Articles Posted in Defective Products

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Is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) responsible for 13 deaths that have now been tied to a General Motors product defect? According to a recent article in the New York Times, over the last 11 years, the NHTSA has received more than 260 complaints about General Motors vehicles, including those “that suddenly turned off while being driven.” However, the NHTSA never investigated this possible automobile defect. And according to a story in USA Today, a former NHTSA administrator has encouraged a probe into the NHTSA’s decision, emphasizing that it “failed to carry out the law when it didn’t force GM to fix the problem.” GM has now recalled the vehicles that may pose a serious safety risk to consumers.

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Have you or a loved one been injured by a defective automobile? Over the last decade, thirteen people may have died as a result of the defective product tied to the GM recall. It’s extremely important to speak to an experienced California product liability attorney. You may be able to file a claim for financial compensation.

History of the Recall and Related Consumer Complaints

A New York Times analysis suggests that, since February 2003, the NHTSA “received an average of two complaints a month about potentially dangerous shutdowns, but it repeatedly responded that there was not enough evidence of a problem to warrant a safety investigation.” The most recent of these complaints occurred earlier this month.

Complaints included “detailed frightening scenes in which moving cars suddenly stalled at high speeds, on highways, in the middle of city traffic, and while crossing railroad tracks.” The complaints emphasized the potentially catastrophic nature of the defect and urged the NHTSA to investigate.

According to the New York Times, the NHTSA responded to some of the complaints with a “polite but formulaic letter” indicating that there was insufficient evidence to launch an investigation. But this isn’t the first time that the NHTSA has failed to take action over a potentially catastrophic automobile product defect. For instance, in the late 1990s it failed “to detect a wave of highway rollovers in Ford Explorers with Firestone tires.” That defect ultimately was tied to 271 fatalities.

In 2000, Congress passed a law, known as the Tread Act, to require automakers like GM “to report to the safety agency any claims they received blaming defects for serious injuries or deaths, so the government would not have to rely only on consumer reports.” Over the last ten years, GM has received complaints linking the now-recalled vehicles to “at least 78 deaths” and more than 1,500 injuries.

GM Models at Risk of Shutdown

Which GM models are affected? According to consumer complaints, six different GM models may pose safety risks. Based on these consumer complaints and ample news media surrounding the deaths of 13 drivers over the past decade, GM has recalled these vehicles “because of defective ignition switches that can shut off engines and power systems and disable airbags.” GM mailed out the first recall notices last week to owners.

The vehicles involved in the recall are models from years 2003 to 2007, including: the 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2006-2009 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice, 2006-2007 Saturn Sky, and the 2007 Pontiac G5. According to USA Today, the automaker’s recall notice alerts owners to the defect and informs them that the dealer “will replace ignition switches on those models.”

In its recall, GM has indicated that the ignition defect “may have been responsible for 31 accidents and 13 deaths,” according to the New York Times.

Automobile defects can cause serious injuries and often are linked to roadway fatalities. If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a car accident that might have been caused by an automobile defect, don’t hesitate to contact a product liability lawyer today.

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Car Seat Recall Affects 3.7 Million
Can California Automobile Dealerships Be Liable for Product Defects?

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When we buy products, we expect that they’ll be safe for use, as long as we use them correctly. This is particularly true when we buy items such as car seats for our children. However, a recent recall suggests that the car seat you’ve been using for your young child might not actually be so safe. Earlier this month, Graco, a manufacturer of products for infants and children, has issued a voluntary recall of 3.7 million child car seats, according to an article in CNN News. The company has also been asked to recall an additional 1.8 million.

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Reasons for the Recall

What’s the problem with these car seats? According to the article, there’s a “buckling issue.” In short, the buckles often don’t readily open. The “red release button in the center of the harness can become difficult to unlatch,” or it “can become stuck,” according to the NHTSA. And this could pose a serious problem for a parent who needs to take her child out of the car seat quickly in case of a serious emergency, such as an accident or a fire.

The problem recently came to the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which began an investigation into complaints about the car seat buckles. Based on the NHTSA’s investigation, Graco has agreed to recall 11 out of 18 seat models. These models include convertible, harnessed booster seats, but they don’t include infant car seats. Specifically, Graco described the recall as affecting “harness buckles used on all toddler convertible car seats and harnessed booster seats manufactured from 2009 to July 2013.”
Graco has contested the NHTSA’s request that it recall 1.8 million more seats, which would include infant seat models. In response, the NHTSA has emphasized that its investigation will remain open until it has thoroughly reviewed the safety issues connected to the remaining 7 seat models.

