Every year, 34 million people are injured or killed by defective products. Individuals under the age of 37 are more likely to die from their use of a defective product than from heart disease or cancer. Defects in the design or manufacture of automobiles, sporting equipment, furniture, electrical appliances, medical devices, nursery products and children's toys, tools, industrial and farm machinery, and a host of other products kill unwary consumers.
Defective product wrongful death lawyers help surviving family members obtain compensation when their loved ones lose their lives due to a defective product. Here are just five of the countless examples of wrongful deaths that are attributed to unsafe products.
Defective vehicles are among the most deadly products that consumers may own. One of the most outrageous examples involves 1.5 million older-model Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee SUVs. The vehicles, manufactured by Fiat Chrysler, have fuel tanks mounted behind the rear axle. In rear-end crashes, the fuel tanks are vulnerable to ruptures, spilling fuel that turns cars into infernos.
In November 2013, a 17-year-old boy, Skyler Anderson, was driving a Jeep that was involved in a rear-end collision. The fuel tank ruptured and Skyler burned to death.
A few months before Skyler's death, after at least 75 people died in vehicle fires, Fiat Chrysler recalled the vehicles. The company did not make replacement parts available to dealers, causing Skyler's jeep to be placed on a waiting list. As of April 30, 2015, two years after the recall was initiated, only about 20% of the defective vehicles have been repaired. Fiat Chrysler refuses to buy back the dangerous vehicles from consumers who, like Skylar, are risking death every time they get behind the wheel.
Riding lawnmower erupts in flame
An 88-year-old man burned to death when a Ryobi riding lawnmower caught on fire. A connection between the fuel line and fuel tank came loose, allowing the fuel line to slip off and spray gasoline over the hot engine. The loose connection was located just behind the rider's seat.
A jury determined that a design defect caused the man's wrongful death. It awarded the man's family $2.5 million. Ryobi continues to deny responsibility for the death and refuses to recall its defective product, despite the fact that another Ryobi mower caught on fire for the same reason several months before the victim's death. Ryobi did not report the first fire to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and failed to disclose it to the wrongful death victim's lawyer until days before his trial was scheduled to begin. Ryobi's expert witness was barred from testifying at trial after it became clear that he lied when he testified in a deposition that he was unaware of any other Ryobi mower catching fire.
An Ikea dresser crushed a two-year old to death when it tipped over and fell on top of him. The boy's parents have filed a lawsuit alleging that the dresser's defective design created a tipping hazard, that Ikea was aware of the hazard, and that Ikea nevertheless failed to warn consumers that the product was unsafe unless it was secured to a wall.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 25,000 children are injured every year, and that a child dies every two weeks, in appliance and furniture tip-over accidents. Dressers manufactured by Natart Chelsea, Million Dollar Baby, and other companies have been recalled because defective designs created tipping hazards.
A 40-square-foot balcony in Berkeley collapsed in June, killing six people. The apartment complex where the balcony collapse occurred was relatively new, construction having been completed in 2007. While the cause of the collapse is still being investigated, structural engineers believe that a design flaw caused dry rot in the balcony's support structures.
Support structures for balconies should be designed to seal out water. Design defects have contributed to thousands of injuries caused by collapsing balconies, decks, and porches in the last decade. Although deaths are unusual (probably because most decks and porches are not built far above the ground), at least 23 injuries since 2002 (not counting the Berkeley deaths) have been fatal.
Defective ignition switch
At least 100 people died as the result of a defective ignition switch in Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions, and other small cars manufactured by GM. If the ignition key is bumped or pulled down by a heavy keychain, the ignition switch can disengage power to air bags, steering, and brakes.
General Motors acknowledges that it was aware of the defect for a decade before it began to recall affected vehicles. In addition to the many wrongful death lawsuits pending against GM, a lawsuit filed on behalf of multiple accident victims accuses GM of conspiring to conceal the defect from consumers.