Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

July 2012 Archives

Hyundai Recalls Santa Fes, Sonatas for Airbag Problems

Korean automaker Hyundai announced the recall of almost 200,000 Santa Fe SUVs and more than 20,000 Sonata sedans for unrelated airbag issues.

The Hyundai recall applies to Santa Fe SUVs, model years 2007 through 2009, and Sonatas, model years 2012 and 2013, reports CNN Money.

Consumers are urged to return their vehicles to Hyundai dealers to have these defects addressed.

For the Santa Fe model, the airbag issue relates to the occupant sensor in the front seat. Airbags can be dangerous for small children and the sensor is supposed to detect when a small child is sitting in the passenger seat as opposed to an adult. When the sensor detects a small child, it should turn off the airbag. On the other hand, the airbag will be deployed if the detector senses that an adult is sitting there. Hyundai says it dealers will recalibrate the sensor to better distinguish between children and small adults.

For the Sonata, Hyundai says that there is an issue with the side airbag and that it may inflate unnecessarily. Hyundai says this defect is due to a manufacturing error and that dealers will resolve the issue.

The Hyundai recalls are just the latest in a busy month of automobile recalls during July. Honda and Ford both recently issued recalls of their own.

If you have been injured by a defective automobile, you may want to contact a product liability attorney. An experienced attorney can help you recover damages and review the options available to you.

Related Resources:

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) filed an administrative complaint against the makers of Buckyballs aiming to stop the sale of the magnetic toys due to safety concerns.

Buckyballs are aimed at adults and are basically small powerful magnets that can be manipulated into different shapes.

The CPSC says that while the toys are meant for use by adults, young children have been getting a hold of them and swallowing them. No deaths have been reported, but at least a dozen children needed emergency surgery to remove the magnets, reports The Associated Press.

For young children, Buckyballs pose a danger as they can resemble candy. A four-year-old boy ingested three Buckyballs magnets that he thought were chocolate, reports the AP. In addition, many teens have been using Buckyballs to mimic having a tongue piercing. With magnets on either side of their tongue, teens have accidentally swallowed the magnets.

The CPSC had been hoping that Maxfield and Oberton, the manufacturers of Buckyballs, would pull the toys off store shelves. However, the company reportedly refused to recall the product saying that its products are marketed to people 14 and older and carry clear warning labels. Now the federal agency is hoping that a judge will order the company to stop selling this product.

Regardless of the administrative action against Buckyballs, consumers injured by these products should know they can seek legal remedies against the company. For example, if Maxfield and Oberton could have made their product safer for children or marketed their product more effectively, the company could be responsible in a product liability lawsuit.

Related Resources:

Peg Perego has issued a stroller recall because of a risk of entrapment and strangulation, especially in children under one year old. The company has recalled two models of its strollers, Venezia and Pliko-P3. The models were sold by retailers between 2004 and 2010.

In total, the recall encompasses 223,000 strollers.

The recall only affects models with a child tray and single cup holder. Strollers with a bumper in front of the child or a tray with two cup holders are not involved.

Sometimes recalls occur as a preventative measure before anyone is hurt, but sadly that is not true in this case.

A six-month-old in Tarzana, California died from strangulation in 2004 when his head got stuck between the seat and the tray in his Peg Perego stroller, reports Associated Press. A seven-month-old was almost strangled in 2006.

The strollers would violate industry standards today but they were produced before those standards were introduced, according to the company.

Currently, stroller-manufacturers have voluntary standards that require larger openings between the stroller tray and seat bottom to prevent these kinds of incidents.

The recall appears to be voluntary and consumers can contact the company for free repair kits to make the stroller safe.

It's not clear yet why there was a delay between the death of the infant in 2004 and the recall which was announced Tuesday.

Manufacturers are expected to institute recalls once they know that products pose a significant danger to consumers. A death caused by a product is evidence that it's unsafe but the company must know of the event before it is required to recall the product.

If you own a Peg Perego stroller, check out the model numbers involved in the recall to ensure that your child is safe in the stroller. Peg Perego recommends not using affected strollers until they have been repaired.

Related Resources:

YouTube has introduced a new face blurring tool for videos uploaded to the site in an effort to enhance user privacy.

The tool makes it easy for video owners to blur the faces of people in the video to protect their identities. For videos that are public it means other users will often be unable to recognize the people in the video.

The tool will help protect human rights activists who otherwise would face government retaliation, according to a Google which owns YouTube.

But the new tool isn't foolproof. And it doesn't promise complete anonymity.