But even at 3.7 million, this recent recall represents the “fourth biggest ever for car seats,” according to the NHTSA. If the remaining 1.8 million are recalled, “it would be the biggest,” the federal agency indicated.

What’s Causing the Buckle Problem?

According to Graco, “food and dried liquids can make some harness buckles progressively more difficult to open over time or become stuck in the latched position.” Yet the NHTSA doesn’t think this is a sufficient, since it’s an issue that the product makers should have been able to anticipate.

Graco emphasizes that the buckle problem “does not, in any way, affect the performance of the car seat or the effectiveness of the buckle to restrain a child.” However, the NHTSA has encouraged all parents and caregivers using these seats to “consider acquiring an alternative car seat for transporting children until their Graco seat is fixed.”

What Should I Do if I Have a Recalled Seat?

First, it’s important to know which models have been recalled. The toddler car seat models involved in the recall include: the Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride 65 with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size4Me 70, My Size 70, Head Wise 70, and Smart Seat. Graco has not yet recalled its potentially affected infant seats, but the NHTSA has intimated that the following models might also be affected by the buckle problem: Snugride, Snugride 30, Snugride 32, Infant Safe Seat-Step 1, Snugride 35, Tuetonia 35, and Snugride Click Connect 40.

Graco is offering new harness buckles to customers affected by the toddler seat recall free of charge. If you currently own one of the recalled toddler seats, you can call Graco or visit their website to obtain a replacement. If you’re currently using one of the infant seats that Graco hasn’t yet recalled, you might want to think about an alternative.

When a defective product injures your child, you deserve to seek compensation by filing a product liability claim. Child injuries can be especially traumatic, and the experienced San Diego product liability lawyers at the Walton Law Firm can discuss your case with you today.

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$4 Billion Hip Settlement Likely to Affect California Lawsuits
Can California Automobile Dealerships Be Liable for Product Defects?

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Automobiles and Product Defects

Product liability cases frequently involve faulty automobile parts. Sometimes these flaws result in car accidents, while others cause injuries in different situations. These defective product injuries often vary widely, and defects can occur during the design process (before the part is even made), in the manufacturing stage, or at the marketing level. In fact, the recent Toyota fatal acceleration cases have been making news across the country. Recently, however, an article in Automotive News suggested that automobile dealerships might be liable for injuries sustained in defective passenger vehicles. Reporting on a recent California Court of Appeals case, the article explained that dealerships that “inspect and deliver new vehicles on behalf of manufacturers may be held liable for any defect, even if they didn’t actually sell the vehicles and weren’t negligent themselves.”

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In some product liability claims, injury victims may be able to pursue a legal theory of strict liability. In many of these cases, plaintiffs obtain financial compensation for their injuries. If you have been injured by a defective product in the San Diego area, it’s extremely important to speak to an experienced product liability attorney.

Details of the California Case
The California Court of Appeals case referenced here is one against Todey Motor Co., Inc. out of Oxnard, California. The plaintiff, Fernando Ibarra, suffered severe injuries, including paralysis, in a dangerous rollover accident involving a 2000 Chevrolet C3500 pickup purchased from the dealership.

According to the article in Automotive News, “California law has long held that a selling dealership is in the ‘chain of commerce’ for strict liability purposes.” Strict liability simply means that a defendant can be held liable for injuries even if it didn’t act negligently or with an intent to harm the plaintiff. In other words, simply being involved in the “chain of commerce” process involved in making and selling the vehicle, a selling dealership can be required to compensate injured plaintiffs.

But this case was a bit different, as Todey Motor Company wasn’t the seller of the vehicle—instead, it acted as a sort of weigh station between the manufacturer and the selling dealership. Todey did a “pre-delivery inspection” on the truck that didn’t involve examining the truck for any design or manufacturing defects, and it didn’t make a profit from the sale of the truck. Instead, Todey only earned $74.56 for the pre-delivery inspection.

