Articles Posted in Product Liability

SC Remington Recall

Whether you’re a deer hunter looking forward to this autumn’s harvest or someone who enjoys indoor target shooting, if you own a Remington rifle you’ll want to check out whether it is included in the recent recall.

On April 11, the Remington Arms Company issued a voluntary nationwide recall of their Model 700 and Model Seven rifles equipped with the X-Mark Pro trigger that was manufactured between May 2006 and April 9, 2014. Their website gives detailed instructions for determining whether your gun is one of those recalled because it can accidentally discharge.

If you have one of the recalled Remington rifles, you’re certainly not alone. The Model 700 bolt-action rifles have been popular because of their accuracy and “smooth trigger,” with more than 5 million of them sold since 1962. The X-Mark Pro trigger on the recalled rifles can discharge when small amounts of rust, debris, or even a small jolt can cause the trigger connector to become misaligned. In some cases, rifles have discharged as the safety was moved to the off position to unload the gun or when the bolt was opened, closed or even just touched.

More than 75 lawsuits have been filed alleging the Model 700 is susceptible to firing without the trigger being pulled. At least two dozen deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to accidental discharges involving the 700′s trigger mechanism.

Earlier this month, a class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Missouri was settled, at least preliminarily. The parties must file a formal settlement agreement by October 30, which will be submitted to the judge for approval. In that case, a man alleged his rifle had fired accidentally three times, twice when the safety was released and once when the bolt was opened.

Other suits have been filed by plaintiffs who experienced an actual injury or death due to the faulty trigger mechanism. A Texas jury awarded $17 million to a man who lost his foot when the rifle accidentally discharged. A settlement ended a tragic Montana case filed after a nine-year-old boy was killed when his mother’s Remington 700 went off as she was unloading it.

We were all shocked when it came to light that GM had long been aware of the faulty ignition switches that caused the loss of many lives and that the company had chosen not to make design improvements because they wanted to protect their bottom line. Guess what? Remington did the same thing.

Investigative reports, as well as documents filed in Remington lawsuits, show that the manufacturer knew back in 1948 that the trigger’s design could result in a misalignment and accidental discharge, yet they rejected the proposed design change because of the cost, said to be pennies per gun.

Not only that, Remington considered a nationwide recall of the 700 series in 1979 and again in 1994 but instead decided to offer to retrofit existing rifles — for a $20 fee.

For purposes of this discussion, it doesn’t matter what side of the gun control issue you come down on. The question is not who should be allowed to have guns or where. The point is that gun manufacturers who deliberately put a defective weapon on the market should be held accountable for the deaths and injuries those weapons cause. Some say they should also have to compensate owners of the recalled rifles for the loss in resale value, similar to the damages sought by owners of Chevy Cobalts.

If you own a Remington rifle, please take the time to determine whether it is subject to the recent recall. The South Carolina gun accident lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm can advise you of your rights if you or your loved one has been injured by a negligent gun manufacturer or gun user. Call us in Columbia at 888-440-3211 for a free consultation.

If you’re like most parents nowadays, you’re looking every year for something to make your child’s birthday party special. Pin the Tail on the Donkey gave way long ago to more adventurous activities, things like the increasingly popular bounce house, set up in your own backyard by one of thousands of party rental companies. Kids think they’re loads of fun, and parents assume they’re safe . . . that is, until an accident happens and a child is injured or killed. You should be aware that injuries on inflatable amusement structures are not uncommon.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 4,000 emergency room visits a year in the United States are linked to inflatables. Bounce houses (also known as moonbounces) cause the vast majority of injuries, but they’re not the only inflatable amusement attractions. Slides, obstacle courses, climbing walls and interactive (such as boxing or jousting) inflatables also feature in the accident statistics.