The face blurring tool on YouTube is similar to that used by Google in Google Maps Street View. If selected, the tool will blur all the faces that appear within a given video.

But the tool isn't perfect and it may not recognize faces that are at a strange angle, under unusual lighting, or partially obstructed, reports EWeek. Users will have the opportunity to check the blurring and determine if it is sufficient or if they wish to keep the video private.

Blurred faces alone don't guarantee anonymity. The tool will not blur and background scenery, including license plates, and cannot cover up a recognizable voice.

The tool does allow some additional privacy for users who upload content to YouTube, but not necessarily as much as simply making the videos Private.

YouTube will create an original and a blurred copy of a video if users choose to employ face-blurring. The video owner can choose which to publish according to The Telegraph.

That indicates an unblurred copy may be available on YouTube's servers. While the video would be blurred to the general public, the original could potentially be reached through a subpoena or a warrant in a criminal investigation.

For most people, YouTube's face blurring tool allows them greater control over their online identity. In a world with constant internet interaction, that can make a big difference for personal privacy.

Related Resources:

Cargill announced a ground beef recall of 29,339 pounds of meat in response to a seven-state salmonella outbreak. So far, 33 people have reportedly been sickened by eating the tainted meat.

The affected ground beef include packages of 85-percent lean ground beef that was produced on May 25, 2012. Officials warn customers to be aware of "use or sell by" dates between May 29 and June 16.

The beef was sold under different retail brand names at stores in the Northeast U.S. at the end of May and in early June, reports CBS. The products are no longer sold in stores given that the used-by-date has passed, but they may still be frozen in customers' homes.

So far, it appears that most of the beef was sold at the Hannaford Supermarkets chain located in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. These are also the states where most of the salmonella outbreaks have been reported. Cargill said it's contacting retailers to make certain they know which ground beef products are affected as the list of affected stores and locations could grow.

In the meantime, this ground beef recall is the second mass recall of meat by Cargill in as many years. Last year, the company recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey for a similar salmonella outbreak that sickened 107 people and killed one, reports CBS.

If you have been injured by eating tainted ground beef, you may want to talk to a product liability attorney to learn your rights. Cargill's ground beef recall is just its latest problem with tainted meat, and you may be entitled to compensation for any sloppy or dirty handling of the meat.

Related Resources:

Honda Recalls CR-V, Acura ILX Over Door Locks

| 1 TrackBack

If you own a Honda CR-V or an Acura ILX may be time for some repairs because Honda has issued a recall.

The company is recalling over 300,000 vehicles worldwide due to problems with the door locking mechanism. The recall is voluntary and no one has reported any injuries or accidents as a result of the problem, a Honda spokesman told Reuters.

In the U.S. that means 166,000 CR-V's and an additional 6,200 ILX's are being recalled for repairs.

So the question car owners want to know: what went wrong?

The recall was made because of a door latch malfunction. If the inside driver or passenger door handles are used at the same time as the power or manual door locks, it may cause the inner door latch to stop working reports Reuters.

That means the door won't actually latch when shut and could open randomly, including while the car is in motion.

Car manufacturers must issue a recall if there is a defect in the car's safety that cause it fall below federal safety guidelines. While Honda's recall was voluntary, had they failed to do so there would have been trouble with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The fact that this recall was issued before anyone reported the problems means that Honda likely discovered the defect themselves. This is especially true given the complex set of steps that would lead up to a malfunction.

Honda is recalling the both the Honda CR-V and the Acura ILX for inspection and repair if necessary. Owners of the affected vehicles should receive recall letters starting in mid-August 2012.

Related Resources:

Ford has sent out an auto recall for over 10,000 Escapes sold in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in response to a braking problem in the 2013 model. Employees found that the carpet interferes with braking according to a report sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The problematic carpet makes it possible for a driver to catch their foot on the back of the brake pedal when lifting off the accelerator. That could cause a delay in braking and potentially an accident.

Ford said they made the recall before any customers complained or were injured, but that doesn't mean they have no legal liability.

A car that has a dangerous defect could hurt someone and that can result in product liability.

Manufacturers are expected to make a product that works as expected. For cars that also means meeting required safety regulations.

If the product isn't up to standard then the manufacturer could be liable if anyone is injured.

A recall is an admission that the product is defective in some way and an offer to fix the problem for consumers. Ford has chosen to make repairs free of cost but a recall could also offer a trade-in or a refund for defective products.

Since Ford is offering to repair the problem for free, owners may be able to seek reimbursement if they paid to repair the carpeting before the recall went public.

After a recall goes out, injuries that occur from failure to make the suggested repairs can get tricky. Contacting a motor vehicle defects lawyer can help you figure out if you have a case.