Todey argued that it shouldn’t be liable for Ibarra’s injuries. Specifically, it asserted that it hadn’t actually been involved in the “chain of commerce” since it didn’t receive a profit from the ultimate sale of the vehicle. According to the Automotive News article, the store claimed that it “had received no direct financial benefit from the pickup’s sale, wasn’t integral to bringing the vehicle safely to market, and had no control or substantial influence over its manufacture or distribution.”

A lower court agreed with Todey, but the California appellate court said that Ibarra could go forward with a strict liability claim against the store. In the unpublished decision, the court explained that “Todey’s inspection and delivery of the truck placed it within the vertical chain of distribution for purposes of imposing strict liability for manufacturing or design defects.” Indeed, the court further emphasized that, “although Todey did not sell the pickup, it was the last link in getting the vehicle from its franchisor to the consumer,” and therefore had a “substantial ongoing relationship” to the manufacturer.

This decision suggests that plaintiffs in California may have more avenues of redress when they’ve been injured by a faulty automobile part. If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries in a car accident caused by a product defect, contact the injury lawyers at the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about filing a claim for financial compensation.

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Update: Toyota Fatal Acceleration Cases
Honda Recalls Nearly 100,000 Vehicles for Stability Control Problem

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As you might have heard, Johnson & Johnson has been facing many lawsuits in both state and federal courts related to its recall of faulty DePuy hip implants. DePuy Orthopedics is a Johnson & Johnson company. Just last week, it looks like Johnson & Johnson reached a $4 billion (or more) settlement, according to an article in Bloomberg. This news arrives less than a year after Johnson & Johnson lost its first case in Southern California. Last March, a jury in Los Angeles awarded a Montana victim more than $8.3 million in damages connected to his injuries from the DePuy hip implant. And the March verdict wasn’t the only DePuy payout in California. Indeed, DePuy Orthopedics reached a settlement just last month with Robert Ottman, a plaintiff whose lawsuit was scheduled for trial in San Francisco in the Superior Court of California. In short, product defects can lead to large payouts.

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And as you can see, Johnson & Johnson hasn’t been winning its hip implant cases in California. The recent $4 billion settlement suggests that other victims of the faulty DePuy hip implant also may be eligible for compensation. If you’re a consumer and you’ve been injured by a defective product, it’s important to contact an experienced product liability lawyer as soon as possible. In California, you’ll have to file your claim without a certain amount of time in order to be eligible for damages. At the Walton Law Firm, we have years of experience handling product liability claims and can speak to you about your case today.

A Brief History of the DePuy ASR Hip Replacement

News about the faulty DePuy hip implants has been prevalent across the country since Johnson & Johnson put the metal-on-metal hip implant on the market in 2005. The hip implant was on the market for about 5 years, and during that time DePuy sold nearly 100,000 of these devices. By 2010, the company had issued a voluntary recall in connection to the serious problems plaguing patients who had these hip replacements.

What’s the problem with the metal-on-metal hip implant? In short, many patients have required revision surgeries, which are costly and dangerous, due to extreme pain, swelling, and problems moving around. The hip replacement was originally designed, according to DePuy, to give patients more mobility than previous models. In some particularly severe cases of failure with these faulty implants, patients have reported complications from metal fragments and loosening of the device.

What are the primary symptoms of a faulty implant? They can vary depending on the person, but many patients who have filed lawsuits against DePuy allege that the replacement has led to:

· Loosening of the implant
· Bone fracturing
· Dislocation
· Severe pain in the hip, leg, groin, or lower back
· Swelling around the hip joint
· Difficulty walking
· Tissue death and loss of surrounding bone

How Will the Johnson & Johnson Settlement Affect California Residents?

The $4 billion settlement will “resolve thousands of lawsuits,” according to an article in Bloomberg. In fact, it will resolve more than 7,500 lawsuits currently pending in federal and state courts, including California. Each victim will receive an average of $300,000 for their hip surgeries. Most importantly, the settlement “doesn’t bar patients whose artificial hips fail in the future from seeking compensation” for their injuries. In other words, “the settlement is uncapped in terms of its total value.”

Have you or a loved one been injured by a DePuy hip implant or another defective product? Large companies like Johnson & Johnson have deep pockets, and you may be eligible for substantial compensation. A California product liability attorney can assess your claim for you today.