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Laparoscopic Surgery ComplicationsLaparoscopic surgeries – those done “robotically” through small incisions – have become preferred by doctors and patients in many instances, because they mean less time in the hospital, quicker recovery and minimal scarring. On April 14, 2014, however, the FDA issued a Safety Communication about the device used to accomplish some of these surgeries, specifically hysterectomies and surgeries to remove fibroid tumors in women.

The surgical device is called a morcellator, and it is produced by five companies, including Johnson & Johnson. The surgeon inserts the morcellator into the uterus through a small incision. Its blades chop up the tissue so it can be removed through the same tiny incision. What they are finding, however, is that when women have an undiagnosed cancer, a uterine sarcoma, the cancerous tissue also gets divided and may spread malignant cells throughout the abdomen and pelvis, “significantly worsening the patient’s likelihood of long-term survival.”

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For four years now, April has been designated Parkinson’s Awareness Month by resolution of the U.S. Senate. We’d like to make you aware of some of the issues surrounding Parkinson’s and how Louthian Law might assist you or a loved one afflicted with the disease.

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What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder which affects motor functioning. The symptoms include shaking (tremors), rigidity of muscles, problems with walking, difficulty speaking or an inability to speak, diminished higher brain functions, loss or slowing of physical movement, and depression.

How common is Parkinson’s?

As many as one million individuals in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease. There are 50,000 new cases each year. Approximately four percent of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50, but incidence increases with age. In fact, it is estimated that 1 to 2 percent of the population over the age of 65 suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

Is Parkinson’s disease fatal?

The disease itself is not fatal, but people who have Parkinson’s often die at a relatively young age because they are more susceptible to choking, contracting pneumonia, and having accidents. The symptoms do get worse over time, with decades sometimes passing before the disease is clinically diagnosed.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

While the cause is unknown, many experts think that Parkinson’s is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) – from vehicle accidents, falls, or sports injuries — also increase the risk of developing the disease.

What things in the environment could increase one’s risk?

Epidemiological research has identified several factors that may be linked to Parkinson’s, including contaminated well water, some insecticides and herbicides, and occupational exposure to certain chemicals. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs added Parkinson’s to a list of diseases possibly associated with exposure to Agent Orange.

Exposure to the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) appears to greatly increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. One study found that exposure to TCE may result in a six-fold increase in the risk of developing PD. A 2011 study led by researchers at The Parkinson’s Institute pointed out the “considerable public health implications” of the fact that TCE has been detected in up to 30 percent of the nation’s drinking water supplies.

How does TCE get into the water supply? TCE is a common agent in paints, adhesives, carpet cleaners, dry-cleaning solutions and degreasing solvents. In the United States, millions of pounds of TCE are released into the environment each year.

TCE contamination of drinking water has been the subject of concern here in South Carolina. The compound was used extensively at Shaw AFB in the aircraft degreasing process. Contaminated groundwater has been found in six locations, identified by the government as sites FT001, OT-16B, OT-16C, SS-35, SS-36 and CG-38. Clean-up efforts have reduced the off-base affected area from 211 acres to 105.

For more than a decade, electronics manufacturer AVX illegally dumped groundwater laced with TCE into Myrtle Beach’s sewer. The company signed a consent order with the Department of Health and Environmental Control to clean up the site, and numerous lawsuits have been filed.

How can the Louthian Law Firm help someone with Parkinson’s disease?

As personal injury attorneys, our job is to seek justice for those who have been harmed by the negligence of another person or corporate entity. Car accident victims who suffer traumatic brain injuries may have lifelong disabilities, including neurological disorders. Motor vehicle accidents comprise a large part of our case load, and we are proud to advocate for those harmed by drunk or distracted drivers. You might want to read about those services here.

We also handle litigation involving pollution and environmental damage such as that found in Cannons Campground.

Finally, our firm helps people with the Social Security disability process. Most people in the early stages of Parkinson’s are still able to work, but the tremors and loss of movement control may expose some workers to a higher risk of injury. If Parkinson’s disease affects one’s ability to earn a living, the disability benefits available through SSDI may provide some security for the family. It is important that the progression of the disease be well documented in the worker’s medical records.

