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Product recalls don’t protect manufacturers from claims

Product recalls don’t protect manufacturers from liability or legal claims when their products cause serious injury or death to consumers. Take the case of a Fisher-Price recall issued in 2019 for 5 million Rock ‘n Play Sleepers because of a risk of suffocation due to the product’s design. It took a decade and 50 infant deaths for the company to pull the popular product from circulation. Fisher-Price had been warned since 2009 of the high risk the product’s design posed to infant health and safety. Even after the recall was issued, only about 8 percent of the products were returned by consumers.

Fisher-Price reported its progress during the recall to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Those reports, which usually are not publicly available, have been used in numerous lawsuits against the company by consumers who used the product and allege they never received a recall notification.

The recall debacle with Fisher-Price is one example of why product recalls do not protect manufacturers from product liability claims. Recalls can help prove a manufacturer has taken steps to correct a dangerous situation, but it doesn’t relieve them of all responsibility.

How product recalls work

Product recalls generally happen in one of two ways in the U.S. When manufacturers become aware of a design flaw or other defect in one of their products, or when a government agency alerts the manufacturer to the issue. Some government agencies, like the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), have the authority to issue a product recall without the manufacturer’s permission. Other government offices with the power to mandate product recall include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

When manufacturers become aware of a problem, they can voluntarily disclose that information to the CPSC through the Fast-Track Product Recall Program. Section 15 of the Product Safety Act requires manufacturers to reveal safety issues. Once the CPSC has the information, it can opt for a recall within 20 working days of the date of the notification from the product manufacturer.

Once the recall is issued, all sellers and distributors of the product receive a notification. They must remove the product from their shelves immediately and post notices to their customers about the recall that include instructions on how consumers can return the product for a refund. Notifications also must warn consumers of the danger associated with the product. Some products that come with warranties have information on specific owners, who also may receive a recall notice from the U.S. Postal Service or via electronic communications.

product recalls
Product recalls do not automatically protect manufacturers in New Mexico.

New product safety requirements in New Mexico

In 2018, New Mexico adopted new product safety requirements and recall procedures for vehicle and product manufacturers operating within the state. Under the new legislation, recall procedures are now mandatory in New Mexico. Modifications in the law allow the Federal Consumer Protection Agency to take the following actions:

  • Remove or call for repairs to defective or insecure products.
  • Open investigations into product safety concerns.
  • Impose sanctions on manufacturing companies not in compliance with product safety standards.

Before these new procedures were adopted, product recalls were voluntary in New Mexico. Now, manufacturers doing business within the state’s borders must review their quality standards for products they produce and import to defend themselves against legal action that may arise because of product defects and other liabilities.  

Holding manufacturers liable for faulty products

Recalls do not automatically mean a manufacturer is liable for a defect that may have caused injuries or deaths. Manufacturers can produce evidence that establishes they took all necessary steps to safeguard consumers, including issuing a voluntary recall when a problem was brought to their attention. Victims still must prove they became ill or injured because of the defect within the product to recover damages.

Conversely, a recall is not an immediate defense against product liability. Recalls do not always protect manufacturers from legal responsibility when consumers suffer serious injuries or die from using their faulty products. Product manufacturers must provide specific evidence to remain shielded from legal liability. Among that documentation is proof the consumer received information about the product recall before suffering injuries or death and that the notice sufficiently explained the danger of continued use of the product.

Consulting the product liability pros

The personal injury lawyers at Cameron & Russell have the experience needed to win your product liability case against manufacturers. We understand the nuances of product recalls and how some manufacturers try to use them to shield against liability. Phone us at 505-218-7844 or contact us online to schedule your free case evaluation today.

February 9, 2022

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