Vornado has issued a voluntary recall of its VH110 portable electric space heaters sold from June 2013 to May 2014 following 29 reports of units overheating, melting and catching fire, resulting in one report of smoke inhalation and one report of property damage caused by soot and smoke. Owners are advised to discontinue usage immediately and return the heater.

Unfortunately, recalls are often the last step in keeping the public safe from defective products. Usually they are triggered by lawsuits brought by people who have been injured.

A product liability claim begins with a product that is defective in one of three ways:

  • Defective in manufacture (it is different from the correctly made products)
  • Defective in design (all of the products share the same dangerous feature)
  • Defective in labeling (the manufacturer fails to give adequate warnings about how to safely use the product)

When someone is injured by a defective product, the manufacturer, distributor or retailer can be sued, usually for negligence. Commercial suppliers can also be liable for supplying a defective product.

Product liability lawsuits promote product and design safety by financially penalizing manufacturers, distributors and others in the chain of sale that fail to keep consumers safe. Together with recalls, they help to ensure that consumers aren’t injured by the products that they buy.