Safety in Design: Protecting Consumers

August 28, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

liabilitySafety in the design of a product is essential for keeping the consumer protected. Product liability can occur when the unsafe design of a product results in damages to a person and/or property. Product hazards cannot always be predicted, however, sometimes manufacturers avoid fixing a known safety issue simply because they do not want to lose the income generated by the product. Three cases demonstrating unsafe product designs in the U.S., and their tragic outcomes, are listed below.

United States of America v. Second Chance Body Armor Inc.

Worn by President G.W. Bush and the first lady, Second Chance Body Armor produced a bulletproof vest which became penetrable due to product degradation. Second Chance replaced Kevlar with Zylon, a lighter weight material discovered in a California lab and sold to a Japanese company that supplied the material to Second Chance. The 2003 gang shooting of a Los Angeles patrol officer wearing the Zylon vest ignited a product liability case which would mandate the recall of 228,000 vests issued to law enforcement and military personnel around the country.

Simplicity & Graco Cribs

Simplicity was an American household name providing best selling cribs to families. The faulty product design resulted in unintended drop rail detachment rendering the product unsafe. More than 20 infant and toddler deaths by suffocation and multiple injuries in the U.S. were reported before more than 1 million products were removed from consumer markets during four recall stages.

Kampen v. American Isuzu Motors.

In Kampen, the main issue surrounded the collapse of a car jack, and whether it was being used in a manner anticipated by the manufacturer. The owner’s manual instructed the user to “use the jack only when changing tires” and expressly warned “never to get beneath the car when using the jack.” The plaintiff used the jack to lift his vehicle, got underneath the vehicle, and the jack collapsed while he was under it, breaking both his collarbones. The court held in part that the plaintiff’s use of the jack in direct contravention to express warnings in the manual was not a use that should have been reasonably anticipated by the manufacturer.