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Update: Toyota Fatal Acceleration Cases
Honda Recalls Nearly 100,000 Vehicles for Stability Control Problem

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You might remember a product liability case when talked about back in August concerning the fatal acceleration of a Toyota Camry. The victim, Noriko Uno, 66, died after her 2006 Toyota Camry suddenly accelerated to speeds of more than 100 miles per hour and struck a tree and a telephone pole, according to an article in CNN News. Uno’s family filed a claim against Toyota, arguing that there was a defect in the Camry’s design and that the company should have installed a brake override system. News agencies quickly picked up the story and deemed the lawsuit a “bellwether” case that was likely to influence similar claims arising throughout the country. However, in mid-October, a California jury in the Los Angeles Superior Court returned a verdict in favor of Toyota.

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At the time, Toyota too emphasized that Uno’s suit was a “bellwether,” explaining that the verdict in the company’s favor would “set a significant benchmark that its vehicles are safe with or without a brake override system,” according to CNN News. In a statement on Toyota’s website, the company highlighted its win: “We are gratified that the jury concluded the design of the 2006 Camry did not contribute to this unfortunate accident.” Toyota went on to depict the verdict as an affirmation “that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle at issue in this case.”

As you might remember from our previous post, consumers began complaining about a problem with the Toyota Camry model that caused sudden acceleration. The problem, according to the Los Angeles Times, concerned an electronic throttle system in the vehicles. Despite the loss in California, however, a recent jury verdict in favor of two Oklahoma plaintiffs suggests that Toyota might have to pay more settlements than it initially thought.

A Plaintiff Win and a Toyota Settlement in Oklahoma

After the California verdict, commentators suspected that Toyota likely wouldn’t be held responsible for most of the “sudden acceleration” claims cropping up. However, late in October, an Oklahoma jury decided that Toyota Motor Corp. should pay $3 million in a sudden acceleration case that caused the death of one woman and the serious injury of another, according to an article in Bloomberg. The $3 million includes compensatory damages for both victims, with $1.5 million for each. The jury was set to deliberate on punitive damages in this case when Toyota settled with the victims, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, the jury found that Toyota had “acted with reckless disregard,” reported the New York Times. The company had reports about problems with the Camry model, and yet they didn’t take steps to correct them. As a result, the jury had planned to award punitive damages. The lawyer for the plaintiffs, J. Cole Portis, said that he was “fully convinced that Toyota’s conduct from the time the electronic throttle control system was designed has been shameful,” and he expressed gratitude for the jury, who “had the courage to let Toyota and the public know that Toyota was reckless.”

A Toyota spokesperson, Carly Schaffner, issued statement in which she explained that Toyota “strongly disagreed with the verdict,” but that the company was “satisfied that the parties reached a mutually acceptable agreement to settle this case.” Legal analysts have underscored the connection between Toyota’s settlement and the company’s likely desire to avoid having to pay punitive damages.

What Happened Between California and Oklahoma?

While it’s upsetting to learn that the California jury who heard Uno’s case found in favor of Toyota, the recent Oklahoma settlement suggests that Toyota might be willing to take more responsibility for its defective products. Indeed, legal analysts have emphasized that “the verdict could give a lift to plaintiffs in other cases.”

Have you or a loved one been injured by a defective product? Consumers file product liability claims everyday, and the dedicated team of California product liability lawyers at the Walton Law Firm can speak to you today about your case.

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Toyota “Sudden Acceleration” Case Begins in California
Honda Recalls Nearly 100,000 Vehicles for Stability Control Problem

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Do you own a Honda? You’ll want to know about the Honda recalls for many of the automaker’s popular vehicle models this year. Earlier this year, Honda recalled about 44,000 of its 2012-13 Honda Fit Sport models when the company discovered that the electronic stability control in these cars “may not stop a skid as quickly as it should,” reported the New York Times. Honda calls this defective system the Vehicle Stability Assist, and as of this summer, the automaker recalled an additional 48,000 2012-13 models of the car. As a result, this product liability issue now involves the recall of nearly 100,000 Honda Fit vehicles.

While the company hasn’t reported any injuries as a result of the problems with the Vehicle Stability Assist, a defect in any automobile can cause serious consequences on the road. When we buy products such as motor vehicles, we expect them to be safe and free of defects. Under product liability law in California, victims who have been injured as the result of a defective product, such a specific system in a car, may be eligible for compensation. The injury attorneys at the Walton Law Firm have extensive experience dealing with product liability claims. If you have been injured as a result of the Honda recall or any other motor vehicle recall, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney today.

