FindLaw's Common Law

FindLaw's Common Law

Consumer protection legal news from FindLaw.com.




February 2016

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29          

FindLaw Blogs


FindLaw Blotter
Free Enterprise
Injured
Law & Daily Life


If you're looking for information on common law marriage, please visit the Common Law Marriage section on FindLaw.

Tire Tread Separation Prompts Bridgestone-Firestone Recall

Tires are important to the functioning of your car. Although they remain relatively basic, compared to the other kinds of changes in automobile design -- like autopilot! -- you just can't drive without a full set of tires, with treads, that all have air.

That is why Bridgestone-Firestone last Friday announced that it will recall tens of thousands of tires that are susceptible to a very disconcerting defect, according to the Associated Press. The treads separate from the body of the tire and cause the tires to deflate and separate from the vehicle.

Very Few Details

Although there appears to be little detail reported on the tire tread defect, Bridgestone-Firestone did announce last week that it is recalling more than 36,000 tires that have a tendency to separate from the treads and lead to trouble. According to the company, the treads separate from the tires and cause the tires themselves to deflate and separate from vehicles. Obviously, this is particularly problematic.

The recall covers 22.5-inch Firestone FS561 replacement tires made from January 25, 2015 to January 27, 2016. The company's recall documents, filed with the government, explain that the tread separation can cause sudden loss of air pressure and increase the risk of a crash as tires separate.

Truck Drivers Beware

According to the Associated Press, The company says that no one has been injured as a result of the tread issue but that it noticed a disproportionate number of warranty returns and began investigating in October of last year. Bridgestone-Firestone says it is continuing the investigation and does not yet know the source of the tire trouble. It will, however, replace affected tires at no cost to customers.

The affected tires are used on truck trailers. There is no indication that this issue impacts other types of tires at this time. But if you do drive a truck, take a minute to check your tires. It could save your life.

Related Resources:

The Big 3: Food Poisoning Illnesses and How to Avoid Them

Food is the stuff we put in us to sustain life. So it is particularly shocking when we discover that the things we’re eating to keep strong are actually making us sick. Unfortunately, this happens with foods we consider healthy as well as those that might be termed junk.

Every week practically a food is recalled. Not all recalls are for food poisoning – sometimes there are issues with packaging, labeling, or a manufacturing defect -- but poisoning does occur frequently. There are over 250 types of food poisoning documented and there are 3 major culprits of food borne illness.

The Big Three

  1. E. coli: The admonition to eat leafy greens has been replaced in recent years by warnings to be wary of E. coli in spinach particularly, but also other greens. There have been many spinach recalls due to the discovery of E. coli bacteria. But actually the bacteria occurs naturally in the human intestine and most strains are harmless. Beware ground beef as well; some cases of E. coli poisoning have occurred when cow intestines were mixed into ground beef ahead of distribution.
  2. Listeria: Listeriosis is the result of poisoning from listeria, which is particularly threatening to pregnant women, newborns, and the elderly. Listeria bacteria thrive in raw and undercooked meat and pork, particularly.
  3. Salmonella: Last year salmonella caused trouble for hundreds of Americans who ate poisoned cucumbers. The cukes killed one woman and food borne illness expert believe that rates of illness were in the thousands, but that people fail to recognize symptoms as food poisoning. Salmonella symptoms include abdominal pains, chills, diarrhea, headaches, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches. The infection usually manifests soon after exposure -- within 6 hours to 3 days -- and most people recover without medical treatment. The vast majority of reported cases of illness were in children and the San Diego woman who died after infection was 99 years old, so especially vulnerable.

Avoiding Illness

The same precautions should be taken to avoid all food poisoning. Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and raw and undercooked meats, wash your fruit and vegetables, and keep your hands and kitchen clean when cooking.

Related Resources:

When Should You Report a Defect in a Child's Toy?

You bought a defective product and it is really bothering you. This goes beyond a little dissatisfaction. You believe the item is dangerous. Where do you turn?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provides guidance to companies and individual consumers about dangerous products and recalls. Anyone can file a complaint with the bureau and there is a form online that enables you to do so. But some parties must report a defective product when they become aware of it, and that applies to toy manufacturers.

What Is a Defect?

A defect is a flaw in design or an irregularity that causes a product to function poorly or inadequately. Defects occur due to issues with manufacturing or production, design flaws, faulty materials, improper labels and warnings, and more.

According to the CPSC, when a company becomes aware of a defect, it must report it immediately, meaning within 24 hours of receiving reportable information. But the authority also says that a company investigating a defect, and not yet certain whether there is a reportable issue, may take additional time to investigate and determine if the issue requires reporting and a recall.

