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Articles Posted in Product Liability

A Colorado woman has filed a lawsuit against Starbucks, claiming that an employee improperly served her a cup of hot tea at a drive-through window, which caused the tea to spill, severely burning her and killing her dog, who was in the care at the time.

The plaintiff, Deanna Salas-Solano, is seeking more than $75,000 in damages from the coffee company, according to the complaint her lawyers filed in the US District Court for the District of Colorado. The incident occurred in September of 2015, when Salas-Solano visited the drive-through window of a Denver Starbucks and ordered a Venti hot tea. According to her complaint, she did not specify that she wanted her drink extra hot. When the Starbucks employee hander her the cup of tea, its lid was not secured, it lacked a hot-cup sleeve, and it was not double-cupped, which is Starbucks’s standard procedure for serving hot tea. The complaint also alleges that the beverage was unreasonably hot. Once she took the cup of tea into her hands, the hot temperature began to burn them, the complaint states. Hot tea then began to spill out of the cup through the unsecured lid and onto her body, which caused her clothing to melt. The tea caused severe burns to Salas-Solano, which caused her to experience intense pain on her stomach, legs, and lap.

Possibly the most disturbing aspect of the incident concerns the plaintiff’s dog. When Salas-Solano began to scream and writhe in pain after the tea spilled, her dog, Alexander, jumped into her lap and caused the rest of the tea to spill onto his body. The dog was then taken to an emergency veterinarian, and died shortly after form injuries caused by the hot tea. Salas-Solano was also taken to a hospital, where she was treated for severe burns and, the following day, underwent skin-graft surgery for “2% total body surface area second-degree burn injury to the abdomen and bilateral thighs,” according to the lawsuit. She has since reportedly suffered permanent scarring, loss of feeling and emotional distress, among other things, the suit states.

The Supreme Court of Missouri recently upheld a jury’s award of $38 million to a girl born with spina bifida after her mother took the epilepsy drug Depakote, manufactured by Abbott Labs. The court ruled that there was evidence Abbott knew the birth defect risk surpassed what it listed on the drug’s warning label. The seven-member court voted unanimously to affirm a St. Louis jury’s award, including $23 million in punitive damages, to 14-year-old Maddison Schmidt on her claims that Abbott Labs failed to warn about the risk of birth defects posed by Depakote.

In its nine-page opinion, the court rejected Abbott’s argument that the Depakote label provided an adequate warning as a matter of law, stating that, even if the warning was in the proper form and contained the right type of information, it failed in its most fundamental test—to be complete and accurate so as not to mislead consumers. The court also noted that while Depakote’s label stated that use of antiepileptic drugs could increase the risk of birth defects, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had estimated the risk of spina bifida was one or two percent — but that Schmidt presented evidence that Abbott was aware of multiple studies showing the risk of birth defects was 10 percent or greater, and that the risk of spina bifida was even higher. “As Depakote’s label did not reflect this relevant information, a reasonable inference could be drawn from this evidence that Abbott’s arming was not complete and accurate and, therefore, did not adequately warn,” the court wrote in its opinion.

This ruling is only the latest in a string of legal and regulatory setbacks for Abbott Labs. In 2008, the FDA issued a safety alert regarding antiepileptic drugs such as Depakote. The FDA warned that patients who take antiepileptic drugs may have an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior. The FDA subsequently required drug manufacturers to update their prescription labels to include a warning about this risk.Then, in 2013, the FDA issued another safety alert regarding Depakote and other valproate drugs, warning that, because these types of drugs are associated with lower IQs in children, pregnant women should not take them for the presentation of migraines. In addition, the FDA advises that pregnant women who are being treated for epilepsy or manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder should only take valproate drugs in instances in which the benefits of the drugs outweigh the risks of birth defects.

A teenage boy’s parents are filing a products liability suit against Amazon after they allege that the company sold a samurai sword that was unreasonably dangerous. Sixteen-year-old Tristan Ballinger and his friend J.K. were taking turns throwing a plastic water bottle into the air while the other boy tried to chop the bottle in half with the sword. At some point when J.K. was swinging the sword, the steel blade dislodged from the handle, sending the blade flying about 20 feet through the air and effectively impaling Ballinger in the forehead. Ballinger suffered a serious traumatic brain injury and spent six weeks in a coma. His doctor stated that his recovery will be a lifelong process and that he will need extensive physical and speech therapy for many years.

The samurai sword was given to a Ballinger by his aunt, Mindy Ballinger, who, in turn, had obtained it from her supervisor as an award at a work-related employee banquet. Rich Timpone, Mindy Ballinger’s supervisor, purchased the sword, sold as the “Anime Reino de Rasos Charlotte Cuulhourne Sword,” from Amazon for $19.95 in 2012. The sword was made by Georgia-based Top Swords and was modeled after a sword wielded by a popular anime character. It had a blade length of 27 inches, a rose pattern case metal guard, and a purple nylon-wrapped handle. The sword came with no safety instructions or warnings, and the blade did not extend the full length of the grip but was held in place with rubber cement only seven centimeters into the handle.

The defendants in the suit are named as Amazon and unknown defendants who were acting as agents, employees, subsidiaries, and affiliates of Amazon. The basis of the Ballingers’s complaint is that they allege that Amazon should have known that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous to users. The complaint alleges that Amazon’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the injuries to Tristan Ballinger. The sword is no longer available for purchase on either Amazon or Top Sword’s websites.

