Defective Appliances & Electronics
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Modern electronics and household appliances have made life easier for American families, but they have also brought with them unseen hazards that cause thousands of accidents in homes every year. We can't imagine life without our televisions, refrigerators, washers, dryers, and dishwashers, but these appliances can conceal hidden dangers.
If you were injured by a defective appliance, our product liability attorneys can offer you a free consultation to discuss the incident and whether the manufacturer may be held accountable. With our experience, we are well-equipped to assert your legal rights to the fullest extent in order to seek maximum compensation for your injuries.
Instability & Tipping Hazards
According to the CPSC, there were a total of 42,700 appliance instability and tipping-related accidents between 2000 and 2006. Most of these were related to tipping of furniture and appliances. In the same period of time, 180 fatalities resulted from instability and tipping-related accidents. 96 of these resulted from the tipping over of furniture, while 87 occurred when televisions tipped over. In most of these accidents, children below the age of 10 were the most frequent victims, accounting for nearly 45% of all injuries and close to 80% of all fatalities.
Household appliances that are most often linked to instability and tipping hazards include:
- Trash compactors
- Cooking ranges
- Washing machines
Typical injuries reported include the following:
- Organ damage
The CPSC defines instability and tipping as two different concepts for the purpose of classifying such hazards. Instability is defined as a problem with the center of gravity of an appliance that renders it unstable. Tipping, on the other hand, involves interaction in the form of exerting force or pressure on the appliance, causing it to topple over.
Over the years, the CPSC has announced recalls for many appliances prone to toppling over. The most recent and high profile was the Sears stoves and cooking ranges recall in 2008. These were made of lighter lower grade steel in an effort to cut production costs, and were prone to falling over when pressure was placed on the doors of the ovens. People, including children standing nearby, suffered burn injuries, scalding and crushing injuries.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) mandates safety standards for the sturdiness and stability of stoves and ranges, and requires that they be provided with brackets to help secure them to countertops and walls before use to avoid tipping over. However, even as the company manufactured these brackets, it did not train its delivery crews to install the brackets. Consequently, homeowners remained unaware of the dangers of tipping over of the stove, and as a result, there were several injuries as stoves and ranges toppled over.
Electrocution Hazards: Defective Products
When electrical shock results in death it is called electrocution; however, non-fatal exposure is called electric shock. All levels of electrical exposure can cause severe injuries. The severity of the injuries will depend on the intensity of the electrical current and the duration of exposure. The number of accidents involving electrocution as a result of defective consumer products has decreased steadily since 1994, but even so, 40% of all electrocution deaths that occur in the country take place because of defective consumer products.
Sources of Electrocution in the Home
- 19% of all electrocutions in the US are caused by large appliances like washing machines.
- Exposed wiring is, reportedly, the leading cause of electrocution in this category of deaths.
- Gardening equipment like lawn blowers and weed eaters count for almost 7% of all electrocutions.
- Lighting equipment like lighting fixtures, bulbs, lamps, etc. is responsible for 6% of all electrocutions.
- Smaller household appliances like microwave ovens cause 4% of deaths due to electrocution.
Signs of Electrocution
- Burns where electrical current passed through body
- Pain and tingling
- Blurred vision or difficulty seeing
- Paralysis of the muscles
- Disorientation and inability to talk coherently
- Seizures or respiratory arrest
- Irregular heart beat
- Weak or irregular pulse
- Elevated or low blood pressure
- Muscular contractions
- Hemorrhage of the brain or of other organs
Fire & Burn Hazards
Every year, household appliances and electronics are responsible for many fires, explosions and burn injuries.
Causes of fire and burn hazards in defective consumer products include:
Defective wiring in an appliance can quickly short circuit, causing the appliance to burst into flames. It's not possible for a consumer to detect wiring problems and when accidents occur, they often result in burn injuries.