Standards Vary

What is reportable depends on the type of product as well as the issues that have arisen. For example, manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and importers of children's toys including items of a certain diameter must report when a child choked on a small item and, as a result of the incident, ceased breathing for any length of time, had to be treated by a medical professional, was injured, or died.

Ideally, the agency is alerted to the dangers of the particular product before someone dies, which is why any incident at all involving children choking on marbles or small balls are reported.

Factors Considered

The CPSC points out that not every product that presents a risk of injury is defective, The agency considers the following factors when determining whether risk of injury associated with the product makes it defective.

  1. What is the utility of the product? What is it supposed to do?
  2. What is the nature of the risk of injury that the product presents?
  3. Is the risk obvious to the consumer?
  4. What is the need for the product?
  5. What is the population exposed to the product and its risk of injury?
  6. Are there adequate warnings and instructions that mitigate the risk?
  7. What is the Commission's experience with the product?
  8. Is the risk of injury the result of consumer misuse, and is that misuse foreseeable?
  9. Finally, what other information sheds light on the product and patterns of consumer use?

For Consumers

For your part, if you suspect that a product is defective or dangerous, don't wait. Let the CPSC know your concerns. You may not be the only one to have them, and you could be helping to save a life down the line.

Related Resources:

Morphine in Cough Syrup Prompts Recall

It's winter and the sniffles are upon us all. You're sneezing and coughing and need relief, so you reach for your cough syrup. Stop -- don't take a swig if it's Master Herb's Licorice Coughing Liquid.

California's Master Herbs, Inc. has recalled all lots of Licorice Coughing Liquid cough syrup in 1000 milliliter bottles because it has undeclared morphine on the label. Unknowingly ingesting morphine can reportedly lead to life-threatening respiratory depression and even death.

Morphine Dangers

While morphine is not declared specifically on the Licorice Cough Liquid label, according to Food Safety News it is an element of Compound Camphor, which is listed on the label. Still, the recall was unavoidable, as many consumers are likely unaware that they are ingesting morphine, which is an opioid.

Given that there is no specific indication of morphine on the label there is a risk that particularly sensitive patients could suffer severe allergic reactions.The company reportedly expressed special concern about children using the cough liquid and being unwittingly exposed. Master Herbs did point out, however, that it is not currently aware of adverse events associated with use of the product.

Recall Details

According to the company, Licorice Cough Liquid is used for the temporary relief of coughs caused by colds and minor throat and bronchial irritations. The product is distributed by Master Herbs, Inc. out of Pomona, California and sold in Chinese grocery stores around the country. It can be found in cities in California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, Ohio, and Nevada.

Master Herbs, Inc. reported that it is notifying its distributors and customers by phone or fax and is arranging for the return of all recalled products. Consumers should stop using the product and return it to the place of purchase. Retailer and wholesalers should stop distributing the product, quarantine any remaining inventory and make arrangements to return the product, the company instructs.

Related Resources:

Meat Recalls on the Rise

According to the USDA, 2015 saw the highest number of meat recalls in the last decade. Katherine Scheidt told ECB Publishing, "there were 150 recalls in 2015, the highest number since 2005."

Indeed, it seems like food recalls and viral outbreaks at chain restaurants have been all over the news. So is our meat getting worse? Or are we just getting better about detecting bad meat?

USDA Enforcement

The U.S. Department of Agriculture established its Food Safety and Inspection Services in 1981. The FSIS inspects eggs, cattle, pigs, sheep, and other animals used for human food and makes sure they're safe for consumption. And it appears the FSIS has ramped up its enforcement efforts in recent years.

A USDA spokesperson told ECB, "The FSIS has implemented new measures to help us catch products that could endanger public health, which leads to more recalls. FSIS personnel are better trained and equipped than ever. With the help of tools such as the Public Health Information System, the Automated Commercial Environment Database and the Consumer Complaint Monitoring System, FSIS is more effective at aggressively identifying and removing potentially dangerous products from commerce."

Class in Session

While only the meat producers or distributors may institute a recall, the FSIS can warn the public as to the extent of the danger. All FSIS recalls are classified as Class I, II, or III, with the difference being the probability that the affected products will cause injury or death to consumers.

Class I recalls are the most serious, distinguished by a "reasonable probability" that consuming the recalled products "will cause health problems or death." Class II recall, involve potential health hazard situations in which there is a "remote probability of adverse health consequences from eating the food," and Class III recalls involve no possibility of adverse health consequences from eating the food product.

While meat recalls are going up, you can keep checking back at FindLaw's Common Law for the latest recall news and information.

Related Resources:

Not So Cute: EOS Lip Balms Sued for Causing Blisters

You know those cute little egg-shaped lip balms that celebs say are the bomb? Well, they are insofar as they will leave your lips looking coarse and scorched and your skin blistered, according to a lawsuit filed by Rachel Cronin against EOS lip balm on behalf of a class of people harmed by the product, reports Jezebel.