Over the past several decades, one could be forgiven for assuming that tobacco usage was on its way out, as the number of users in the United States has been in decline for quite some time. While this may be the case for traditional tobacco products, a brand new category has recently emerged on the scene: electronic cigarettes. Alternately known as “e-cigs” and “vapes,” these devices vaporize liquid containing nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals for the user to inhale. Although electronic cigarettes are generally considered to be a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, there have been incidents of them exploding and causing fire and injury, which has led to several lawsuits.

Benefits over Traditional Cigarettes

The general consensus in the medical and regulatory community is that electronic cigarettes are not completely without risk, but they are much healthier than traditional cigarettes. In 2015, the United Kingdom’s Public Health England published a study that found e-cigarettes may be 95% less dangerous to human health than smoking tobacco. The UK’s Royal College of Physicians subsequently recommended that e-cigarettes be used specifically as smoking cessation devices.Another study by University College London found that e-cigarettes are “far safer and less toxic than smoking conventional tobacco cigarettes.” The study examined toxin levels in saliva and urine from smokers and e-cigarette users. Smokers who had switched to e-cigarettes reportedly exhibited “significantly lower levels of toxic chemicals and carcinogens compared to people who continued to smoke tobacco cigarettes.” While the amount of toxic chemicals in electronic cigarettes is lower than traditional cigarettes, they are still present. A 2014 study found that nearly 75 percent of 159 e-liquid samples contained concentrations of diacetyl and acetyl propionyl, both chemicals that have been associated, when inhaled, with respiratory diseases.

Last month, automakers Toyota, BMW, Subaru, and Mazda agreed to pay a total of $553 million to current and former owners and lessees of 15.8 million vehicles that were fitted with airbags manufactured by Takata, the Japanese automotive parts company. The plaintiffs’ class-action lawsuit alleged that Takata airbags are prone to rupture, and have been linked to at least 11 deaths and over 100 injuries in the United States.

The cause of the ruptured airbags is alleged to be their inflation mechanism, which uses a compound called ammonium nitrate that fills the bags in a powerful controlled explosion. When ammonium nitrate is exposed to air or moisture over long periods of time, however, it can become unstable and explode more violently than it is intended, making the airbags particularly dangerous to consumers living in the Southeastern United States and Hawaii.

The defect has prompted the United States’s largest automobile recall ever, affecting almost 70 million airbags in 42 million vehicles.

More than three years after General Motors (GM) recalled 2.5 million of its 2005-2010 Chevy Cobalts, Pontiacs, and Saturns, the company recently lost its bid to prevent an Arizona driver some seeking damages for ignition-switch liability. The plaintiff, Dennis Ward, alleges that he was driving a 2009 Chevy HHR on March 27, 2014, when he rear-ended another driver in Tucson. The reason why he rear-ended the driver, he alleges, is because his vehicle “suddenly and unexpectedly lost power,” thus disabling his brakes and steering.

Faulty Ignition Switches

Beginning in 2001, several models of GM brands were fitted with an ignition switch that was found to be defective, causing cars to suddenly shut off while still in gear. These faulty switches could cause a loss of power steering, disable brakes, and prevent airbags from inflating. In some models, the key could even be removed from the ignition switch when it was not in the “off” position, which could cause the vehicle to roll away. The switches have been linked to at least 124 deaths and nearly 300 injuries. Once GM became aware of the problems associated with these ignition switches, it initiated a recall of about 800,000 vehicles in 2014, which was eventually expanded to over 30 million vehicles once the scale of the problem became apparent.

In March of this year, a 59 year-old woman, a woman in her 40s, and a 7 year-old boy fell about 12 to 15 feet out of a Ferris wheel in Washington State when the gondola they were in tipped over. The 59 year-old was hospitalized with serious injuries, while the others were treated and released. The company that owns the Ferris wheel claims that riders who fell out had been asked to remain seated during the ride’s rotation. However, a witness at the scene claims that it didn’t appear that the riders were moving around when their gondola tipped over, and a broken part was found on the deck of the ride shortly after the accident. The witness further claims that the riders did not start moving back and forth in the gondola until the car itself started coming apart and they were trying to hold on, and that she heard a grinding sound right before the accident.

This incident raises the question of theme park and festival safety, and what riders can do if they are injured on a ride. Below, we’ll examine some of the most common theories of liability for theme park accidents.


A jury in St. Louis, Missouri recently awarded a Virginia woman $110.5 million in damages after she alleged that their talcum powder products caused her ovarian cancer. Lois Slemp, a Virginia resident, claimed to have used Johnson & Johnson’s Shower-to-Shower and Baby Powder products over a period of four decades. The damages included $5.4 million in actual damages and $105 million in punitive damages. This follows jury verdicts of $72 million, $55 million, and $70 million  against Johnson & Johnson in 2016.

Does Talcum Powder Cause Cancer?

There is debate in the medical industry as to whether here is a link between talc, the main ingredient in talcum powder, and various forms of cancer. Talc is a mineral that is mined from deposits around the world, which is then crushed into a white powder for use in cosmetics and other personal care products to absorb moisture. It is also used in a variety of other products, including paint and plastics. In its natural form, talc contains asbestos, a substance that is known to cause cancer in and around the lungs when inhaled. However, all talcum products sold for home use in the United States have been asbestos-free since the 1970s. Most of the concerns about a link between talcum powder and cancer have been focused in two areas:

What happens when you are injured by using a product that you purchased?

As long as the injury wasn’t your fault–for example, you were using it incorrectly or using it for a purpose it was not intended for–you may be able to bring a products liability action against any party in the product’s chain of distribution. This includes the manufacturer, the manufacturer of a component part of the product, the party that assembled the product, and even the store where you bought the products. When you bring a products liability action, however, you must show that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous.

How do you do that? The law recognizes several ways.

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