If you own a 2013 Ford Escape, check their recall notice site to see if your car is affected.

This problem includes thousands of Ford Escapes but overall the auto recall has only affected a small percentage of the 2013 vehicle line. Ford sold 28,500 Escapes in June according to Huffington Post.

Related Resources:

Truvada's FDA approval is being heralded as historic, as it's the first drug ever approved to prevent sexually acquired HIV infection in healthy adults, Reuters reports.

But the drug's price may put it out of reach for many worldwide.

Truvada, made by Gilead Sciences of Foster City, Calif., combines two anti-HIV drugs in a single pill. The FDA had already approved Truvada as part of a multi-drug combo to help treat HIV-infected patients age 12 and older. (Details about the FDA's drug approval process is available here.)

The FDA's new approval, announced Monday, clears the way for doctors to prescribe Truvada to help prevent HIV infection in non-infected adults. Truvada can reduce the risk of HIV infection if it's used daily as part of an overall strategy that includes safe-sex practices, education, and regular HIV testing, according to the FDA.

"We are concerned about risk-taking behavior, however, the (clinical) trials did not bear that out," an FDA director said. "The hope is the right messages will get out and Truvada will be used properly."

Truvada's FDA approval comes after a study that found a 42% reduction in HIV infection rates when Truvada was taken daily. The study involved about 2,500 men who have sex with other men.

Another study involved more than 4,700 heterosexual couples in which one partner had HIV and the other did not. Results showed Truvada reduced the risk of infection by the non-infected partner by 75%, the FDA said in a statement.

Despite the promising results, Truvada's $480-a-year price tag may make it too costly for many in places hit hardest by HIV infection and AIDS, Bloomberg News reports. However, Gilead sells Truvada for as little as $8 a month in some low-income countries, a spokeswoman said.

As a condition for Truvada's FDA approval, Gilead must collect data from anyone for whom Truvada did not work, along with women who become pregnant while taking Truvada, Reuters reports.

Related Resources:

Excedrin has been off the shelves for almost six months due to a manufacturing snafu and migraine-sufferers are turning to expensive eBay sales to keep the pain at bay.

Bottles of Excedrin have been sold online for over $1 per pill which means rich profits for the sellers. At least one man has made about $300 per bottle in online sales on eBay according to the New York Post.

With the high costs and the threat of crippling migraines, there might be an argument that sellers are taking advantage of the people purchasing the highly coveted drug.

While the behavior may be unfair, whether it's illegal is a different matter.

A sale of goods in exchange for money is always a contract, even if nothing is signed. The buyer agrees to pay and the seller agrees to provide the purchased item.

The fact that it takes place online between two strangers doesn't change the enforceability.

It is possible to void a contract under a number of circumstances, including duress or coercion. If one person is forced into the agreement by threats then the contract isn't binding and the victimized party can back out.

But in order to prove it, the person must be threatened with unlawful or wrongful action AND they must have no choice but to agree to the deal.

The most obvious flaw in voiding these eBay sales is that there is no threat of illegal activity. The only threat buyers face is being struck with a migraine when they have no Excedrin.

Excedrin buyers also have a choice.

While migraine-sufferers prefer the name brand, generics should work just as effectively reports ABC's Health and Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser. It may not seem fair to someone who relies on Excedrin, but in terms of the law there is another option which would defeat a claim of duress.

Novartis has said that they hope to get some of their products back on shelves later this year. Until then, Excedrin buyers will likely have to put up with eBay price-gougers.

Related Resources:

Obama paying electric bills under a new bailout program sounds too good to be true. It sounds like the perfect scam; something people want to believe.

Oh wait, it is a scam.

Using the bad economy and Obama's bailout as a ruse, scam artists are convincing people to give up personal financial information. In exchange the alleged criminals promise that federal funds will cover one month of utility costs.

Most scams move through digital channels so criminals can hide their identities.

This one goes beyond social media and may soon be knocking on your door.

Brazen scam artists are allegedly going door-to-door in some areas and encouraging people to take part in the utility paying fraud. They collect Social Security numbers and bank account information, claiming the information is necessary to set up the bill payment system according to The Detroit News.

The bills are paid but then payments are rescinded a short time later reports MSNBC. By the time people realize they've been duped, the criminals have their financial information.

Misusing someone's identifying information, which includes Social Security numbers and financial information, is a crime which most states call identity theft. The scam has reportedly affected thousands across multiple states. It's national effect might open fraudsters to federal prosecution as well.