Although Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, and Britney Spears promote the product meant to provide "visibly softer lips," the plaintiffs claim that EOS gave them blisters, rashes and allergic reactions. They are suing for compensatory damages and injunctive relief, hoping the company will have to change its claims in advertiisng.

Judging a Balm by its Cover

The sweet packaging for EOS lip balms is probably what has made it so popular. The balms come in many colors and look like candy or balls, as opposed to your standard tube-shaped dispenser. Prior to this lawsuit there were complaints, however, that the balms got moldy and had to be disposed of quickly.

The allegations made by plaintiffs are more serious, though. According to Cronin's filings, her lips became "substantially dry and coarse … [and] began severely cracking on the edges, causing flaking and bleeding from the cracks."

The Company Responds

A spokesperson for EOS sent the following statement to reporters: "We firmly believe this lawsuit is without merit. Our products are made with the highest quality ingredients and meet or exceed all safety and quality standards set out by our industry and validated by rigorous testing conducted by an independent lab. The health and well-being of our customers is our top priority and millions of satisfied customers use our products every day, many of whom take the time to share their experiences with us."

Indeed, earlier this week, one EOS user contacted the company via their Facebook page and posted this: "I like EOS as much as the next girl, but I find that they get moldy so I don't buy them anymore. I get lip balm just as good for half of the price."

Related Resources:

Kids' Cough Syrup Recalled for Mismarked Dosing Cups

A children's cough syrup manufacturer, Perrigo, is voluntarily recalling some of its products because the packages contain an oral dosing cup with incorrect markings, Fox News reports. The recall is based on the cup maker's own move to recall products based on mismarked dosing cups and Perrigo says that there have been no reports of any overdosing based on the packing problem.

Perrigo Chairman and CEO Joseph C. Papa said, "There have been no reports of adverse events to Perrigo as a result of the incorrect dosage markings. Perrigo is taking this action to maintain the highest possible product quality standards for our retail customers and consumers. We are taking this action because it is the right thing to do."

Impacted Products

The syrups that are being recalled are children's guaifenesin grape liquid (100mg/5 mL) and children's guaifenesin DM cherry liquid (100mg guaifenesin and 5mg dextromethorphan HBr/ 5 ml) sold in 4 oz. bottles with dosage cup. The products are sold under different brand names, such as Rite-Aid, Sunmark, Topcare, Kroger, GoodSense, Dollar General, Care One, and CVS.

The manufacturer said it is informing its retail clients of the recall verbally and via e-mail, as well as issuing formal communications that will be delivered via FedEx. It also is arranging for return of all recalled products. Retailers that sell the affected batches of cough and cold medications should stop distribution and return the product, Perrigo instructed.

Guidance for Consumers

Meanwhile, consumers should check mucusreliefrecall.com and their medicine cabinets to ensure that they do not have the impacted products. Consumers that use the recalled products should discard the dosing device and may call Perrigo at 1-888-345-0479, or visit mucusreliefrecall.com.

Contact a doctor if you have any questions, or your children experience any problem that could possibly be related to this product. Although Perrigo says that use of these products according to labeled instructions with an affected dosing cup is unlikely to result in serious side effects, it's better to be safe than sorry.

There have been no overdose reports. Still, consumers should be aware that overdosing on Guaifenesin DM may cause hyper excitability, rapid eye movements, changes in muscle reflexes, ataxia, dystonia, hallucinations, stupor, and coma. Other effects have included nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, irregular heartbeat, seizures, respiratory depression, and death.

Contact Counsel

If you or someone you know has been injured by a defective product, speak to a lawyer. A lawyer can assess your claim and let you know your options. Many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee.

Related Resources:

Recall Roundup: 2015's Biggest Product Problems

Every day products are pulled off the shelves because some danger has been discovered. Very often companies recall products out of an abundance of caution. Once a company is aware of a product defect, it must act quickly to minimize consumer risk of injury, even if that risk seems minimal.

2015 was no different than other years and there were numerous food and car recalls. Consumers found everything from glass shards in their iced tea to metal scraps in their boxed macaroni and cheese. Let's look at the top 5 product recalls of the year gone by.

Top 5 Recalls of 2015

The "biggest" recalls are based on number of product units a company took off the market. This list was compiled by Find The Company based on figures from CNBC recall reporting through December 3, 2015. It was reported on WRAL radio.