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What is Electronic Stability Control?

Stability control systems “use sensors to determine if a vehicle is moving in a direction at odds with what the driver is doing with the steering wheel,” according to the New York Times. If this happens, the vehicle’s computer system “applies braking to one wheel at a time in an effort to correct the movement.”

In short, if you’re driving and hit a puddle of water that causes your vehicle to hydroplane, or if you’re driving in the winter and begin slipping on a patch of ice, the Vehicle Stability Assist is supposed to kick in and prevent a serious accident.

History of the Recall

Back when Honda issued its original recall in April, the automaker indicated that the problem primarily concerned a certain brand of tires that weren’t compatible with the 2012-13 Honda Fit Sport models. The tires, Honda argued back in April, “didn’t respond as quickly” as the company intended. However, the more recent recall of 48,000 more Fit models makes clear that the problem isn’t relegated to the tires.

A Honda spokesman said that the electronic stability control systems simply weren’t working “under really extreme conditions.” The spokesman defined those conditions as “having extremely worn tires, wheels that re out of alignment, and driving at high speeds.” While Honda says it doesn’t know about any accidents as a result of the defect, properly functioning electronic stability control systems are essential to drivers’ safety.

In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires that all light-duty vehicles come equipped with electronic stability control as part of the standard package. Indeed, researchers suggest that electronic stability control systems “can significantly reduce single-vehicle accidents.”

And the Fit recalls aren’t the only ones linked to Honda this year. Other recalls include certain 2013 Accord models with defective fuel tanks and 2013 Honda Odyssey minivans and Pilot SUVs with engine problems, according to the Washington Post. The most recent recall of the Odyssey and Pilot SUV models is especially problematic, as it concerns engine stalling, “which increases crash risk.”

If you or a loved one have been injured by one of Honda’s recalls or by another defective product, contact an experienced product liability attorney today to discuss your case.

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Toyota “Sudden Acceleration” Case Begins in California

BMW Issues Major Recall for Popular Models

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Should Toyota Motor Corporation be held liable for the sudden acceleration that drivers experienced in its vehicles? Drivers across the United States claimed that sudden acceleration in Toyota motor vehicles was a serious problem. As a result, Toyota issued a massive recall, and it dealt with significant settlements and lawsuits across the country. Now, a case is set to begin in southern California, according to NBC Los Angeles.

When consumers buy a product, they expect it to be safe. Consumers should never have to worry about product defects. When a motor vehicle is defective, however, it can cause serious harm to the driver and to other passengers. Toyota is one of many vehicle manufacturers who has faced product liability lawsuits over the past several years and has been forced to issue vehicle recalls as a result of defective parts.

Toyota Product Defect Litigation in California Court
Back in 2009, Noriko Uno, 66, was killed when her 2006 Toyota Camry suddenly accelerated and went over a median before striking a telephone pole and a tree, according to the Los Angeles Times. Reports indicate that Uno had only put 10,000 miles on the vehicle at the time of the crash, and she had been a cautious driver who often avoided the freeway for safety reasons. However, due to a defect in her Toyota Camry, Uno’s car reached speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, and she was unable to slow the car even after “stepping on the brake pedal and pulling the emergency brake handle as she swerved to avoid other vehicles.”

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Uno’s case is the “first so-called ‘bellwether’ case to go to trial,” reported NBC Los Angeles. The case could set the tone for Toyota’s liability in these cases. And Uno’s family believes they will win the case. Their attorney, Garo Mardirossian, said that “Toyota decided to make safety an option instead of a standard on their vehicles.” And when “they decided to save a few bucks,” Toyota’s decision ended up costing lives.

Toyota argues that Uno’s Camry didn’t have a defect. According to CBS Local Los Angeles, the auto manufacturer has agreed to pay out more than $1 billion to resolve wrongful death claims and other lawsuits related to the sudden-acceleration problem. So far, all the claims against Toyota have resulted in settlements—the Uno claim is the first to reach the courtroom.