With eight decades of combined legal experience, the Louthian Law Firm of Columbia, SC, knows about the difficulties a prolonged illness or debilitating condition can cause. Call us at 888-440-3211.

FDR said, in his second inaugural address, “We have always known that heedless self interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics.” He was referring to the abuses that led to the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression.

GM Auto Recall

Even now, nearly eight decades later, we find that corporate greed has led to unconscionable decisions which, in turn, have resulted in peril for one of America’s industrial giants and for millions of American citizens. I’m referring to the choice by GM not to spend one dollar per car to correct the problems with the ignition switch that has cost at least 12 people their lives and caused 31 accidents. GM itself faces a criminal investigation and multiple lawsuits alleging they knew about the faulty ignition switches in 2002 but waited until 2014 to recall a total of 2.5 million vehicles that have ignition switches that may easily be moved out of the “run” position and into the “auxiliary” position, causing loss of power, steering, braking, airbags and lighting. That’s bad economics any way you look at it.

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And the answer, announced last month by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is 2V . . . or, more precisely, V2V.

South Carolina Auto Safety

V2V technology allows vehicles to communicate with each other and to share important data with the driver. For instance, basic safety data like speed, location and direction of travel are collected from a 360-degree radius, analyzed for risk, and used to warn the driver to take action (like removing a foot from the gas pedal) to avoid common types of crashes like rear-end and intersection collisions.

This advancing technology was tested in a year-long pilot program run in Ann Arbor, Michigan, by the U.S. Department of Transportation. They outfitted almost 3,000 vehicles with Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) capability – a technology similar to Wi-Fi ; recruited and trained volunteers; and sent the vehicles out onto 73 lane-miles of city streets and freeways.

The pilot program devices collected data from a test car and its surroundings at a rate of 10 times per second, which included such information as speed, braking, wiper status, position and motion of vehicles ahead, intersection and curve details. Then, when appropriate, instructions were communicated to the driver alerting him or her to prepare to brake hard, notice another car in the blind spot or making a lane change, or slow down through a curve, among other things. Note that the devices currently in development only provide warnings – they don’t actually intervene with braking or steering.

NHTSA has begun reviewing the pilot program findings and in February announced it will “begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles.” The next step is release of a report addressing technical feasibility, privacy and security, and preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits. Also to come, after the public has been given an opportunity to comment on the research findings, will be NHTSA’s draft of regulations which would require V2V devices in new vehicles – subject, of course, to “Executive Orders and guidance.” According to Plymouth Rock Assurance Company, if the government goes forward with a V2V mandate, we could see cars equipped with this technology coming off the production line as early as 2019.

Insurance companies like Plymouth Rock are likely looking forward to having V2V cars on the road. NHTSA estimates that this technology has the potential to help drivers avoid or mitigate 70 to 80 percent of crashes “involving unimpaired drivers.” They’re evidently acknowledging that a driver who is impaired by drugs or alcohol is not going to be alert enough to quickly respond to his car’s warnings.

Another caveat is that in order to have a widespread effect, there are going to have to be lots of cars on the road that are equipped with V2V so they can talk to each other. Older models can be retrofitted, but it will still take many years before there are enough high-tech vehicles on the roads that they can have a meaningful conversation.

At the Louthian Law Firm, we applaud every advance that can help save lives. Seat belts, air bags, anti-lock brakes, and childproof locks are examples of safety innovations that have become standard equipment on modern vehicles, things we just take for granted. We forget that there weren’t even turn signals in cars until GM put them in 1939 Buicks. Aren’t you glad that these days you don’t have to roll down the window and stick your arm out to signal a turn? Some day in the not too distant future we’ll probably be glad our cars can talk to each other, too.

