Famous Product Liability Cases

When a product causes personal injury to the user, there may be grounds for pursuing litigation against the maker in order to recover financial compensation for damages incurred. To win their case, plaintiffs and their legal team must prove that either the design, manufacture or safety/warning of the product in question was defective in some way. Read on for some of the most famous product liability cases.

McDonald’s Hot Coffee

In 1992, a 79-year-old woman suffered third-degree burns after she spilled a cup of hot coffee from McDonalds in her lap. She had to be hospitalized for eight days, during which time she underwent skin grafts to address the burns. Her treatment continued for two years.

Although the plaintiff offered to settle the case for $20,000 (which would have covered her medical expenses and lost income), the fast-food giant sent a counteroffer of only $800.  Therefore, the case went to trial and became one of the hotly debated product liability cases in contemporary history, becoming known as “The Hot Coffee Case.”

The plaintiff’s legal counsel was able to show the court that although other fast-food restaurants served their coffee at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, McDonalds coffee was routinely served as hot as 190 degrees. The company admitted to knowing about the risk of serious burns from its hot coffee for over 10 years. Although the jury in the case awarded the plaintiff $2.86 million in punitive damages and $160,000 in compensatory damages for medical expenses, the judge reduced the final compensation amounts and the parties settled for an undisclosed amount.

Asbestos Materials From Owens Corning

Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring minerals made up of heat-resistant fibers. For decades, asbestos was used as a fireproof way to insulate floors, walls, and other structures.  However, because asbestos fibers do not break down, they can stay in a person’s body forever if inhaled or ingested. Over time, this can lead to fatal complications from diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

In 1998, the building company Owens Corning was forced to pay out $1.2 billion in damages to compensate for the over 176,000 product liability claims related to its products. In total, the company set aside $2.6 billion in a fund used to pay out any future claims for this issue.

Blitz Gas Cans

Ever wonder why you can no longer find that classic red plastic gas can? The reason is the manufacturer, Blitz, filed for bankruptcy in 2011. The company’s gas cans were prone to exploding when used to pour gasoline onto a fire.  Although a safety device known as a flame arrester would have made the gas cans safer, the manufacturer refused to add this component to their design.

In 2012 alone, over 30 product liability cases were filed against the company. Each claim cost the company approximately $4 million.

When to Contact a Legal Professional

When a product causes personal injury due to faulty design, manufacturing, or inadequate safety warnings, it is time to seek legal counsel and prepare for litigation. For years, the attorneys at Ferrara & Gable have been helping accident victims throughout New Jersey as they navigate the legal process involved in winning compensation for damages. Contact Ferrara & Gable today for a free case evaluation.