, sporadic.

It so happens that small fertilizer plants across the nation are overseen by a number of governmental agencies; each with limited jurisdiction and therefore basically operating with their blinders on as to other potential violations.

The source of the explosion in this case was ammonium nitrate, which is the chemical used to build the bomb that blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

What is particularly lacking in the regulatory scheme are any guidelines as to how close a facility like this can be to residential neighborhoods.  There is no federal agency that determines how close such a facility can be to population centers.  That is left up to to local zoning authorities.  In the state of Texas zoning is typically de minimis and as such it is not unheard of to have a plant such as this in close proximity to schools and houses.

The damage from this particular blast destroyed an apartment complex, a nursing home and houses in a 4-block area.

The particular fertilizer company in this case not only stored but also distributed and blended fertilizers including chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia and also ammonium nitrate.  This is used by farmers throughout the central Texas area.

This particular plant had been previously cited by the US EPA for not having an up-to-date Risk Management Plan.  That particular violation was resolved and the company submitted a new plan in 2011.  That plan however expressly stated that the company was not  storing or handling any flammable substances.  In addition the plan did not list fire or explosion as a potential danger.  It is the ammonium nitrate, which is a solid granular fertilizer, stored at the facility that was the source of the explosion.

Product Liability Claims Based On Overuse of Antioxidants

Antioxidant product liability is not exactly the rage these days. There is however a good bit of information floating around about the use of antioxidants and how beneficial they are. More antioxidants, however, are not necessarily better. The research in fact has shown that how you consume the antioxidants can make a big difference in your overall health.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are not vitamins. Some of them are but some of them are also minerals. Some are also enzymes. Enzymes are protein molecules that facilitate chemical reactions in order to allow your cells to properly function.

What antioxidants do is to essentially block the action of free, unstable chemical fragments that can cause harm. These fragments can cause cells to grow and reproduce abnormally. Your body produces these fragments during exercise and also during the process of converting food into energy. In addition such things as smoking, drinking alcohol, being exposed to sunlight and also to certain environmental contaminants such as pesticides can trigger the production of more of these fragments. Antioxidants, especially those in fruits, vegetables and whole grains counteract this process. There is fairly well-accepted data that people who consume a greater amount of antioxidant-rich foods have a lower risk of certain disease processes.

Super Antioxidants

The idea that some fruits are so-to-speak “super antioxidants” is not true. All fruits are healthful in this regard and should be combined.

There is also a great deal of focus on food supplements. The problem with food supplements is that they are not food. The data as to these food supplements suggest that they really do not provide any significant benefit.

In addition the concept that more is better is not necessarily true in regards to antioxidants. Too much can be problematic. In particular, capsules that are labeled as “megadoses” of antioxidants can actually be harmful in that they may increase the production of these fragments, especially in people who drink alcohol or smoke.

Many of these products that are labeled as being rich in antioxidants also contain high levels of sugar and fat. In general you should avoid processed food and if you are looking to increase to your vitamin E content then eat an ounce of dry roasted almonds.

Increased Ethanol in Gasoline

In December of 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency approved a request from the ethanol industry to allow ethanol content in a gallon of gasoline to climb from 10 to 15 percent.  The new fuel will be called E15 as opposed to the existing fuel which is called E10.  The idea is to allow ethanol from grain to hopefully decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil.There are some potential product liability consequences from the decision.

Critics of the increase of ethanol in gasoline however point out several things:

  • The increased ethanol blend would tend to shorten engine life and make certain types of equipment prone to fuel leaks and fire hazards.  The reason for this is that ethanol tends to make an engine run hotter and ethanol fuels tend to eat away at rubber components such as hoses and gaskets.  Although automobile engines can adjust for those modifications, smaller engines such as lawnmowers, chainsaws and leaf blowers may not be able to adjust.
  • Ethanol also tends to absorb water.  This would tend to make the fuel unstable and potentially destructive to engines especially when seasonal equipment is stored for months.
  • Gasoline tanks, pipes and pumps at gasoline stations are required to be certified by Underwriters Laboratories, an independent testing organization, in order to meet certain OSHA requirements.  This certification has not been accomplished for E15and may create a host of legal problems.
  • The use of E15 in older vehicles and in certain other types of gasoline engines may potentially void the manufacturer’s warranty which likewise presents a host of legal problems.

