The push for innovation can harm product reliability

On behalf of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC posted in Product Liability on Monday, October 22, 2012

Some of the stories of defective products are well known and some less so, but all involve poor design and in some cases, pain and injury for the people who bought the items.

Two years ago, Johnson & Johnson recalled 93,000 artificial hips after about one out of every eight patients who had one implanted had to have a second surgery to correct problems with the hip replacement device.

Earlier this year, GE recalled over a million dishwashers that contained defective heating elements that could ignite fires.

Last year, Southwest Airlines grounded 79 jets after a Boeing 737 ripped open in-flight. The three-foot hole enabled the more than 100 passengers on the flight to see blue sky through the gash.

In a recent article on product failure, Wired magazine noted that part of the reasons products break is the constant push in the marketplace to have something new, something lighter, faster, better and more beautiful than last year’s product.

“To do this (manufacturers) are constantly reaching for new materials and design techniques. All this is great for innovation, but it’s terrible for reliability,” the article states.

Many of us recall a vivid example of a tragically unreliable product. A little more than a decade ago, a TV reporter was told by an attorney about a case he was handling involving a woman who was killed when a steel-belted Firestone tire on her Ford Explorer suddenly came apart, causing the her to lose control of the Explorer and the vehicle to flip.

The reporter started asking around and found 20 more such cases and nearly 30 more dead victims in crashes involving Ford Explorers and Firestone tires ripping apart.

According to reports compiled after the story broke, at least 192 people were killed in tread-separation crashes involving the Firestone tires and more than 500 people were injured — most of the accidents were in Ford Explorers.

Of course, no product can be made 100 percent safe, but there are too many products that could be and should be safer for consumers to use in normal, everyday activities. After those unsafe products are sold to unsuspecting consumers and damages are incurred, a products liability attorney can help guide a victim through the complicated legal system that must be navigated in order to receive full and fair compensation.

Source: Wired, “Why Things Fail: From Tires to Helicopter Blades, Everything Breaks Eventually,” Oct. 19, 2012