In this Blog category you will find articles legal issues relating to injury do to the failure of a product or service. Personal Injury at work and Insurance Liability Claims may require the help of an attorney. A good lawyer can protect your rights under the law.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) opened a federal investigation into a fire March 2017 that killed a 3-year-old girl and injured four others, two of them critically. The fire occurred when a hoverboard plugged into an outlet exploded in flames. More than six months earlier, the CSPC had issued an official recall of over 500,000 hoverboards over fire hazards posed by the devices’ lithium-ion battery packs.
CSPC Begins Investigating Manufacturers and Testing Hoverboards
Following reports between November and December 2015 of igniting and exploding hoverboards damaging property, with one home completely destroyed, the CPSC warned users not to charge hoverboards unattended, and announced that it would increase its scrutiny of the devices.
After reports of at least one hoverboard maker putting counterfeit safety marks on its products, the agency announced that it was investigating thirteen hoverboard companies and testing both new models and those involved in fire incidents at its National Product Testing and Evaluation Center. Its engineers monitored the voltage of the devices while in use, inspected circuit boards and batteries, examined previously-burned boards, and scanned the boards’ batteries. The information gained gave the agency enough evidence to issue notices to manufacturers and retailers about the devices’ safety.
UL Opens Its Doors to Hoverboard Evaluation Testing and Certification
In January 2016, the CSPC sent out a notice to retailers and manufacturers that it had determined hoverboards with exploding batteries were not safe unless they comply with safety standards set by Underwriters Laboratory (UL), an independent safety consulting and certification company. At the same time, UL announced that it would open the door to product submittals of hoverboards for “construction evaluation, testing, and/or UL certification.” The scooters were tested and certified using UL 2272, which covers the electric drive train, including the rechargeable battery and charger system combination.
CSPC Urges Hoverboard Makers and Sellers to Pull Products
In February 2016, the CSPC urged hoverboard makers and sellers to voluntarily take non-UL compliant hoverboards off the market immediately, considering them to be defective, presenting a “substantial product hazard.” The agency added in its notice that if companies don’t follow new safety standards they can face enforcement actions such as seizure of products and civil or criminal penalties. “From our perspective, a smart retailer will put in place a stop sale to find out if their inventory complies with our standard. If they are certain that it doesn’t,
John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that are safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting and rechargeable, for handheld mobile devices, electric cars and stationary energy storage.
Working at Oxford in 1980, John Goodenough and his colleagues invented the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the standard for most of today’s electronic devices. Over thirty years later, Goodenough has invented an even better battery that is solid-state, with a glass compound instead of liquid seen in lithium-ion batteries.
Longer Lasting Battery with Faster Charges
Goodenough’s researchers demonstrated that their new battery cells have at least three times as much energy density as today’s lithium-ion batteries, to give electric vehicles more driving range between charges. The battery formulation also allows for faster charges (minutes rather than hours), with a greater number of charging and discharging cycles, to make them more long-lasting. His new battery also has triple the energy storage capacity of standard batteries, with a much longer longevity.
New Battery Safer than Lithium-Ion
Goodenough’s all-solid-state battery breakthrough, completed with Cockrell School senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga, is non-combustible. Today’s lithium-ion batteries use liquid electrolytes to transport the lithium ion between the anode (negative side of the battery) and the cathode (positive side of the battery). If a lithium-ion battery cell is charged too quickly, dendrites or “metal whiskers” form and cross through the liquid electrolytes, causing a short circuit that can lead to explosions and fires. The new battery relies on glass electrolytes that don’t cause dendrites to form.
Glass Electrolytes in New Battery Can Perform at Colder Temperatures
Solid-glass electrolytes can operate at -20 degrees Celsius, allowing a battery-driven car to perform well in subzero degree weather. The glass electrolytes also allow for the substitution of low-cost and earth-friendly sodium for lithium. Sodium is extracted from sea water and is widely available.
Although Goodenough has been through this before, his new solid-state battery may go through many obstacles between development and production before we see it in consumer products, to replace those fire-prone lithium-ion batteries.