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology in Fairfax County certainly is not a new concept.  The prefix “nano” from an etymological point of view means small or dwarf.  Nanotechnology is therefore technology of particles that are incredibly small.  Indeed, the unit of measurement is sometimes referred to as a nanometer which is a billionth of a meter. It is a body of knowledge that has application to some product liability claims reports injury attorney Brien Roche.

The concept of nanotechnology is seen in the formulation of drugs that are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, in computers, in steel production and in a variety of other products.

As such, the nanotechnological perspective is, from the point of view of an injury attorney , a product liability issue.

Nanoparticles are considered to be capable of producing strength for manufactured items that may be considerably greater than the strength of steel.

At this point there are few, if any, standards dealing with the proper uses of this nanotechnology and, as such, lawyers that are involved in product liability litigation need to be sensitive to the potential presence of nanoparticles as a source of defect and likewise need to be sensitive to the fact that the addition of nanoparticles to certain items may improve their functionality and strength.
For more information on product liability see the pages on Wikipedia.

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Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Specific Product Liability Cases

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Specific Product Liability Cases

Brien Roche

Machine Entrapment

Machine entrapment cases are considerably less common today than they were years ago principally because of guarding techniques that have been employed by manufacturers and the success of product liability lawyers in promoting safety.  The most common entrapment accidents involve legs or arms that are caught between two or more moving or compressing  machine parts.The analysis to be employed in looking at a product liability claim is first whether or not the alleged defect could have been designed out, if not could it be guarded against and finally if neither of those are practical then a warning must be provided.  From a cost point of view designing the hazard out is typically the most expensive.  Guarding is frequently almost as expensive and the least expensive is simply providing a warning which in and of itself may be inadequate.

In looking at machine entrapment cases frequently the operators that are involved are reliable, fastidious workers but they make critical errors consisting of:

  • Misjudging reaction times in that they assume they may be able to see a hazard and react to it in time to avoid it.
  • Misjudging visual perception in that they believe that they will always be able to see the hazard.  Unfortunately, sometimes rotating objects such as blades literally appear to be standing still even though they are moving at high speed.
  • Momentary distraction may disrupt the rhythm of the worker.  Frequently operators who become distracted lose their rhythm and it is that loss of rhythm that results in the entrapment.

There are a number of different standards applicable to entrapment cases published by ANSI and also the Product Standards Index.

Propane Heaters Cause Carbon Monoxide Injury

Propane heaters can cause carbon monoxide injury as reported by injury attorney Brien Roche. These heaters are intended for outdoors usage by campers but can be a source of serious carbon monoxide injury.  Many of these heaters contain no warnings that if the heaters are used in an enclosed area they can cause injury.  The whole advertising concept that such a propane heater is an outdoor instrument is a bit of an oxymoron.  These heaters are not commonly used outdoors.  Propane heaters are commonly used inside a tent, recreational vehicle, or other enclosed space to warm the area.  Many propane heaters do have warnings stating that there is a need for adequate ventilation.  That again is inconsistent with usage in a tent, RV, or other enclosed space.

There are a number of different potential theories of liability relating to propane heaters injuries:

  • When a propane heater is used in a restricted space the heater sucks up available oxygen while at the same time producing levels of carbon monoxide.  There are ways  to design these types of heaters so that the user is audibly warned if the oxygen level is being depleted below a certain level.  In addition, there are “flame out” features that will actually cause the heater to turn off if the carbon monoxide level gets too high.
  • The failure to warn by manufacturers can be another theory of recovery.  That failure to warn may come in the failure to advise the user of the carbon monoxide hazard, its consequences and how to avoid the hazard.  The warning should be unambiguous as to the consequences from the use of such a heater in a confined space where oxygen is being depleted and carbon monoxide is being produced.  The consequence can be death.

Auto Glass Defects

Auto glass defects cause injuries in failing to contain passengers and in allowing glass to become a projectile according to accident lawyer Brien Roche. Many side and rear windows and sunroofs  in motor vehicles are made of tempered glass.Tempered glass is different than laminated glass in that the tempered glass when it breaks it shatters and can become  flying instruments of death within a motor vehicle.  A laminated piece of glass however, when it breaks, tends to stay in place.  Front windshields on vehicles are now mandated to be made of laminated glass.  The importance of laminated glass is that not only does it not become a mechanism of further injury but it also serves to contain the occupants within the vehicle.  Occupants who remain inside the vehicle during an impact tend not to suffer the same traumatic injuries as those that are projected through the window opening.

