The safety of consumers is non-negotiable and therefore, it is essential that manufacturers of products known to be defective must move swiftly or face robust consequences.
For over 34 years as an attorney prosecuting product liability claims against manufacturers who placed defective products in the stream of commerce, I have witnessed the swinging of the consumer safety pendulum with limited or no government involvement to a situation where government agencies are now taking a more aggressive stance holding manufacturers accountable. I am still concerned that the pendulum has a bit more swinging to do in the direction of greater consumer protection.
In the last few years, many of America’s automobile manufacturers have become aggressive conducting product recall programs and the product recalls have spread throughout the world particularly in the automotive industry.
In some countries like the U.S. and Europe, criminal and monetary penalties are becoming increasingly enforced by regulatory bodies. No doubt in many of the cases we litigate a game of hide and seek or a corporate “cover up” takes place when the company learns of a problem with its product. Typically a company learns of a product problem through a customer complaint, legal complaint or claim, news coverage, or regulatory investigation conducted by such governmental agencies as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Product defects are often caused by manufacturing defects, design defects, contamination, misbranding, mislabeling, and failure to warn.
Often we are puzzled that it took automobile manufacturers so long to issue recalls despite the fact that they have known of the recall defects for years if not decades. Simply stated, many times automobile manufacturers wait too long to issue recalls still emphasizing profitability rather than consumer safety.
The corporate culture is entrenched in boosting stockholder returns and profitability and many times executives make penny wise yet pound foolish decisions particularly in tough economic climates.
One of the most defectively designed vehicles on the road, the 15-passenger van, is still in continuous use by schools, churches, and tour groups despite the fact that a well-known design defect causes these vehicles to be the repeated source of catastrophic injuries and death.
With spring flowers in bloom, many innocent people will be killed during the summer travel season while riding in 15-passenger vans. The risk of rollover in a 15-passenger van is high due to the fact that the 15-passenger van with 10 or more occupants has a rollover rate nearly three times higher than one carrying fewer than five people.
A number of known factors contribute to the high risk of rollover in the 15-passenger van due to the fact that it has a high center of gravity causing instability and a potential for drivers to lose control during an emergency or accident avoidance maneuver and a substantial rear overhang which causes the tail to wag the dog in a lane change. This defect, coupled with a “steering wander” issue or problematic tire, is a recipe for disaster.
Although federal regulators warn of 15-passenger van rollovers and many experts who designed the same reported these defects to the manufacturers, there has yet to be a recall. Simply stated, manufacturers have made a calculated decision that it is simply cheaper to resolve claims when they arise rather than recall the line and make a necessary inexpensive fix such as resolving a steering wander problem or adding a dual tire spacer system. Hopefully, the victims or their surviving family members will retain the right experts or attorneys experienced in litigating these cases to put them on equal footing with the corporate giants looking to deferred and deny their claims.
Our firm has litigated dozens of cases involving victims catastrophically injured or unfortunately killed due to the known defects of 15-passenger vans. Yes, they are still dangerous after all these years and have not been recalled despite multiple governmental and consumer warnings.
As consumer safety advocate Sean Kane noted, “This is a vehicle that by all measures – including NHTSA – has been found unsafe for its intended purpose and still remains on the road. This is a classic example of having a defect that is too big to recall.”
Wrongful Death As a Result of Defective Product
Contact the experienced legal team at The Reiff Law Firm. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing victims who have suffered catastrophic injury as a result of defective products such as automobiles, trucks, machinery, medication, toys, car seats, and many other types of products. Call today for a free consultation at (215) 246-9000.