How Product Recalls Work

Yesterday we spoke about how Product Liability Litigation works, and how it can protect all consumers, not just our clients.  In that message, we mentioned that product recalls created from this litigation are one of the ways all consumers are protected by product liability litigation.  But how do product recalls themselves work?

There are many signals that can lead to a product being recalled by a manufacturer.

From the Manufacturer:

Sometimes manufacturers will find an error or mistake in their own production line and they move forward to initiate a recall.  Local, state, and federal organizations like the Food and Drug Administration or the Consumer Products Safety Commission are contacted and an alert is generated to suppliers, distributors, and news organizations about the recall.

Attempts are made through these organizations to notify the public and known consumers of the issue.  When consumers who have the product contact the manufacturer, they are notified of the recall, and rebates, coupons, reinstallation, or other measures are made to correct the issue for those consumers.

From the Public:

When consumers buy a poorly produced item or product they often complain about it.  Some of the most common places these complaints are directed are to the FDA, NHTSA, EPA, or other state or federal organization.

These organizations then contact the manufacturer of the product and an investigation is opened to find out what is the cause of the complaints.  If an issue with the production of the product is found, a recall order is given, and the message goes out through those same organizations mentioned before.

Through the Courts:

As we mentioned yesterday, even with these other notification options in place, recalls do not happen.  This can occur when the manufacturer does not find the production error, they dispute the government organization’s determination of a product error, or they otherwise decide not to issue a recall.  This is when the courts can step in.

Through litigation and through these governmental agencies, the U.S. Court system has the option to demand that a product recall is issued by the manufacturer.  If that manufacturer refuses to issue a recall at that point they open themselves up to further litigation, fees, and fines.

What a Recall Looks Like:

If you’ve ever purchased a new vehicle, it’s likely you’ve also received a recall notice.  Typically you receive a letter in the mail describing what the issue is, its seriousness, and options you can take to have your vehicle fixed at the manufacturer’s expense.  Vehicles are easy though, as you are required to keep an updated registration of your automobile with the state.

Sometimes recalls have such a large impact on a community that local or national news will report on them and encourage affected consumers to contact the manufacturer for options.  The Firestone Tire recall in 2000 and the pet food recall in 2007.  In both instances, the severity of the issue and its scope lead national news organizations to carry stories of both the issues and the recalls.

Most recalls on products come and go on a daily basis, and the public at large is unaware of them.  Even those consumers who have recently purchased a product may not be aware of recalls on that product.  This is because most purchases do not require you tell the supplier who you are or where you live.

There are several resources that work to notify all consumers about recalls on products.  Recalls.gov gives information from federal organizations that have recalls, and there are several state and local organizations that attempt to provide the same or similar information on recalls.

What to do With a Recalled Product:

There are several options you have as a consumer if you have a product that has been recalled.  Sometimes it’s as easy as throwing that product out or otherwise removing it from your home.  When food products are recalled, this is usually the best option.

If you purchased a larger item, like a baby carriage, or television, that may pose a danger, but had a significant cost, throwing it away may not be an option.  In these cases it is best to contact the manufacturer or the agency who issued the recall to find out what your options are.

Often the manufacturer will replace or repair the defective product at no cost to you.  Sometimes, if the product was removed from the market, they will offer a rebate or refund on the recalled item.  Sometimes, manufacturers won’t do anything regarding the faulty product, and that is when Products Liability Litigation may be necessary.

If you or someone you know was harmed by a product that you believe should have been recalled, please contact us.  We have worked on many Product Liability cases and would be happy to review the facts of your case.

Wooten Kimbrough, P.A.  Orlando Product Liability Attorneys



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