We seem to be stuck on the topic of car seats lately, having written about regulation reforms and how-to’s. But a recent recall by Graco, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of car seats and other equipment for children, deserves attention since it affects a massive number of seats in which a child can become trapped due to a sticking latch mechanism.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked Graco to recall the car seats and booster seats out of a concern that children could be harmed when the quick-release button isn’t quick and, in fact, in some cases doesn’t release at all. Graco “voluntarily” recalled 3.7 million toddler seats but so far has declined to recall an additional 1.8 million infant seats found by NHTSA to “contain a defect related to motor vehicle safety,” i.e., a latch that impedes the quick removal of a child in an emergency situation.

Graco says no injuries have resulted from the stubborn latches, even though desperate parents have reported having to cut the harness straps or call emergency personnel to extricate their child. NHTSA’s January 14 letter to Graco, however, mentions a pending California lawsuit that describes just the tragic situation NHTSA hopes to prevent. In that case, a two-year-old child was fastened into a Graco car seat and perished in a fire resulting from a car accident, allegedly because she could not be quickly removed.

This is the fourth-largest car seat recall ever, and if Graco does recall the rear-facing infant seats as well, it will be the biggest one in history. If you or a family member or your childcare provider uses a car seat, please check the label to see if it is one of the following Graco models:

  • Cozy Cline
  • Comfort Sport
  • Classic Ride 50
  • My Ride 65
  • My Ride 65 with Safety Surround
  • My Ride 70
  • Size 4 Me 70
  • Smart Seat
  • Smart Seat with Safety Surround
  • My Size 70
  • Head Wise 70
  • Head Wise 70 with Safety Surround
  • Ready Ride
  • Nautilus 3-in-1
  • Nautilus Elite
  • Nautilus Plus
  • Argos 70
  • Argos 70 Elite.

The Graco rear-facing infant seats still under investigation by NHTSA are:

  • Snugride
  • Snugride 30
  • Snugride 32
  • Infant Safe Seat-Step 1
  • Snugride 35
  • Tuetonia 35
  • Snugride Click Connect 40.

If you have one of the affected models, you can contact Graco here: http://www.pages02.net/newellrubbermaid/harness-buckles
They will provide you with a replacement buckle.

Once again Toyota has come under fire, so to speak, because of a manufacturing/design defect in some of their vehicles. The problem is that the materials used in their heated seats – such a welcome luxury this time of year – are not as flame resistant as required by U.S. regulatory standards.

South Carolina Car Injuries

Toyota has issued a stop-sale order to their dealers for the affected models, which include the Camry, Camry hybrid, Avalon sedan, Avalon hybrid, Corolla subcompact, Sienna minivan, Tundra and Tacoma trucks made since August 2012, when the fabric supplier was changed. So far there hasn’t been a recall of cars already on the road.

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As temperatures drop, even in the moderate climate of South Carolina, families turn on the heat. Sometimes their effort to keep things toasty warm leads to a tragic fire and loss of valued property, if not lives. Some heat sources are particularly dangerous, e.g., space heaters and wood stoves.

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According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. They can be an economical source of auxiliary heat as well.

Statistics show that heating is the second leading cause of all residential fires (cooking is first). The risk is increased for those heating with wood and solid fuels. In total, an estimated average of 50,100 heating fires in residential buildings occur in the United States each year, according to the USFA, resulting in an annual average of approximately 150 deaths, 575 injuries, and $326 million in property loss.

One such fire occurred on December 17 in a Columbia residence. The fire started in a wood burning stove in the basement and spread up through the home. Fortunately there were no injuries, but damages are estimated at $130,000. In this instance, the homeowners were alerted by a smoke detector. “Incidents like this show how critical it is for homeowners to have properly installed and working smoke detectors,” Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins said in an article in The State.
Installing smoke detectors (and carbon monoxide detectors) are critical steps you can take to ensure your family’s safety, especially during the colder months when you are using a heat source such as a wood stove. Here are others:

  • Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
  • Make sure there is adequate clearance between the stove and walls.
  • Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
  • Put a gate in front of the stove, especially if you have children or elderly ones in the home who could fall against it.
  • Store wood at least three feet away from the woodstove in case embers or sparks fly out that could catch the woodpile on fire.
  • Dispose of ashes in a metal bucket. Take it outside, but don’t leave it on a wood deck – there could be hot embers under the cold ashes.
  • Don’t dump the ashes where they could catch leaves or brush on fire.

