Can You Recover for Product Recalls?

Every day, the news is filled with stories of recalled products from name-brand companies. You may have seen a postcard or two in the mail, notifying you of some vague rights related to a product you once bought, that has since been recalled. Almost every driver in the U.S. has owned a vehicle at one time or another that has had some sort of recall. Many of these recalls are for some minor part or issue, often times so minor as to not make it worth the time or hassle to get it fixed. Some of these recalls, like the recent GM ignition switch recall, have serious implications that have caused death, and should be dealt with immediately. Recently, a large number of airbags made by the Japanese firm Takata, and used across many different makes and models of cars, have been recalled. These nationwide recalls are resulting in thousands of affected vehicles. For owners of these products subject to these nationwide recalls, the risks they were exposed to and the time and expense necessary to resolve the issues has many people wondering: Am I entitled to compensation for product recalls?

When some one has been injured or killed by a defective product that was later recalled, the court system is the typical venue for recovery. General Motors has faced numerous wrongful death suits for its alleged ignition switch failures; deaths that drove the recall despite the car company’s earlier protests that a global recall wasn’t necessary. While no deaths have yet been reported, Takata airbags are now the subject of a massive alert issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that could ultimately affect nearly 8 million vehicles.

Consumer Product Recalls

Consumer and medical products, while not as widespread as vehicle issues, can also be subject to recall. Consumer products like strollers or toys that pose a potential risk to small children are common products that are subjected to later recalls when their risks become apparent. Usually, the manufacturer offers a free, upgraded replacement to the defective product rather than attempting to get consumers to take the product in to be “fixed”, which many consumers will never do. In some cases, consumers are compensated with a discount coupon or free products (in the case of consumable foods or drinks) when food products are recalled because of possible contamination. Seldom do these types of consumer product recalls ever result in more than a small monetary payment for the harm caused.

Medical Device Recalls

Medical devices that have been recalled are usually done so by the Food and Drug Administration. Unlike consumer product recalls, these are typically done on a “mandatory” basis by FDA, although some products are recalled by the companies themselves to avoid future expense and litigation risk to the manufacturers. In the cases where the device itself is determined to be “defective” (typically some type of medical product left in the body, like an implant or surgical mesh), then consumers are entitled to compensation for medical bills and impairment to their lives or health. The compensation that the victims are entitled to from injuries resulting from defective medical devices is determined largely through litigation by Plaintiff mass tort firms, and can result in very large volume jury awards or cash settlements. Some of these lawsuits, like the recent Medtronic Infuse lawsuits, allege that manufacturers were aware of their device issues prior to recall, but sought to hide or cover up the extent of the defects, resulting in further risk and harm to people who the devices were used on.

For people who have purchases or used any product subject to a recall, the effects can range from mild inconvenience, to catastrophic health problems or death. The vast majority of product recalls don’t make the news, but are handled behind the scenes by the companies responsible. Where serious injury or expense has occurred, then victims may be better suited pursuing the litigation route. If you become aware of a product you use or have been exposed to being recalled, the responsibility falls to you to act accordingly to resolve the issue if it is one with the potential for physical harm. Don’t rely on the manufacturers of products to be the ones who most look out for you and your safety.