The cost of providing side and rear windows with laminated glass is not excessive.  It is estimated to be approximately $1o0.00 per vehicle.  There is substantial government and private industry testing that shows the benefits of laminated glass.

Indeed, laminated glass was widely used back in the 1970’s and 1980’s on a number of American made vehicles.  In addition, the suppliers of laminated glass have long espoused the need for it in motor vehicles.

The argument to be made for laminated glass is the common sense notion that passengers in motor vehicles in the course of an  impact should not be exposed to jagged pieces of glass flying around in the interior of the vehicle.

If  you have been injured as a result of the lack of laminated glass in a vehicle that you are riding in, contact us.

Product Liability:Energy Drinks

Teenagers and young adults have recently become the focus of marketing for energy drinks.  The two most famous such drinks are Red Bull and Monster.

The scientific data shows that these flavored drinks contain high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants that stimulate the central nervous system, cardiovascular system and can cause caffeine shock, heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, strokes and other problems.

The industry in 2011 grossed $8.9 billion.  That is up from the previous year.

These types of drinks being dietary supplements are not governed by the FDA nor are they regulated by any federal authority.  As such these drinks can be purchased by children or anybody else who simply has the money to pay for them.

Companies that manufacture these drinks have engaged in a very systematic marketing approach advertising these products to promote concerts and other things that young people are particularly interested in.

Since these drinks are not regulated by the federal government there is no obligation on the part of the manufacturer to disclose the true ingredients.

Research up to this point has indicated there are several dangers associated with these items:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate which can affect even healthy young people but is potentially devastating to those with known high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.
  • Anyone with any undiagnosed heart disease is at risk;
  • These drinks can interact dangerously with any blood pressure medication.
  • People who are not used to caffeine intake are particularly vulnerable since the high dose of caffeine can produce adverse reactions.
  • Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to late miscarriage, stillbirths and poor gestational development.

The warning that is on the Monster product states simply that the product should be consumed responsibly, consumers should limit themselves to 2 cans per day and that it is not recommended for children, pregnant women or people that are sensitive to caffeine.  Although that warning may be better than nothing, it really tells the user very little about the potential risk.

In looking at a case involving this product, it is important of course to be able to identify the actual manufacturer and it is also necessary to be able to expressly link causation to that manufacturer.  Typically this can be done through either the autopsy report if there is a resulting death or bloodwork that was done after the adverse event.

If the potential plaintiff has consumed more than one product, that may be a significant problem as far as proving causation.  Likewise if the user has consumed the product with alcohol or other dietary supplements, is a smoker or is advanced in age, those may all be factors to consider closely in terms of making a decision whether or not a case is viable.  The potential defendant in a case such as this is not only the manufacturer but may in some circumstances be the retailer.

Fertilizer Explosions

On April 17, 2013 a fertilizer plant in Texas exploded.  The fertilizer plant had no sprinklers.  It had no fire walls.  It had no water deluge system.  Safety inspections at the plant were, at best, sporadic.

It so happens that small fertilizer plants across the nation are overseen by a number of governmental agencies; each with limited jurisdiction and therefore basically operating with their blinders on as to other potential violations.

The source of the explosion in this case was ammonium nitrate, which is the chemical used to build the bomb that blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

What is particularly lacking in the regulatory scheme are any guidelines as to how close a facility like this can be to residential neighborhoods.  There is no federal agency that determines how close such a facility can be to population centers.  That is left up to to local zoning authorities.  In the state of Texas zoning is typically de minimis and as such it is not unheard of to have a plant such as this in close proximity to schools and houses.

The damage from this particular blast destroyed an apartment complex, a nursing home and houses in a 4-block area.

The particular fertilizer company in this case not only stored but also distributed and blended fertilizers including chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia and also ammonium nitrate.  This is used by farmers throughout the central Texas area.

This particular plant had been previously cited by the US EPA for not having an up-to-date Risk Management Plan.  That particular violation was resolved and the company submitted a new plan in 2011.  That plan however expressly stated that the company was not  storing or handling any flammable substances.  In addition the plan did not list fire or explosion as a potential danger.  It is the ammonium nitrate, which is a solid granular fertilizer, stored at the facility that was the source of the explosion.