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At least four automakers knew that Takata airbags were dangerous and could rupture violently, yet continued to install those airbags in their vehicles to save on costs, according to a recent class action suit filed by lawyers representing victims of the defect.
Takata Enters Guilty Plea
Takata admitted to hiding problems for years in their inflators that can cause them to explode with too much force, shooting shrapnel into drivers and passengers, resulting in at least eleven deaths and over 100 injuries in the United States. On February 27, 2017, Takata Corporation pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and agreed to pay $850 million in restitution to automakers, $125 million for victims and families and a $25 million criminal fine for concealing a deadly defect in millions of its air bag inflators.
Four Automakers Named with Takata in Class Action Suit
Also on February 27, 2017, Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota were named in a class action lawsuit along with Takata. During testing of Takata’s inflators in 1999 and 2000 at Honda’s facilities, at least two inflators ruptured. Over Takata’s objections, Honda pushed a problematic configuration of the propellant. In 2004, Honda and Takata became aware of an airbag explosion in a Honda Accord that shot out metal fragments and injured the car’s driver, but the companies considered it an “anomaly” and did not issue a recall or seek the involvement of federal safety regulators. Honda, of course, denied allegations of wrongdoing, saying that it “reasonably believed, based on extensive test results provided by Takata, that they were safe” and believed that it acted “promptly and appropriately” in handling known airbag defects.
Toyota knew of the airbag defects when a Takata inflator ruptured at a Toyota facility during testing. Although Toyota considered Takata’s quality performance “unacceptable and had “large quality concerns” about the supplier,” it continued to use Takata airbags for cost reasons.
Takata engineers for years knew that the explosive propellant in its airbag inflators was sensitive to moisture, making it particularly unstable, yet adopted it despite concerns over its safety. In 2005, Nissan began to investigate the use of adding a drying agent to Takata’s airbag inflators.
Ford also chose Takata inflators for cost reasons, over the objections of its own inflator expert, who opposed the use of Takata’s propellant because of its instability and sensitivity to moisture.
There was circumstantial evidence that German carmaker BMW was
In the past two months three major manufacturers have issued recalls involving lithium-ion battery packs in their computers due to overheating and danger of combustion. What makes lithium-ion batteries volatile and why are they so often used in power electronics?
On January 2, 2017, following reports of battery packs overheating and melting, Toshiba expanded its recall of laptop computer battery packs due to burn and fire hazards from overheating. 91,000 units were previously recalled in the U.S. on March 30, 2016. About 83,000 units in the U.S., 10,000 units in Canada, and 5,000 units in Mexico were included in this January, 2017 recall.
On January 24, 2017, Hewlett Packard expanded its recall of lithium-ion batteries containing Panasonic cells used in HP notebook computers due to incidences of overheating, posing fire and burn hazards, and in one case causing property damage. The batteries are compatible with HP, Compaq, HP ProBook, HP ENVY, Compaq Presario, and HP Pavilion notebook computers, and were sold with computers between March 2013 and October 2016.
On February 7, 2017, although no incidents were reported, Sony expanded its recall of VAIO laptop computer Panasonic battery packs due to risk of burn and fire hazards from overheating. This recall added about 700 units to about 1,700 units it previously recalled on June 15, 2016. The expanded recall involves Panasonic lithium-ion battery packs installed in 18 models of Sony’s VAIO Series laptop computers. In 2006, millions of lithium-ion battery packs made by Sony were replaced after several hundred overheated and a few caught fire.
What Causes Lithium-Ion Batteries to Overheat?
Lithium is the least dense metallic element, making it able to pack more power in a small space than other types of battery. Lithium is also highly reactive, causing it to be combustible. In a lithium cell the electrolyte is a solution of lithium salts and organic solvents. When the battery is charged, lithium ions are driven from the electrolyte solution into a carbon anode, and when the battery is discharged ions flow back, creating a balancing flow of electrons in a circuit that powers the device.