The EPA has other information about best burning practices that could keep you, your family and friends safe this winter. You can find it here: http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/bestburn.html.

For more about fire safety, read our blog written for National Fire Prevention Month: http://www.southcarolinalawyerblog.com/2013/10/some-alarming-facts.html.

When the wind is howling and you’re wishing for balmy breezes, curl up under an afghan with a cup of hot cocoa. Crank the heat up if you have to, but please don’t take a chance that your crackling fire could end in disaster.

Back in olden days, mom would put Junior down for a nap and the sound of his wailing, or her sixth sense, would tell her he was ready to get up.  As houses got larger, and technology got smarter, Mom and Dad or the babysitter began to rely on electronic monitoring devices.  As with many inventions, however, baby monitors sometimes come with unintended, disastrous consequences.

Baby Monitor Recalls

On November 21, 2013, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued Recall No. 14-028 for the Movement and Sound Monitor manufactured by Angelcare because of infant deaths associated with its use. This device includes a sensor pad which is placed under the crib mattress.  An attached 11-foot electrical cord goes to a transmitter which alerts parents of movement in the crib.  The problem is that children are being strangled on the cord. [See Also: Consumer Product Lawsuits]

One of the children was a 13-month-old girl who died in San Diego in November 2011.  Angelcare has settled a claim against it in that case.  Previously, an 8-month-old girl had died in Salem, Oregon.

The 600,000 recalled baby monitors were sold at Babies R Us/Toys R Us, Burlington Coat Factory, Meijer, Sears, Walmart, Amazon.com, Target.com, Overstock.com, and nearly 70 small baby specialty stores, from October 1999 through September 2013 for about $100 to $300.

The Angelcare motion detector was not the first baby monitor to have come to the attention of safety organizations.  In 2011, the CPSC issued a Safety Alert stating, “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) are warning parents and caregivers that cords on baby audio and video monitors present a strangulation hazard to infants and toddlers when placed within a child’s reach. Since 2002, seven infants and toddlers were strangled in baby monitor cords, and three infants and toddlers nearly strangled. The victims involved were as young as 6 months old to 20 months old.”

CPSC Release No. 11-127, dated February 11, 2011, dealt with the Summer infant video monitor.  The Summer baby monitors included a camera to be placed in the baby’s room and a hand-held device on which the caregiver could see and/or hear the baby.  They were sold at major retailers, mass merchandisers, and juvenile products stores nationwide for between $60 and $300.  Two strangulation deaths were reported in 2010 when the camera and its cord were placed within reach of the child.  In one instance, the camera had been placed on top of the crib rail; in the other, it was placed on the changing table attached to the crib.  A third child was lucky to escape injury when he was found with the camera cord wrapped around his neck; in that situation, the monitor camera was mounted on the wall but the child was able to reach the cord.

If you have a small child in your home, or you know someone who does, please protect these little ones by visiting the CPSC website for assistance:  http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2013/11/baby-movement-monitor-recall-a-cord-issue/.

BabyMonitorSafety.org also offers valuable tips for parents:  http://babymonitorsafety.org/retailers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association issue these recommendations:

  • Immediately check the location of all monitors and other products with electrical cords–including those mounted on the wall–to make sure cords are out of your child’s reach.
  • Place cords at least three feet away from any part of the crib, bassinet, play yard or other safe sleep environment.
  • Never position a monitor inside or on the edge of a crib.
  • Remember, at least three feet away is where your monitor should stay.

At the Louthian Law Firm, we help families who have been harmed by defective products.  You can read more about this facet of our personal injury practice.