Litigation Helps Get Dangerous Products Off of Store Shelves

The value of litigation in preventing injuries from unsafe products has been greatly refuted by corporate tort-reform interests. In the eyes of the American Tort Reform Association, members of which include major corporations and insurers, these lawsuits have led to unreasonable increases in product liability insurance premiums paid by manufacturers. They claim that this has caused many firms to cut back on product research and the introduction of new products.

Yet injury litigation often shines a bright light on fraud, defective products, and unscrupulous companies—something regulators and the NHTSA aren’t always able to accomplish. It is through litigation that many dangerous and defective products are exposed and removed from consumer shelves.

One highly publicized example is the General Motors ignition switch malfunction. In early 2014, GM recalled more than two million Cobalts and other vehicles with defective ignition switches. When jarred, the switches could inadvertently shut down a car’s engine and electrical system disabling its airbags, power steering, and power brakes. Despite being sued as early as 2009 for crash deaths caused by the faulty switch, the company has only just now admitted to knowing about the defect for over ten years.

Even so, the defect was not exposed by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or GM engineers, but rather by an engineer that was hired by the victim’s family as part of an investigation surrounding a lawsuit. The engineer uncovered the malfunction that forced the car company to acknowledge it, and set in motion a worldwide recall of 2.6 million Cobalts and other vehicles.

In a perfect world, safety regulators would be able to identify and deal with every product defect in a timely manner. However, the reality is that regulatory agencies responsible for that mission are routinely underfunded, understaffed, and bogged down by bureaucratic red tape.

The bottom line is that product-injury litigation continues to make a definitive contribution to identifying and curbing unsafe products. An analysis published in 2003 by a group of public health experts at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, concluded that injury litigation has a definite role in the charge against unsafe products. It urges safety advocates to “consider litigation” as a viable option in their attempts to curb product hazards and the resulting injuries.

When you purchase a product, you have several rights, the most basic of which is to be safe while using the product. If you have been hurt by a poorly designed or manufactured product, you need an experienced Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer to help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. Kelley/Uustal has been successfully fighting for the rights of injured consumers for decades.

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