Defective Product Recalls and Florida Personal Injury Law

Earlier this month Atlanta-based home furnishings manufacturer Ballard Designs announced that it was recalling more than 2,500 step stools due to concerns that the stools are unsteady. While the defective products appear to have caused only a few minor injuries, the incident is a good reminder to consumers to be aware of their rights in the event they are injured by a malfunctioning commercial product.

The recall was initiated when it was discovered that plastic tabs on the feet of the step stools may make the stools unstable, creating a fall hazard to consumers who attempt to use them. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that at least two incidents have occurred in which a consumer fell from one of the Ballard Designs stools, resulting in minor injuries.

According to a press release from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the recalled product is a black or white wooden “Stafford” step stool. “Ballard Designs” is printed on a sticker under the bottom of the step along with the phrase “Made in China.” The product was sold in Ballard Design stores in Florida, Georgia and Ohio, as well as in catalogs, on the company’s website and through hsn.com from July 2009 through May 2011.

In announcing the recall, the CPSC, the federal agency that monitors the safety of a broad range of products from toys to power tools, warned that “[c]onsumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.”

Consumers purchase products with the implied expectation that those products will not injure the consumer in an unpredictable way. Unfortunately, many defective products prove to be unfit and unsafe for their intended use and many injure people before being forced off the shelves by either the manufacturer or the CPSC. Injuries can range from minor bumps and bruises to serious brain and spinal damage. In recent years, for example, many South Florida homeowners have sued drywall manufacturers, claiming that dry wall installed in their homes emits a dangerous amount of sulfur gases causing serious respiratory problems.

Unlike in most personal injury cases, a person bringing a defective product lawsuit need not prove that the product manufacturer acted negligently in making the product. Rather, the strict liability legal doctrine allows a consumer to hold a product manufacturer liable for injuries caused by the product, regardless of how careful the manufacturer was in producing it. In order to successfully assert strict liability claim against a product manufacturer, an injured person must show that the product had an unreasonably dangerous defect that caused an injury; the defect caused the consumer’s injury while he or she was using the product in the way it was intended to be used; and that the product was not substantially changed from the condition in which it was originally sold.

If you were injured by a defective product, an experienced products liability attorney is crucial to the success of you claim. The South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine stand ready to help those injured by unsafe products.

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