Even the world's largest major appliance maker is sometimes faced with product liability concerns. The Whirlpool company website explains that the manufacturer has over $20 billion in annual sales, over 90,000 employees and approximately 70 locations. Some of their US brands include Kitchen Aid, Amana, Jenn Aire and Maytag; Fortune Magazine ranks them among the world's most admired companies.
An August 2016 report states that on August 25th Whirlpool began recalling over 15,000 microwave oven units due to a plastic part on the interior that can potentially catch fire. The company acknowledged that these units may have triggered one house fire and two others which spread only to adjacent cabinetry. Owners of these ovens are told to discontinue usage and contact the company for product replacement. This recall is much smaller than one in 2001, where they recalled roughly 1.8 million microwave and hood units that were determined to be a fire hazard.
Meanwhile, a class-action suit was filed in the US District Central Court in California against Whirlpool. This suit claims the manufacturer used insufficient quality heat insulation on models of their ovens. The various allegations include breach of warranty, defective design, product liability, and negligence. The attorneys for the plaintiffs seek compensatory, exemplary and statutory damages, among other relief.
The Whirlpool recall and similar problems are investigated by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC is an independent segment of the US government that's focused on consumer protection. They respond to consumer and industry complaints to support consumer product safety, coordinate recalls, product evaluation, and safety-related education.
Looking at Colorado Product Liability Law
In determining whether a product is dangerous, Colorado uses risk/benefit analysis to determine defectiveness. Traditionally risk/benefit analysis is employed or another method known as a consumer expectation test. The Colorado state courts haven't favored the consumer expectation testing method, stating reliance exclusively on consumer expectations is an insufficient means of determining how dangerous a product is (Camacho v Honda Motor Co. 1987). Some of the major considerations involved in a risk/benefit test are as follows:
- Determining how useful and desirable a product is.
- The probability of injury associated with usage of the product, as well as the likely seriousness of such injuries.
- Whether there are alternative products that are available which are safer by comparison?
- The feasibility of the manufacturer making changes to the product that would reduce the safety concerns, while still maintaining its usefulness & affordability.
- Determining the likelihood of reducing or eliminating safety concerns by better alerting or informing the consumer on proper product usage.
- The level of awareness among consumers of the product's inherent dangers.
- The manufacturer's likelihood of absorbing such costs through increased sales pricing and/or liability insurance.
Contact a Denver Product Liability Attorney
The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal has successfully advocated for those devastated as a result of dangerous or defective products in Colorado. Many corporations choose to value profits and shareholder interests above public safety. Contact the office today for a free consultation.