The Uno trial began jury selection late last month, and commentators expect the trial to last approximately two months. Why didn’t Toyota install a mechanism to override the accelerator when the gas and brake pedals are pressed simultaneously? A jury will be deciding whether this omission makes Toyota liable for Uno’s death, as well as for other wrongful deaths that have occurred due to sudden and unexpected acceleration in the manufacturer’s vehicles. As a so-called bellwether case, the outcome of the Uno trial is likely to influence trends in auto manufacturer liability for sudden-acceleration claims across the country.

Toyota Sudden-Acceleration Lawsuits Across the Country

With Uno’s trial likely to influence other claims across the country, Toyota might end up in courtrooms from Oklahoma to Michigan, where cases are expected to go to trial later this year. In fact, according to NBC Los Angeles, “there are more than 80 similar cases filed in state courts.”

If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective product, it’s important to speak to an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible. The lawyers at the Walton Law Firm have extensive experience with product liability cases and can answer your questions today.

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BMW Issues Major Recall for Popular Models

San Diego Jury Awards $14.4 Million in Faulty Tire Case

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Are you currently driving a BMW along the highways of Southern California? If so, you will want to read the following closely. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reported that BMW is issuing a recall for over 500,000 vehicles in the United States for an issue that can result in car accidents.

Who is Affected By the Recall?

If you currently drive a BMW, it’s important to know which models have been recalled. At the top of the recall list is the company’s most popular vehicle, the 3 Series Sedan. Last year, this model “dominated the small luxury car market,” with nearly 100,000 purchased in the U.S. in 2012 alone. In addition to the 3 Series Sedans, the recall also includes wagons, convertibles, and coupes from 2007-2011 model years, 1 Series coupes and convertibles from 2008-2012 model years, and the Z4 from 2009-2011 model years.

BMW is recalling the vehicles because of a faulty battery cable connector, which can fail, causing the engine to stall. A report from USA Today explained that over time, the cable connectors and their fuse box terminals can degrade, severing the electrical connection between the battery (located in the trunks of all recalled vehicles) and the fuse box (located at the front of the vehicles). If the electronic connection breaks, the cars can completely lose electrical power, triggering the engine to shut down unexpectedly. BMW admitted that in extreme cases, this loss of vehicle power can increase the risk of a crash.

While BMW reported one car accident in Canada as a result of the problem, it said that it had no knowledge of any such accidents in the United States. For all recalled vehicles in the U.S., BMW will notify the owners, and BMW dealers will replace the faulty parts and secure the new battery cable connectors with an “improved method,” without charge to the owner. BMW.jpg

BMW’s Recall History and What It Means for Your Highway Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has had growing reports of recalls in recent years from such automaker giants as BMW, Toyota, and Subaru. USA Today suggests that these recalls occurred because the automakers “use common parts on multiple models in order to save money.”
In fact, the LA Times reports that BMW has known about this current battery cable connector problem since 2010, when a 3 Series owner “experienced a ‘no-start’ condition after it was parked.” Between October and December of the same year, BMW received additional reports alerting them of the issue.

This news comes only a year after the automaker was required to pay $3 million in civil penalties after the NHTSA alleged that it failed to report vehicle defects and non-compliances in a timely manner. Under federal law, automakers like BMW are required to report safety defects to NHTSA within five business days of discovering a problem, and are then required “to promptly conduct a recall.”
The battery cable connector recall is supposed to begin in March, and BMW expects that fewer than 1% of the vehicles that have been recalled are actually affected by the described problem. In the meantime, owners can contact BMW directly for more information. Moreover, if you own one of the recalled BMW models and have been involved in a car accident as a result, you may have a claim. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney today to discuss your case.

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[Image Courtesy of: By The Car Spy (1998 BMW 740i Individual) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

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Backyard%20fire.jpgA backyard Fourth of July party on 24th Street in Del Mar turned tragic yesterday when three party-goers suffered serious burn injuries in an incident involving a what is being described as a sterno-style lamp or lantern. The details are currently sketchy, but firefighters are reporting that the lamp fell on a woman, dousing her with a flammable material, which was set aflame. Two friends and/or relatives standing nearby attempted to help, and also suffered burns.

One news outlet is reporting that one victim suffered burns from “head to toe,” but that has not been confirmed. It is currently being reported, however, that two of the victims are in critical condition at UCSD Medical Center.

