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Particularly Egregious Product Failures Cause for Punitive Awards

Particularly Egregious Product Failures Cause for Punitive Awards

Most nutrition experts agree that Americans could stand to eat less red meat and more fish. But the case against a New York City-based fish processor that distributed Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono)-infected product in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Massachusetts is hardly encouraging news. In fact, it is the kind of product liability scenario that could send a consumer to both a doctor and a lawyer.

The bacterium can cause Listeriosis, sometimes fatal for those who have compromised immune systems as well as newborns and fetuses. When a pregnant woman ingests it, she risks a preterm birth and the child may have respiratory, heart and intestinal problems.

But product failure and ill effects aren’t limited to fish or even food. Pharmaceutical products can have serious adverse effects, while auto design and assembly can lead to death as well (consider the history of “rollover SUVs”). In each case, consumers had no reason to expect the product would harm them, and certainly the manufacturer or retailer marketed the product as safe and beneficial.

When a plaintiff files a product failure lawsuit, it is generally to recover for damages — medical costs, lost wages and in the case of a death the loss of future income, companionship or the value of household tasks (say, if the person previously was a homemaker and caretaker of minors or an elderly relative living in the home).

But in particularly egregious cases, where the defendant is proved to have acted maliciously or wantonly or with willful disregard for the consumer, the court may decide to award punitive damages as well. In such a case as with the fish company, where L. mono was detected in six out of seven inspections while other safety requirements were also not met, a products liability lawsuit seeking punitive damages is conceivable for seriously impacted patients.

Anyone who has been seriously hurt by a product malfunction should speak with a personal injury attorney. If the case is viable, the lawyer representing the plaintiff will collect no fees until a judgment is won.

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