This kind of fraud is all too common and this particular scam has affected people all over the country. Victims may also face late fees for unpaid electric bills and in some cases may temporarily lose service while the missed payment is sorted out.

To prevent identity theft, don't share your personal financial information with anyone unless you have initiated the conversation and you are confident the recipient is trustworthy. Don't respond to emails or other electronic requests that ask for your bank account or Social Security information.

If you've been a victim of this scam, contact your utility company set things straight. Obama isn't paying your electric bills just yet and don't let anyone tell you different.

Related Resources:

There is a voluntary recall of the Skilsaw miter saw produced by Robert Bosch Tool Corporation, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced.

The Skilsaw recall potentially affects over 22,000 consumers who purchased the Skilsaw 10-inch compound miter saw at Lowe's Home Centers and OC Tanner stores from January 2012 through April 2012.

No reports of injuries or incidents have been reported. However, the CPSC is still investigating the product.

The problem with the Skilsaw 10-inch compound saw is apparently related to the lower guard of the saw. During use, the lower guard can break off. This causes the user's hand to come into contact with the blade and creates obvious laceration hazards, announced the CPSC. The agency said that consumers should immediately stop use of the saw and contact Robert Bosch Tool Corporation for a free lower guard replacement. Consumers can contact the company at (888) 727-6109 or visit the firm's website at www.skiltools.com to learn more about replacing their faulty saw.

As the CPSC continues its investigation, the agency urges any users injured by the Skilsaw to contact them on their website SaferProducts.gov.

In addition, those affected by the Skilsaw recall may want to contact a product liability attorney to learn their rights. That is, assuming they have suffered harm. Generally, producers of a consumer product are "strictly liable" for injuries their products cause. So a prospective plaintiff only has to show that he or she was injured by the product. The plaintiff would not have to show that producer was negligent or careless in design and production.

Related Resources:

The 5 Best Ways to Deal with Extreme Heat

Summer is in full swing and extreme heat warnings are happening around the country. Hot weather means it's time to hang outside. But being out all day in the sun can be trouble if you're not careful.

Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps are all common during hot weather and they can be dangerous. Being outside without a plan on how to cool off can be a recipe for disaster.

But extreme temperatures don't have to mean you have to bar the door and sit in front of the air conditioning. Just remember these 5 tips to stay safe in the heat.

1. Hydrate

Dehydration is dangerous and can lead to many other health problems. Drinking water throughout the day, even before you are thirsty, helps your body replenish needed fluid.

2. Sweat it Out

Perspire, glow, glisten - whatever you call it, humans sweat when it gets hot. It's an important function that helps the body cool down when temperatures rise. If you're not sweating, you're not cooling down and that's dangerous. If you notice you aren't sweating, seek out some shade and drink some water until you can feel the perspiration.

3. Eat Well

The downside of drinking a lot of water is something called hyponatremia caused by too little sodium. Sure too much is bad but your cells still need it to function. If you're sweating a lot you're losing salt so make sure to eat a little while you're chugging water. Light meals served cool or at room temperature are best for keeping your body cool.

4. Start Early

The hottest part of the day is generally a few hours before and after the sun reaches its peak. If you're planning a lot of activity like gardening or hiking, try to start as early as you can and avoid the midday heat.

5. Dress Right

Light and breathable fabrics will make spending time outside more comfortable. If you're doing strenuous activity, sweat-wicking fabrics may be good but if you won't be sweating a lot, they'll only make it harder to cool down. Lighter colors will also help you keep cooler than dressing in an all-black ensemble.

Staying cool in extreme heat will keep you happy and healthy while working on that tan. We'll drink (some water) to that.

Related Resources:

Malware Monday Left Thousands Without Internet Access

If you didn't already act, it's too late now.

Today is malware Monday. What this means is that the government took down a safety net that had been allowing infected users to access the Internet.

Thousands of users had been infected with the malware last year which allowed hackers to control infected computers through infected servers. The FBI was made aware of the problem and thought about shutting down the infected servers. But if they took these steps, the infected individuals would be left with no way to access the Internet immediately. So the government set up a safety net instead.

In an extraordinary act, the government set up a system of clean servers so that those infected could continue to access the Internet while being given time to solve their malware problem. The government gave infected individuals notice that their computers were infected as well as giving the users links on how to solve the problem. Infected users had eight months to clean their computers.

After much notice, the government finally pulled the plug on the clean servers this Monday. Now those infected users who failed to address the problem (or distrusted the government even more than the hackers) are unable to access the Internet.