While there has been no reporting of what kind of lamp or lantern caused this unfortunate accident, it’s difficult to imagine how a standard store bought outdoor Sterno or kerosene lamp could cause such serious harm. If the lamp was defective in anyway (even if used incorrectly) it could expose the lamp’s manufacturer to a product liability lawsuit.

If the lamp was tampered with in any way, or hung in a way that made it dangerous, the homeowner would be exposed to liability by creating a dangerous condition on the property that injures an invitee. One thing appears certain, an accident like this would not likely occur absent someone’s negligence.

Walton Law Firm has represented many burn injury victims in cases involving product liability and general negligence. In California, product manufacturers are subject to the law of strict liability, which does not require the injured party to prove the manufacturer of an injury-producing product is at fault for the injury. To prevail, the plaintiff only needs to establish that the product was defective, the defect existed at the time it entered the stream of commerce, and that the defective feature caused the injuries.

UPDATE (7/9/12): New reports about the burn incident in Del Mar on July 4th have explained how this tragic incident occurred. It was not a sterno lamp or tiki torch that contributed to the burn injuries, but a “fire pot.” A firepot is simply a device, usually a earthenware pot that is filled with a flammable liquid or substance to hold fire.

firepot1.jpgAt the Del Mar home, apparently a fire pot, hanging overhead, fell, and doused the three victims with flammable gel that sticks to the body. According to Fire Marshall Battalion Chief Robert Scott:

These items are described as bombs in a bottle. Refueling the devices while ignited or still hot is dangerous…[The gel]…will stick to the body and clothes and you need an extinguisher or wool blanket to get it out, the stop, drop and roll method won’t work.

According to 10News, fire pots have been linked to numerous serious injuries and a few deaths, and many retailers have stopped selling these products because of the risks they create. Indeed, there have been several lawsuits against gel-filled fire pot manufacturers because of the dangers they present.

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A California products liability case against the manufacturer of a popular hair product came to a close in a settlement with the California Attorney General’s office this week. GIB, LLC is a California-based company that manufactures Brazilian Blowout, a hair salon product that straightens and smoothes otherwise curly hair. According to report in Fox News, Brazilian Blowout has been one of the top choices for many women seeking to straighten their hair quickly and efficiently, without the long process of daily straightening with a flat iron or hair dryer. The Brazilian Blowout solution is applied and, when combined with heat, smoothes and straightens the hair.

Unfortunately, San Diego injury lawyer has learned that the Attorney General’s case has exposed some major health concerns with the product. In particular, because of the chemical formaldehyde contained in Brazilian Blowout, there is a possibility of a carcinogenic effect, which essentially means that the product has the potential to cause cancer. This risk applies to both the person receiving the hair treatment and the hair stylist administering it. It is therefore very important to ensure that consumers have all the facts before they decide whether or not to use it. Formaldehyde emits a gas, which can also cause irritation of the skin, eyes, and lungs. Brazilian_Blowout.jpg

Among the allegations lodged against GBI by the state was a claim of deceptive advertising stemming from the fact that GBI had labeled its products as “formaldehyde-free” when certain formulations of Brazilian Blowout, in fact, did contain the chemical. As part of their consumer safety lawsuit settlement, GBI has agreed to remove the false claims that the product is formaldehyde-free from the labels and to add a warning regarding the possible cancer-causing effects. In addition to the label changes, GBI will pay $600,000 in civil money penalties for failing to properly warn consumers of the risks of irritation and cancer and for not having the products properly tested prior to marketing them in the United States. Brazilian Blowout had previously been sold in Brazil where labeling requirements are likely different than those imposed in the U.S. The company will also provide literature to salons that use Brazilian Blowout in order to educate them as to all the risks and how to protect against them.

Selling dangerous products is certainly not unheard of in the United States, nor is it illegal in all cases. The manufacture and sale of cigarettes is a prime example of this. However, just as tobacco manufacturers are required to provide information about health risks on their packaging, manufacturers of other potentially dangerous products have a duty to warn consumers that the product could harm them. A failure to properly warn in our area can be the basis for a San Diego products liability lawsuit, even if the government had not taken action. In fact, some California consumers have already joined in a class action lawsuit against the company, and it is possible that more such suits will follow. Consumers in our area who have used Brazilian Blowout should consult a San Diego County personal injury lawyer to see what their rights are and whether they also have a case against GBI.

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