Product Liability Claims Based On Overuse of Antioxidants

Antioxidant product liability is not exactly the rage these days. There is however a good bit of information floating around about the use of antioxidants and how beneficial they are. More antioxidants, however, are not necessarily better. The research in fact has shown that how you consume the antioxidants can make a big difference in your overall health.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are not vitamins. Some of them are but some of them are also minerals. Some are also enzymes. Enzymes are protein molecules that facilitate chemical reactions in order to allow your cells to properly function.

What antioxidants do is to essentially block the action of free, unstable chemical fragments that can cause harm. These fragments can cause cells to grow and reproduce abnormally. Your body produces these fragments during exercise and also during the process of converting food into energy. In addition such things as smoking, drinking alcohol, being exposed to sunlight and also to certain environmental contaminants such as pesticides can trigger the production of more of these fragments. Antioxidants, especially those in fruits, vegetables and whole grains counteract this process. There is fairly well-accepted data that people who consume a greater amount of antioxidant-rich foods have a lower risk of certain disease processes.

Super Antioxidants

The idea that some fruits are so-to-speak “super antioxidants” is not true. All fruits are healthful in this regard and should be combined.

There is also a great deal of focus on food supplements. The problem with food supplements is that they are not food. The data as to these food supplements suggest that they really do not provide any significant benefit.

In addition the concept that more is better is not necessarily true in regards to antioxidants. Too much can be problematic. In particular, capsules that are labeled as “megadoses” of antioxidants can actually be harmful in that they may increase the production of these fragments, especially in people who drink alcohol or smoke.

Many of these products that are labeled as being rich in antioxidants also contain high levels of sugar and fat. In general you should avoid processed food and if you are looking to increase to your vitamin E content then eat an ounce of dry roasted almonds.

Increased Ethanol in Gasoline

In December of 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency approved a request from the ethanol industry to allow ethanol content in a gallon of gasoline to climb from 10 to 15 percent.  The new fuel will be called E15 as opposed to the existing fuel which is called E10.  The idea is to allow ethanol from grain to hopefully decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil.There are some potential product liability consequences from the decision.

Critics of the increase of ethanol in gasoline however point out several things:

  • The increased ethanol blend would tend to shorten engine life and make certain types of equipment prone to fuel leaks and fire hazards.  The reason for this is that ethanol tends to make an engine run hotter and ethanol fuels tend to eat away at rubber components such as hoses and gaskets.  Although automobile engines can adjust for those modifications, smaller engines such as lawnmowers, chainsaws and leaf blowers may not be able to adjust.
  • Ethanol also tends to absorb water.  This would tend to make the fuel unstable and potentially destructive to engines especially when seasonal equipment is stored for months.
  • Gasoline tanks, pipes and pumps at gasoline stations are required to be certified by Underwriters Laboratories, an independent testing organization, in order to meet certain OSHA requirements.  This certification has not been accomplished for E15and may create a host of legal problems.
  • The use of E15 in older vehicles and in certain other types of gasoline engines may potentially void the manufacturer’s warranty which likewise presents a host of legal problems.

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology in Fairfax County certainly is not a new concept.  The prefix “nano” from an etymological point of view means small or dwarf.  Nanotechnology is therefore technology of particles that are incredibly small.  Indeed, the unit of measurement is sometimes referred to as a nanometer which is a billionth of a meter. It is a body of knowledge that has application to some product liability claims reports injury attorney Brien Roche.

The concept of nanotechnology is seen in the formulation of drugs that are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, in computers, in steel production and in a variety of other products.

As such, the nanotechnological perspective is, from the point of view of an injury attorney , a product liability issue.

Nanoparticles are considered to be capable of producing strength for manufactured items that may be considerably greater than the strength of steel.

At this point there are few, if any, standards dealing with the proper uses of this nanotechnology and, as such, lawyers that are involved in product liability litigation need to be sensitive to the potential presence of nanoparticles as a source of defect and likewise need to be sensitive to the fact that the addition of nanoparticles to certain items may improve their functionality and strength.
For more information on product liability see the pages on Wikipedia.

Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Contact Us For A Free Consultation