  1. Takata Airbags: In August this auto airbag manufacturer began recalling millions of defective products. Taken all together, the Takata Airbags defect forced a recall of 34 million airbags, by far the largest recall event of 2015.
  2. Volkswagen Emissions: News that Volkswagen was cheating on emissions tests scandalized drivers worldwide and was a big blow to the maker of the once-beloved VW Bug. Although the environmental Protection Agency did not require VW to recall vehicles, the company pulled 8.5 million cars off the market.
  3. Kraft Mac and Cheese: The manufacturer of one of our national comfort foods was put in the uncomfortable position of recalling 6.5 million boxes of Mac and Cheese after metal scraps were found in some boxes.
  4. Toyota Power Windows: This car maker's power windows had a power all their own. Toyota explained that workers had used lubricant inconsistently on some cars windows, creating the possibility that a window power switch could short circuit, overheat and cause a fire. The company recalled 6.5 million cars based on the defect.
  5. Kraft Heinz Turkey Bacon: It was a tough year for Kraft. Not only was there the Mac and Cheese recall, but turkey bacon took a blow, too. Kraft Heinz was forced to recall 2 million pounds of Oscar Mayer turkey bacon after several customers reported getting sick, even when eating the bacon before the "best when used by" date.

Related Resources:

Sam's Choice Might Be Wrong Choice: Meat May Be Contaminated With Wood

Huisken Meat Company, maker of Sam's Choice burgers, has recalled more than 89,500 pounds of its Black Angus Vidalia Onion products, claiming they could be contaminated with wood materials. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced the recall after boxes of the tainted burgers were shipped to retailers nationwide last month.

Now is not the time to wonder how "extraneous wood materials" made their way into your burger. Now is the time to figure out if the burgers you have are contaminated and how to comply with the recall.

Bad Burgers

According to the USDA, the potentially contaminated burgers:

  • Were produced on various dates between November 19th and December 9th, 2015.
  • Came in 2-lb. boxes containing 6 pieces of “Sam’s Choice Black Angus Beef Patties with 19 percent Vidalia Onion."
  • Had "Use By" dates of 05/17/2016, 05/29/2016, and 06/06/2016.
  • Had the establishment number “EST. 394A” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

As the USDA warned, "Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase."

Incoming Ingredient

The USDA also noted that the foreign wood material "originated with an incoming ingredient and was discovered during production." Was it the beef? The Vidalia onion? Perhaps one of the spices? Who knows?

So far, there have been no confirmed reports of people becoming sick from the wood-tainted burgers. But if you've already eaten one and are concerned about an injury or illness, you should contact a healthcare provider.

Physical hazards like the wood described here can cause illness, injury, or pose other health risks to consumers who ingest them. These materials may cause cuts to the mouth, throat, and gums or damage teeth. And hazards can also cause injury to the intestines.

Related Resources:

Fitbit Sued, Heart Monitors Not Counting Every Beat

Every beat counts, according to Fitbit's advertising for its heart rate monitors. But consumers in California, Colorado, and Wisconsin today filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against the company, alleging that the monitors do not and cannot accurately measure heart rates during intensive exercise, according to a press release.

The plaintiffs argue that Fitbit advertising claims are unsupported and dangerous, putting in peril those who must maintain a certain heart rate for health purposes. According to them, the monitors consistently incorrectly record heart rates and the margin of error is significant.

Not Quite Right

The Fitbit advertisements allegedly target fitness enthusiasts in particular, the kind of people who want to measure physical activity precisely. Instead of accomplishing this goal, however, the monitors provide data that do not accurately reflect the user's actual rate, defeating the purpose of purchasing such a monitor.

Kate McLellan, the plaintiff who brought the suit on behalf of a class of disappointed Fitbit heart rate monitor users, said, "I am a serious fitness enthusiast, and I wanted to track my heart rate accurately and consistently while I exercised to help me exercise safely and meet my fitness goals. Fitbit's ads made it clear that that is precisely what the Heart Rate Monitors are supposed to do."

"But in my experience," she continued, "they do not, and when I complained to Fitbit, they refused to refund my money. I brought this case because the Fitbit Charge HR that I bought does not [work] accurately … and because Fitbit refused to stand behind its promise. And I brought it as a class action because I am not alone-I have learned that many others have experienced exactly the same failures because the Heart Rate Monitors do not perform as promised."

Plaintiffs Seek Punishment

The plaintiff class is seeking injunctive relief compelling Fitbit to cease its allegedly deceptive marketing, as well as monetary damages for "economic injuries from Fitbit's fraudulent conduct." The lawsuit also seeks punitive damages based on Fitbit's "knowing, intentional, and malicious" lack of care for the plaintiffs and putative class members.

Related Resources:

Subscribe



Archives




Common Law Vanguard Panel

The following firms have assisted the FindLaw editorial team in identifying emerging trends in consumer protection law and topics of importance to readers of this blog: