When purchasing a consumer product off the shelf, the furthest thing from anyone’s mind is to consider the potential danger it poses if it is defective. Rather, an immense amount of trust is placed in the manufacturing company that the product is safe to use, and will work as intended. Unfortunately, companies do make mistakes, whether it is an oversight on a design flaw, or failure to provide adequate warnings about product risks, defective products do make it into consumers’ hands, ultimately putting them into harm’s way. Over the years, there have been many defective product liability cases, but there are 5 large ones that have grabbed international headlines.

1. McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit

The McDonald’s scalding-hot coffee lawsuit is one of the largest known defective product cases of all time. Back in 1992, Stella Liebeck ordered a hot coffee from McDonald’s and took it out to her car. She placed it between her knees and removed the lid to stir in some sugar and cream, causing the coffee to spill all over her pelvis. The scalding-hot coffee gave her third-degree burns, requiring hospitalization for eight days, and skin grafting procedures. This left her with a permanently disfigured pelvis and with a partial disability for two years. Her attorney argued that the coffee was being served at temperatures that were too hot for consumption, rendering the product defective. Warnings about the coffee being too hot were also not given, as admitted by McDonald’s during the case. The original verdict was for $2.8 million dollars, but through years of appeals, the total amount was dropped down to $640,000.

2. Dow Corning: Silicone Breast Implant Health Risks

Spanning from the late 1970s through the 1990s, 170,000 women who received silicone breast implants from Dow Corning ended up suffering either ruptures, leakages, or illnesses (scleroderma) associated with their breast implants. In 1993, Dow Corning found itself entering into an agreement with plaintiffs over their defective silicone breast implants, and by 1995, they were facing 20,000 lawsuits and 410,000 potential claims. The result: Dow Corning agreed to pay out $3.2 billion in a class-action lawsuit that would give each woman $12,000-60,000 and would pay out $5,000 to each woman removing their implants, and $25,000 to women who had their implants rupture [1].

3. Owens Corning: The Dangers of Asbestos

Back in 1998, Owens Corning Corp agreed to pay out $1.2 billion to settle an asbestos-related product liability lawsuit. The class-action lawsuit had 176,000 plaintiffs that claimed that the company knew about the dangers of their asbestos building materials long before they took steps to protect their workers who handled the materials. This resulted in 237,000 claims from victims and family members who lost a loved one to either mesothelioma cancer, or asbestos-related illnesses.

4. Philip Morris (Altria Group): Tobacco Products & Lung Cancer

Back in 2002, a woman who had developed lung cancer filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris (now Altria Group), that claimed that her lung cancer was caused by smoking tobacco cigarettes. She cited that her tobacco addiction was caused by the company’s failure to provide adequate warnings about the risks of smoking on their products. This resulted in a jury awarding the plaintiff $28 billion in punitive damages and $850,000 in compensatory damages for her losses. This lawsuit went through 9 appeals, resulting in the total amount of damages being reduced to $28 million instead [2].

5. General Motors: Faulty Ignition Switch Case

Back in 2000 to 2004, there were numerous automobiles produced by General Motors that had a design defect in the ignition switch. When these vehicles were in operation, the faulty ignition switch would randomly shut off the engines, disabling the airbags from inflating. Sadly enough, General Motors hid the ignition switch defect by redesigning it without changing the part number on the switch, committing fraud in the process. Before the redesign of the switch, this defect led to 124 known deaths and 300 reported injuries. General Motors agreed to pay out $900 million dollars to settle and ended up recalling 30 million vehicles in 2014 related directly to this product liability case.

Here at Chubb Law, we fight for those who have been injured by dangerous products, so if you or a loved one has been injured by a defective product, please give us a call at (407) 777-4382, or email us. You deserve to have your rights protected, and the evidence of your case reviewed.