So what legal recourse do infected individuals have? Sadly, probably very little. It's unclear who is responsible for the malware, and without a party to sue, infected individuals would be unable to recover damages. The government also would likely not be liable as they actually took steps to help infected users by setting up the clean servers.

Malware Monday is upon us. It's not yet certain how many individuals infected with the malware failed to take steps to resolve the problem. Unfortunately for these individuals, they're probably without both the Internet and legal recourse.

Related Resources:

BBQ Grill-Cleaning Brushes Posing Food Safety Hazard

July Fourth has come and gone and you likely ate your fair share of barbecue.

While there may be nothing quite like outdoor barbecue on a hot summer day, you may have also heard of some of the food dangers associated with eating barbecue.

Several years ago, scientists raised the alarm that eating burned and charred food may lead to increased cancer risk. Additionally, eating a lot of burgers and other red meat just isn’t good for you. Well if these barbecue dangers haven’t dissuaded you, this newest danger may.

Wire bristles from grill cleaning brushes are now finding their way into the food we eat, reports Food Safety News. This past year, six people were hospitalized after experiencing pain in their necks and stomachs. After taking a look, doctors discovered that each of the victims had wire grill cleaning bristles lodged in their throats or intestines. And the one common denominator in each case — all six had just eaten barbecue.

So should this newest barbecue danger keep you from eating the foods you love? Well, no. But you should be careful when gnawing on your meats and barbecued vegetables and keep an eye (or taste bud) out for foreign substances.

As for the particularly litigious grillers, unfortunately there is so far no data on a particular brand of grill brush that sheds wire bristles more easily than others. However, that should not stop you from contacting a product liability attorney if you believe that you have been injured by a product or particular barbecue danger.

Related Resources:

Be Prepared for a Summer Power Outage

The summer power outage affecting much of the United States could not have had worse timing.

As millions of Americans are suffering through record-breaking summertime temperatures, they are coping without air conditioning, refrigeration, and anything else that requires electricity.

Summer power outages are common. While this year may seem particularly bad, the summer is not over yet. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to prepare for a power outage.

Before an outage:

  • Register with the electric company if you have critical medical needs. Being registered can put you on top of the list when the electric company works on restoring power.
  • Have an emergency plan. Have someplace to go that you know will have power, or perhaps consider installing an emergency generator.
  • Assemble an emergency kit. Know what medications you need and have fluids available to hold you over.

When the outage hits:

  • Report the outage. Have the telephone number handy for the electric company when your power goes out.
  • Unplug major appliances. This will protect these devices from a power surge when power is restored.

After the outage:

  • Seek service credits, if available. Depending on your utility company's policy, you may be entitled to service credits and other compensation should you suffer through a prolonged summer power outage and deal with inconveniences like spoiled food in your fridge.
  • Can you sue? You'll probably only be able to sue over a power outage if the electric company or your landlord was somehow negligent or careless in causing it. Generally, acts of nature like a storm or heat wave will not entitle you to any damages for a summer power outage.

Related Resources:

167,000 Lexus, Audi Crossover SUVs Recalled

More than 167,000 Lexus and Audi crossover SUVs are being recalled in response to two separate safety issues.

The Lexus crossover SUV recall affects the most vehicles. More than 154,000 Lexus RX 350 and Lexus RX 450hcrossovers need service, as the vehicles' gas pedals can get stuck at full throttle, Edmunds Inside Line reports.

The problem occurs when an incompatible or unsecured driver's floor mat gets caught on the gas pedal, the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency said in announcing the recall. This "may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop the vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death," NHTSA said.

Only 2010 model year vehicles are included in the latest Lexus crossover recall. Lexus dealers will begin replacing or modifying affected gas pedals in August, according to the company. Owners can wait to receive a recall notice or call Lexus' toll-free hotline, (800) 255-3987.

In a separate crossover SUV recall, more than 13,000 Audi Q5 crossovers may pose a safety risk. Lab tests showed the front glass panel on the Audi Q5's sunroof may shatter in cold temperatures, The New York Times reports.

Audi is owned by Volkswagen, which will begin replacing affected glass panels in August, according to The Times.

Lexus is owned by Toyota, which has recalled about 14 million vehicles since 2009 to fix other gas-pedal and floor-mat problems similar to the Lexus crossover recall, according to Inside Line. Some drivers have claimed they were injured by unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles, leading to lawsuits; some are set for trial next year.

Anyone considering a similar suit over a Lexus or Audi crossover SUV recall may be up against time constraints, as statutes of limitations for civil cases vary by state. An experienced motor-vehicle defect attorney can help determine if your case is worth pursuing.

Related Resources: