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Wrongful Death and Product Defects: What You Need to Know


Americans place a large amount of trust into the products they use every day–things like cars, baby cribs, and lawn mowers. But what happens when the items we trust malfunction and result in the death of a loved one?

Product recalls are often the result of discovered safety issues that may endanger the consumer or items that could cause a lawsuit and bad publicity to come to the manufacturer. Problems with a product happen in three ways:

  1. Design: If an item is designed poorly, it can cause harm and possibly death to the consumer. For example, old Jeep Libertys and Grand Cherokee SUVs were designed with the fuel tank mounted behind the rear axle. In rear-end accidents, the tank was likely to rupture and set the car on fire, which happened in 2013 to a teenager who was burned to death.
  2. Manufacturing: This is not a design issue necessarily, but it is a problem that arises from how an item was put together. For example, if there was a loose screw in a lawn mower, the blade may not be secured and could fly off, causing severe injury or death. However, other similar products by the manufacturer could be fine since this is not a design flaw.
  3. Marketing: The product itself is put together in a safe way, but the company fails to instruct you on how to use it properly. The company must provide proper guidelines and warnings in order to keep consumers safe. For example, let’s say you are using an over-the-counter medication and it does not tell you that you should not mix this medication with pain relief medicine. Not knowing the outcome of these mixed medications, you take them both, which results in hospitalization or death. This is a marketing defect.

Any of these can cause the wrongful death of a loved one. Be sure to check frequently which items are being recalled in order to prevent possible injuries. Here are some of the items that have been frequently recalled in the past that have caused wrongful death:

  • Defective auto parts, including tires and brakes malfunctioning
  • Kitchen appliances and other electronic devices
  • Sporting gear
  • Cardiac pumps, defibrillators, pacemakers, and other medical devices
  • Children’s toys and products, like cribs, dolls, and high chairs.

If the item was recalled and a loved one passed away from using the item, can you still sue the company?

Usually, a recall only happens after someone has been injured from using a product. They may not identify and recall an item until several people have suffered from the use of the product. If your loved one died from the use of a recalled product, consider filing the lawsuit. Just because a company recalled that item does not mean they are free from guilt.

Wrongful death caused by a product malfunction can be a difficult thing to prove. It can demand many resources, such as engineers, other manufacturers, and doctors to determine whether the death was caused by the product or not. However, wrongful death lawsuits can help ease the monetary strains of the unexpected death.

For more information, contact us at Spencer Calahan Injury Lawyers. We look forward to providing you with a free case evaluation to discuss your options.