If there is a small fault or damage in the extremely thin separators that keep the elements of the battery apart, an internal short-circuit can occur causing a build-up of heat and what is known as “thermal runaway,” in which the battery can burst into flame. Lithium batteries can
Cases of uncontrolled bleeding in some patients who took the anticoagulant Xarelto have prompted lawsuits against drug makers Johnson & Johnson and Bayer Healthcare. With no antidote to the bleeding, the drug can cause severe health problems and even death.
One of a new class of anticoagulants, Xarelto was developed by Bayer and marketed in the United States by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson & Johnson. It was approved in July 2011 to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism following joint replacement surgery and for use by people suffering from atrial fibrillation. The manufacturers now plan to broaden its usage to include acute coronary syndrome.
Xarelto is the cornerstone of Bayer’s pharmaceutical business. Annual sales of Xarelto in the United States were expected to top $1 billion dollars last year, and the company has predicted the drug’s sales will eventually top $3.5 billion a year.
The Case Against Xarelto
Xarelto was promoted as superior to Warfarin (also known as Coumadin) because it is easier to take and requires less frequent monitoring to maintain correct dosage. However, unlike Warfarin there is not currently an antidote for the severe bleeding that can be caused by Xarelto, and warnings given to patients and doctors have been insufficient. Blood monitoring, which the manufacturers said was not needed, could actually reduce the risk of Xarelto bleeding injuries.
Thousands of patients using Xarelto have experienced hemorrhages, gastrointestinal bleeding, strokes and even death. A similar case was brought against blood thinner Pradaxa, however more adverse side effects have been reported with Xarelto than with Pradaxa. In June 2016, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices reported that Xarelto was linked to more serious injuries than any other drug monitored. According to the report, the blood thinner accounted for 10,674 reports of fatal, disabling, and serious injuries in 2015.
As of January 2017, there were more than 14,000 Xarelto lawsuits filed in federal court, and many more have been filed in state courts. It is hoped that those patients suffering from uncontrolled bleeding after taking Xarelto will be fully compensated for their injuries, while the manufacturers will be pushed to improve the information they provide consumers and physicians to make an informed choice about whether they want to use Xarelto.
A lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on December 6, 2016 by a California man left with a debilitating form of nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy after using the popular antibiotic Levaquin in 2013.
Levaquin is part of a class of antibiotics, known as fluoroquinolones, which also includes Avelox and Cipro. Use of the antibiotics has been curtailed in the past year as more information about the risk of peripheral neuropathy and other health problems has surfaced. Peripheral neuropathy involves damage to the nerves, causing persistent pain, burning, tingling, numbness, weakness and sensitivity to light touch, with impaired movement.
FDA Required Stronger Warnings for Levaquin and Other Fluoroquinolones in 2013
An FDA advisory panel looked at the safety of this class of antibiotics, used to treat sinus infections, urinary tract infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worsened by bronchitis, and voted in 2013 to recommend that the FDA strengthen the drug’s warning labels for treatment of sinusitis, urinary tract infections, and bronchitis.
In 2013, the FDA used a drug safety communication to announce that it was requiring manufacturers of Levaquin and other fluoroquinolones to provide label warnings that symptoms of nerve damage may continue for months or even years after taking the drug. Johnson & Johnson ignored this requirement.
Johnson & Johnson for Years Concealed from Medical Community Levaquin’s Risk
The December 2016 lawsuit states that the global drug maker Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ subsidiary knew about the link between Levaquin and nerve damage for years, and ignoring the FDA’s requirement, failed to warn the medical community or users of their antibiotic that they may be left with irreversible peripheral neuropathy.
The 2013 warnings provided gave false and misleading information for consumers and the medical community, suggesting that reports of nerve damage were rare and temporary. “The truth, however, is that the onset of irreversible peripheral neuropathy is often rapid and discontinuation of the drug will not ensure that the peripheral neuropathy is reversible,” the lawsuit states. The language regarding the “rare” risk of peripheral neuropathy was buried at the bottom of a long list of adverse reactions included on the Levaquin label.
