Articles Posted in Product Liability

On February 13, 2018, the United States Department of Justice announced Michaels Stores agreed to enter into a consent decree and pay $1.5 million in a settlement agreement over its shattering glass vases. For more information about the initial complaint, filed April 21, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, by the Department of Justice, visit our previous blog HERE.

According to the Department of Justice, Michaels sold approximately 200,000 glass 20 inch vases between 2006 and 2010 in the United States and Canada that had the propensity to shatter and cause serious injuries. According to the lawsuit, the glass vases’ walls were too thin and could not withstand the pressure of normal handling. An engineering consultant utilized in one of Attorney John Malm’s cases discovered that vases being sold in Michaels’ stores were constructed of glass thinner than that in an ordinary light bulb. In at least one case wherein a glass vase shattered, a victim suffered permanent nerve damage. Several other customers suffered injuries requiring extensive surgery. According to the Department of Justice’s complaint, Michaels knew as early as 2007 that at least one customer had been injured by a glass vase, and at least four customers had been injured in the first half of 2009. Michaels did not report the glass vases’ safety issues and customers’ injuries until 2010, thereby violating the Consumer Product Safety Act. When it finally reported the vases’ safety issues, Michaels’ report was purposefully incomplete and misleading to avoid responsibility for the recall of the vases.

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Every year, people are injured by unsafe and defective products.  Product Liability Law concerns cases in which a person is injured by a defective product. What is product liability? See our previous blog HERE and our webpage HERE for a breakdown on the basics of product liability.

In Illinois, there are two main ways of proving a product liability case:

  1. Consumer-Expectation Test:

Under the consumer-expectation test, a plaintiff must establish what an ordinary consumer purchasing the product would expect about the product and its safety.  This standard applies the objective view of the normal, average expectations of a reasonable person. This test does not apply the subjective expectations of the actual purchasing consumer. Calles v. Scripto-Tokai Corp., 224 Ill.2d 247,254 (2007). The consumer-expectation test allows for easy application by the average juror. Each juror can determine what an ordinary person purchasing the product in question would expect of that product and its safety.

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Most people pay little attention to the furniture in their homes or workplaces, expecting items such as tables and chairs to serve their intended purpose. However, the most basic pieces of furniture can sometimes be defective, causing serious injuries or even death. According to a 2011 study conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, unstable furniture was the cause of some 43,000 emergency room visits between 2008 and 2010. The culprits included items such as household chairs, office chairs, medical equipment chairs and beds, televisions, bar stools, bunk beds, and futons.

If you have been injured by defective furniture, you may have legal options in the area of product liability. Furniture manufacturers and retailers bear responsibility to consumers for the safe design and construction of their products. If a product is known to cause injury, these manufacturers and sellers are required by law to warn the public of potentially defective furniture. Retailers with a failure to warn of risks associated with their products are subject to heavy fines, as is the case with Office Depot.
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The Consumer Products Safety Commission and the Department of Justice jointly announced their filing of litigation against Michaels Stores Inc. over defective glass vases. The complaint, filed April 21, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, alleges that the craft store giant knowingly violated the Consumer Product Safety Act’s reporting requirements concerning glass vases both manufactured by and sold by Michaels Stores retail outlets.

According to the Justice Department, Michaels purportedly did not report significant information regarding the safety risks associated with the product. Additionally, when Michaels did provide a report to the CPSC, it neglected to inform the agency that not only did it sell the vases, it also imported them directly, allowing the company to avoid legal responsibility with regard to recalls.
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Each year, many people are seriously injured by unsafe and dangerous products. But some are unaware that they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. What is a product liability claim? Product liability cases arise when a defective product suddenly causes an injury.

According to public policy, consumers should not have to worry about whether a product they buy or use is dangerous due to a defect of design, improper manufacturing, or an inadequate warning label about the possible dangers of using the product. When people are injured by defectively designed or poorly manufactured products, companies that make or sell the dangerous product can be held responsible. Product liability claims or lawsuits not only help compensate the injured victim, but also protect other consumers by alerting the public about the product’s dangers, which may not be well known. Product liability laws help prevent others from suffering similar injuries.
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