RECALLING MAJOR PRODUCT RECALLS
June 7th, 2017 | Joseph A. Quinn, Jr.
Nearly 30 years ago, Ford recalled 1.5 million Pintos, the largest recall up to that time. Before the Pinto even appeared on the market, concerns emerged that a rear-end collision might cause the car’s fuel tank to be punctured resulting in a fire or an explosion. But instead of fixing the Pinto's design, Ford determined it would be a better decision to settle any lawsuits resulting from the Pinto's flaws. Correcting the problem reportedly would have cost only $11 per vehicle, but Ford wanted the Pinto priced “not a penny over $2000”. Ultimately, 27 people were determined to have been killed and hundreds injured in rear-end-crash explosions involving Pintos. In a landmark 1979 case, Ford Motor Company became the first U.S. corporation indicted and prosecuted on criminal homicide charges. Ford was eventually found not guilty. Production of the Pinto ended with the 1980 model year.
In 2000, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. recalled 6.5 million Firestone tires. The treads on certain Firestone tire models would separate, causing them to blow out. As a result, vehicles such as the Ford Explorer were at risk of roll over. The tire failure caused nearly 175 deaths and more than 700 injuries. Later that year, Firestone competitor Goodyear had its own tire problems. Tread separations in certain light trucks were linked to about 120 injuries and 15 deaths.
In 2004, a widely used arthritis drug was recalled. Merck & Co. withdrew the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx (rofecoxib) from the market due to concerns about increased risk of heart attack and stroke associated with long-term, high-dosage use. The pharmaceutical company took this action after disclosures that it withheld information about the drug’s risks from doctors and patients for over five years. It is estimated that the number of Americans adversely affected by Vioxx range from 88,000 to 139,000, with about 30 to 40 percent of those numbers likely resulting in death. A total of approximately 60,000 personal injury cases were filed against Merck for Vioxx injuries. Merck eventually settled the cases – without admitting fault – in 2013, with a payout fund of $4.85 billion. All told, Vioxx reportedly ended up costing Merck $8.5 billion since the drug was pulled off the market.
Products used by children are often subject to recalls. In early 2007, nearly one million Easy-Bake Ovens were recalled after receiving hundreds of reports of children getting their hands stuck inside of the toy’s opening. Sixteen cases resulted in second- or third-degree burns. Later in 2007, some 1.5 million Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway Toys were recalled. They were found to contain lead, which is toxic if ingested and especially harmful to children under age six. 2007 also saw the recall of a million Simplicity cribs after two children became trapped and suffocated. This was followed by the recall of 600,000 Simplicity cribs in 2008, and 400,000 in 2009.
Food recalls happen quite often, although the vast majority of them don’t make headlines. But in 2009, there was a major recall involving at least 361 companies and over 3,200 products. The products contained peanut meal from the Peanut Corporation of America. Over the course of two years, the company had knowingly shipped peanut products that included a virulent strain of salmonella across the United States and Canada. The tainted products lead to eight deaths and sickened more than 600 people. Shortly after the recall, Peanut Corporation of America filed for bankruptcy. In 2015 the company’s 61-year old former CEO, Stewart Parnell was sentenced to 28 years in prison after being convicted on 72 counts of fraud, conspiracy and the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce.
The aforementioned recalls illustrate the dangers of defective products, and the need to protect plaintiff’s rights. We must fight against “tort reform” that places unreasonable caps on monetary damages. Tort law was designed to decrease injury rates by holding the responsible party legally liable. Fewer legal ramifications for manufacturing and production can result in quality control issues, expediting products to market before they are properly tested.
Joseph A. Quinn, Jr., Personal Injury Attorney at HKQ Law, encourages you to be proactive with recalls. Take the time to fill out product registrations so you can be contacted in the event of a recall. (Many children’s products must be accompanied by registration cards for that very reason.) Check the recall section of our website on a regular basis. (www.hkqpc.com/recalls/), and visit www.recalls.gov. If you’ve been seriously injured by a defective product, call us for your free consultation at 570-287-3000.