Defective manufacturing and design can cause appliances to overheat, resulting in burn injuries to persons using the appliance. In 2008, Sears recalled a line of coffeemakers that were prone to overheating, causing melting of the plastic casing and damage to the countertop. JCPenny also recalled a line of deep fryers after the heating element of the fryer was found to overheat, causing burn injuries to users. Sony was forced to recall a line of laptop computers after overheated batteries began to result in smoke and flames emerging from the computer. Several burn injuries were reported before the notebooks were pulled off the shelves.
A defective product can cause injuries even when it is used in the manner intended by the manufacturer. In the past few years, several products have been recalled due to manufacturing defects that can lead to serious burn injuries. For instance, in 2007, Lowe's was forced to recall the Perfect Flame Four Burner Gas Grills that were missing a hose connecting the grill to the side burners, exposing users to fire and burn hazards.
Other manufacturing defects that may cause burns or fires include:
- Gas grills that melt while heating
- Gas ovens that can cause gas to build up within the oven, resulting in minor explosions
- Self-cleaning ovens that burst into flames when the door is opened
- Stoves with ill fitting burners that cause propane gas leaks
- Stoves with missing parts that result in fire hazards
- Appliances with faulty labeling or insufficient instructions
Boiler Failure Injuries
Boilers are commonly found in peoples' homes to provide them with hot water or in industrial environments to produce steam power; when boilers fail, they can cause burns, scalding injuries and even explosions. When boilers fail they can also cause fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and extensive property damage.
A boiler can malfunction due to design or fabrication defects, improper installation, improper operation, or poor maintenance. Rising temperatures and corrosion can also lead to boiler malfunctions with catastrophic results. Overuse, wear and tear and improper repairs can also lead to boiler failures.
Boiler explosions can occur when pressure builds up in a boiler; when this
is the cause, the resulting explosion can often be strong enough to take
down a building. Boiler explosions can be triggered by human error—failing
to remove explosive gases from the firebox before lighting the device
or allowing the boiler to operate without enough water.
Common boiler failure injuries include:
- Head trauma
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Loss of limbs
Individuals who have experienced a boiler failure that resulted in personal injury or property damage may be entitled to seek compensation from the boiler manufacturer or installer, depending on the cause of the malfunction.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs as a result of inhalation of toxic carbon monoxide fumes. These fumes are emitted from the combustion generated by automobiles, heaters, stoves, lanterns, and fires. From 1985 to 1990, 250+ deaths occurred as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning; close to 80% were linked to furnaces and room heaters. The majority of these deaths were attributed to fumes emitted from natural gas water heaters and furnaces.
When carbon monoxide is inhaled and enters the blood stream it interferes with the ability of the blood to supply oxygen to different parts of the body. Hemoglobin, the blood molecule which is responsible for oxygen supply, finds carbon monoxide easier to carry through the body than oxygen. The carbon monoxide binds tightly with the hemoglobin molecule and is transported to various parts of the body through the blood. This results in body cells being depleted of fresh oxygen, eventually contributing to cell death.
The following symptoms may indicate that carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred:
- Difficulty breathing
- Change in skin tone to a bright cherry pink
- Disturbance in eye hand coordination
- Nausea & vomiting
- Mental confusion
- Inability to move body parts
- Blood pressure may drop
- Convulsions may occur
- Cardiac failure may occur
- Body temperature may become lowered
- In extreme cases, death can result
When a person exhibits symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, the source can usually be traced to:
- Kerosene heaters
- Barbecue grills
- Gas furnaces and heaters
- Gas dryers
- Gas powered cooking ranges and ovens
- Propane run refrigerators
- Wood burning stoves
Outside the house, sources of poisoning may be in the form of a car emitting carbon monoxide fumes in a garage, lawnmowers, camping gear like lanterns and stoves, as well as wood burning stoves. Since 1995, several indoor and outdoor consumer products linked to carbon monoxide emissions have been recalled. Certain models of carbon monoxide detectors and alarms configured to detect and warn consumers of emissions have also been recalled due to inefficiency and inability to detect increasing levels of carbon monoxide.
Ready to receive skilled legal counsel? Contact a product liability attorney at our firm to review your options after injuries caused by a defective appliance or electrical device.