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5 of the Most Significant U.S. Product Recalls

December 20, 2022 In Mass Tort,Product Recall

As consumers, we expect that the products we buy are safe to use. We expect manufacturers to provide the basic level of care and ensure that their items are free of defects, follow industry-accepted safety protocol, and contain the necessary warnings and instructions. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Faulty products have led to many injuries and deaths in the United States, sometimes affecting thousands of consumers. Some product recalls are more significant and infamous than others. Here are some of the most significant U.S. product recalls.

#1: Merck’s Vioxx Medication

Vioxx was an arthritis drug manufactured by Merck, a major pharmaceutical company. However, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Vioxx in 1999, a shocking study revealed that 79 out of 4,000 patients developed cardiovascular problems or died after taking the medication.

As patients continued to take Vioxx, Merck received significant amounts of data showing that Vioxx caused patients to suffer heart attacks. In 2004, Merck issued a voluntary global recall on the medication, dropping the company’s market share by a third. In 2007, the company agreed to pay nearly $5 billion to settle lawsuits related to injuries caused by Vioxx.

#2: Johnson & Johnson’s Extra-Strength Tylenol

In the fall of 1982, seven people in the greater Chicago area died after they consumed extra-strength Tylenol. Subsequent testing discovered that this medication was laced with potassium cyanide, a deadly poison. No one ever discovered who tampered with the affected bottles of Tylenol, but because these drugs did not have a tamper-proof seal at the time, anyone could have committed the crime.

Johnson & Johnson recalled 31 million bottles of Tylenol in response to the crime and put out national warnings urging consumers to not take the drug. The FDA also issued guidance requiring tamper-proof seals for over-the-counter medications. 

#3: General Motors’ Ignition Switches

In 2014, manufacturer General Motors recalled a total of 30.1 million of their small vehicles due to faulty ignition switches. These switches were used to shut off car engines and airbags but failed to perform these critical functions, heightening the risk of car accidents. The defective switches were linked to 97 deaths since 2005.

General Motors received extreme criticism related to this crisis, especially after evidence revealed that the company knew about the defect since 2003. The U.S. Department of Transportation levied a $35 million fine against the company. General Motors has also set aside $550 million to compensate victims of the faulty ignition switches.

#4: Toyota’s Gas Pedals

In November 2009, the car manufacturer Toyota recalled over 5.3 million cars due to faulty gas pedals. Three months later, the company recalled an additional 4.1 million vehicles due to the same issue. 

These vehicles had poorly fitting floor mats, which trapped gas pedals and made them difficult to control. As a result, many drivers of Toyota vehicles were involved in serious accidents because they were not able to maintain control of their cars.

#5: Ford’s Cruise Control 

Car manufacturer Ford’s cruise control function was used to maintain a constant speed within its vehicles without drivers needing to use the accelerator. However, the deactivation switches needed to turn off the cruise control would overheat, posing a fire hazard. Additionally, the cruise control function would sometimes fail and malfunction, making it difficult to brake or maintain control of the vehicle.

Due to the defective cruise control, Ford was responsible for multiple deaths, injuries, and house fires. As a result, there was a major recall of Ford vehicles, including the Ford Explorer, Ford Ranger, and Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks. This recall was the largest in Ford’s history, involving 8 separate recalls over the course of a decade and an 18-month investigation by the federal government. 

What Impact Can Defective Products Have?

Any type of defective product can be extremely dangerous. From car malfunctions that cause accidents to medications with deadly side effects, a consumer who encounters a defective product can suffer from serious, sometimes fatal injuries and illnesses. 

As a result, they can suffer from financial hardship due to expensive medical bills and lost wages. They may be unable to work due to permanent disabilities and chronic physical pain. In many cases, victims of defective products suffer from emotional trauma and a loss of quality of life for years to come.

If you were injured by a defective product, you have the right to pursue legal action. In the United States, manufacturers are strictly liable if their products contain a defect and harm a consumer. You could file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer and, in some cases, the retailer or the distributor. The Belviq recall lawsuits and talcum powder mass torts are examples of product liability suits filed in the United States.

By filing this type of legal claim, you could recover financial compensation to pay for any losses related to the product defect. These damages may include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Disability accommodations
  • Lost wages and future earnings
  • Property damage sustained in the accident
  • Chronic pain
  • Permanent disability
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Mental anguish
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

What Can You Do If You Were Injured by a Defective Product?

If you were injured by a defective product, it is important to remain calm and seek help as soon as you can. Call 911 if you need emergency medical care and report the incident to the police if possible. Go to the doctor immediately, even if you do not feel hurt, and save all of your medical records; these documents will be critical evidence in your future case.

You should also preserve as much evidence as possible. If you can, keep the defective product in a safe place. Find any records related to your purchase or use of the product—evidence like receipts, invoices, and medical documents would be especially helpful. 

Once you have received medical care for your injury or illness, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer who specializes in defective product litigation can represent your legal claim against the manufacturer, explain your legal options, and recover the settlement that you deserve. Schedule a free case consultation to learn more about your next steps and identify your optimal path to compensation.