October 2016 Lawsuit Also Revealed Concealment of Peripheral Neuropathy Risk
Earlier, in October 2016, a group of 48 plaintiffs filed a joint lawsuit naming Bayer Healthcare, Merck & Co., and Johnson
Following incidents of broken welds causing children to suffered finger amputations, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on December 7, 2016 issued a recall of the Lightning Slide stainless steel playground slide manufactured by Playworld Systems, Inc,.
About 1,300 Lightning Slides, manufactured in the United States by Playworld Systems, Inc. of Lewisburg, PA and Horizon Industries, of Columbia, PA, have been sold by independent distributors over the last sixteen years with stainless steel welds attaching the bedway to the sidewalls that can crack and separate, allowing a child’s fingers to get caught in the space.
Playworld Recalls All Lightning Slides Sold in Past Sixteen Years
All of the 1,300 slides, sold to schools, parks and government entities across the country between November 2000 and October 2016 for between $1,500 and $4,000, have been recalled due to the defect. Playworld and CPSC warned organizations that purchased the affected slides to immediately stop allowing their use, to prevent exposing children to risk of amputation and laceration injuries.
Because there is no manufacturer information on the defective slides, the CPSC warned parents and caregivers to be extremely cautious when allowing children to use metal slides at public or school playgrounds, and said the stainless steel slides may have single or double bedways and could be attached to a playground system or stand alone.
Playworld Systems is handling the recall, offering a free replacement slide and free installation. “A temporary barrier will be shipped to consumers prior to shipment of a replacement slide to prevent children from using the slide,” CPSC’s notice said.
CPSC Fast Track Recall Process Encourages Playworld Voluntary Recall
CPSC tells customers to immediately stop using the recalled slides and contact Playworld at 800-233-8404 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online at https://playworld.com/ and click on “Slide Safety Recall Information” for replacement slide information.
Playworld is also contacting consumers who purchased the affected slides directly. Playworld’s voluntary recall was encouraged by the CPSC’s “Fast Track Recall” process, meant to speed up recall announcements to protect consumer safety.
Despite mounting evidence that padded crib bumpers, designed to keep a baby from hitting her head on crib slats, are a suffocation hazard and may be linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, in September 2016, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff released an analysis of child deaths associated with crib bumpers that was scientifically questionable, and inappropriately came to the conclusion that it should not take any action on these products.
American Association of Pediatrics Issues Policy Statement on Crib Bumpers
Multiple safe sleep experts, including Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP , lead author of American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) October 24, 2016 policy statement, “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths,” reviewed the CPSC’s evidence and found the CPSC’s analysis and conclusion flawed. “Because there is no evidence that bumper pads or similar products that attach to crib slats or sides prevent injury in young infants, and because there is a potential for suffocation, entrapment and strangulation, these products are not recommended,” the AAP’s statement concluded.
American Journal of Pediatrics Article Reaffirms Crib Bumper Danger
In November 2016 the American Journal of Pediatrics (AJP) published an article written by Bradley T. Thatch, M.D., George W. Rutherford, Jr., M.S., and Kathleen Harris, of the Washington Department of Pediatrics, St. Louis, Missouri titled “Deaths and Injuries Attributed to Infant Crib Bumper Pads.” Analyzing the CPSC’s database for deaths related to crib bumpers for the years 1985 to 2005, the authors found that, between those years, 27 children from 1 month to 2 years old died from suffocating or strangling related to crib bumpers. The authors also searched other Consumer Product Safety Commission databases for crib-related injuries that potentially might have been prevented by bumpers, and examined 22 retail crib bumpers and described features that could be hazardous. “These findings suggest that crib and bassinet bumpers are dangerous. Their use prevents only minor injuries. Because bumpers can cause death, we conclude that they should not be used,” the article stated.
CPSC Delays Banning Crib Bumpers
Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission acknowledges the danger that crib bumpers pose, it has stopped short of banning the products, and instead places the responsibility on the parent or caregiver rather than the manufacturer. “We strongly warn parents and caregivers not to use padded crib bumpers. . . We strongly believe that the risk of death from padded crib bumpers
November 10th saw the passing of Clarence M. Ditlow, III, since 1976 the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety. For four decades Mr. Ditlow’s persistent pressure on safety agencies and automakers forced improvements in the auto industry in safety, reliability, and fuel efficiency. His accomplishments included millions of safety recalls and lemon laws in 50 states.
The Center for Auto Safety was founded in 1970 by Ralph Nader and Consumers Union to provide consumers a voice for auto safety and quality in Washington, to help owners of defective vehicles fight back. The installation of air bags was a key goal at one of the first staff meetings, eventually becoming standard in all vehicles. Since the Center was founded, the death rate on America’s roads has dropped dramatically, from 5.2 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 1969 to 1.1 per 100 million vehicle miles in 2010.
Under Mr. Ditlow’s direction, the Center played a major role in the following recalls:
- 6.7 million Chevrolets for defective engine mounts
- 15 million Firestone 500 tires
- 1.5 million Ford Pintos for exploding gas tanks
- 3 million Evenflo child seats for defective latches
In the past seven years, the Center was the primary force behind the recalls of:
- 7 million Toyotas for sudden acceleration
- 2 million Jeeps for fuel tank fires
- 11 million GM vehicles for defective ignition switches
- 60 million faulty Takata airbag inflators
Mr. Ditlow, with other representatives of the Center, testified 50 times before congressional committees regarding auto safety, warranties and service bulletins, air pollution, consumer protection, and fuel economy.
Under Mr. Ditlow, the Center for Auto Safety became the leading consumer advocate for passage of:
- The 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
- The fuel economy provisions of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (which established the first Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency CAFÉ standards)
- The disclosure to consumers of automotive technical service bulletins which auto companies send to dealers alerting them to hazardous conditions in their cars
The Center’s current projects include the 2008 Safe Climate Campaign, advocating more efficient, less-polluting vehicles to fight global warming.
After its stunning quality control failure with its exploding Galaxy Note 7 Phone and more recently exploding washing machines, Samsung announced its $8 billion purchase of Harman International Industries, to make it a market leader in mobile devices, home automation, and connected cars.
Harman International Industries, a leader in connected car solutions, supplies over 30 million vehicles with infotainment, telematics, safety, and security solutions. About 65% of Harman’s $7 billion in revenues last year came from the automotive market, and its backlog orders hit $24 billion at the end of June.
Samsung is the world’s biggest manufacturer of smartphones and consumer electronics, however, its biggest weakness is its dependence on mobile devices, which accounted for 46% of its top line last quarter, and its mobile device business has recently been shrinking due to its costly Note 7 blunder. To diversify away from that market, Samsung launched new wearable devices and smart appliances, and acquired smart home company SmartThings two years ago. With its Harman acquisition, Samsung hopes to enable synchronization of data between its phones, Samsung/Smart Things smart appliances, and Harman-equipped cars.
Samsung CEO Oh-Hyun Kwon said the acquisition “perfectly complements Samsung in terms of technologies, products and solutions, and joining forces is a natural extension of the automotive strategy we have been pursuing for some time.” By merging Harman’s automotive businesses with Samsung’s mobile and smart appliances businesses, he hopes to make Samsung more competitive with Apple and Google’s Alphabet.
Analysts believe that tech giants now see a peak in smartphone demand, while there is a vast untapped automotive/mobility market aimed at self-driving vehicles that will continue for some time. Samsung’s acquisition of Harman should make it a major player in the rapidly growing market for auto infotainment, software and connected car technology.
Samsung’s plan sounds ambitious, but it could be held back by technical issues. After its SmartThings platform was plagued with glitches earlier this year, researchers found that the platform was poorly protected from malicious attacks. Can Samsung buy its way out of problems caused by poor quality control, or will those problems expand to its new acquisition?