Product Liability Research Paper Shericia Bonnett Professor Kapalko LEG 500 – Law and Ethics In the Business Environment 09/09/2012 Consumers use a variety of products on a daily basis to assist them in accomplishing a task or completing a project and they expect the product to be properly designed and safe to use. However, in the event that a product is defective and causes injury to the person using it, the manufacturer may be liable for the injury and have to compensate the injured person (s).
Companies that manufacture products need to be sure they are doing all within their power to assemble products that are free of defects that could accidentally cause harm and cost the company. Product liability is the responsibility of manufacturers, distributors and sellers of products to the public, to deliver products free of defects which harm an individual or numerous persons and to make good on that responsibility if their products are defective (Product Liability, 2011).
Products containing inherent defects that cause harm to a consumer of the product, or someone to whom the product was loaned or given, are the subjects of products liability suits (Product Liability Law).
Products liability claims can be based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness depending on the jurisdiction within which the claim is based. If a person(s) is injured while properly using a product that is defective, they have a right to file a claim against the company that would be titled a product liability lawsuit.
However, in order to prevail on a product liability claim, the product complained of must be shown to be defective (Product Liability Law, 2011). A defective product causes injury or damage to a person or a person’s property because of some defect in the product, its labeling or the manner in which the product was used. There are three types of product defects that incur liability in manufacturers and suppliers: design defects, manufacturing defects, and defects in marketing. Each of the defects has different parameters that must be considered when a claim is brought against a company.
Defective products can cause serious personal injury and even death; therefore, the manufacturer needs to make sure they have tested the product(s) rigorously to make sure they meet safe standards prior to making the product(s) available for consumers to purchase. Hitachi is a company that offers an extensive line of home improvement power tools and accessories, including woodworking and metalworking power tools, drilling and fastening equipment, and concrete drilling and cutting tools (Hitachi, 2010).
In addition, Hitachi offers pneumatic nail guns, staplers, compressors, and collated fasteners that allow users to easily remodel and maintain their home. Hitachi power tools are renowned for offering maximum convenience, precision, power, and durability and the products are sturdily designed and capable of delivering tough and revolutionary performance (2010). In spite of their sturdy design, one of the pneumatic nail guns had a safety issue that led to a lawsuit.
The product that had a safety issue was the pneumatic full head nail gun (Model NR83A). The pneumatic nail gun was capable of holding 64 – 70 nails and it had a contact trip trigger as a safety feature and it delivers 860 inch-pounds of driving force. The Model NR83A pneumatic nail gun is rather lightweight and it is by far one of the most powerful nail guns available on the market. However, Mr. Oliver was injured as a result of using the pneumatic Model NR83A nail gun that was defective.
It had a contact trip mechanism, which allows a nail to be fired when the nose of the nail gun is in contact with a surface and the trigger is pulled, regardless of the order in which those events occur. The fact that Hitachi’s gun didn’t have a sequential trip mechanism, which allows a nail to be fired only if the trigger is pulled after the nose of the gun contacts a surface, constituted a design defect. He filed a product liability lawsuit as a result of his injury. In the product liability case Martin Oliver vs. Hitachi, Mr.
Martin Oliver was the plaintiff while the company was the defendant. According to US Legal (2011), a plaintiff in a products liability case asserts that the manufacturer of a product should be liable for personal injury or property damage that results from a defect in a product or from false representations made by the manufacturer of the product. Mr. Oliver, a professional carpenter, was using a Hitachi Pneumatic nail gun (Model NR83A) to install skylight curbs on the roof of a building when he was suddenly injured and had to seek medical attention.
Suddenly and forcefully the nail gun recoiled, causing the nose of the nail gun to turn or rotate toward his face, hitting him on the upper lip, causing the nose of the nail gun to depress and fire a nail into his head and strike his brain (Nail Gun, 2012). He suffered from dizziness and headaches so intense that they brought him to his knees, he was examined again, and an X-ray revealed that a nail had lodged into his head, with its point penetrating his brain (2012).
As a result of the injury, Mr. Oliver sustained a traumatic brain injury that left him permanently disabled when a Hitachi NR83A nail gun shot a nail into his head. He was represented by attorneys Roger Gordon and Vincent Bennet and they presented his case based upon a design defect. Design defects are inherent; they exist before the product is manufactured. While the item might serve its intended use, it can be unreasonably dangerous to use due to a design flaw.
His legal team had contended that the nail gun was defective because it has a contact trip mechanism that makes it possible for a nail to fire out when the gun has touched a surface and the trigger is pulled, even if the trigger was activated before contact with the surface was made. They argued that it is a design defect for the nail gun to not include a sequential trip mechanism, which is supposed to ensure that a nail is discharged only if the trigger is activated after the nose of the gun makes contact with a surface.
The plaintiff accused Hitachi of not only knowing that this particular nail gun’s inherent risks outweighed the benefits of the design, but also of failing to get rid of or minimize this design flaw. Hitachi took its disregard for human safety a step further by intentionally omitting any reference to the nail gun’s potential for dangerously violent rebounds and the risk of inadvertently firing a nail from the later editions of the instruction manual for the NR83A nail gun. Mr. Oliver was awarded $2. M in the California products liability nail gun lawsuit against Hitachi USA; however, he still experiences headaches and imbalances as a result of the injury. Under the common law of torts, juries are free to award an injured plaintiff all sorts of damages, not only to compensate for damaged property or out-of-pocket medical expenses, but for punitive damages designed to punish companies who disregard safety (Halbert & Ingulli, 2012). I agree that the nail gun was defective and Mr. Oliver should have been awarded for the injuries he sustained because the nail gun was improperly designed.
The company should not have allowed the NR83A nail gun to be released to the public knowing that the trip mechanism was not in place and a nail could be released without making contact with a surface. He was awarded a sum of money but that will never cause his body to return to its’ normal state of being. As a result of the injury caused by the pneumatic nail gun Model NR83A, the company redesigned the NR83A known as the NR83A2 which is built to load differently and keep the nails from being ejected without the trigger being depressed. It is still fast and lightweight and has a better designed trigger.
The trip mechanism is in place and no accidents have been reported since the pneumatic gun was redesigned. If someone still has the older model NR83A, it can be repaired for free and is safer to use. The company is prone to provide safe nail funs to consumers and does not desire for them to be injured by any means. If though the company was not happy with the outcome of the product liability case, they managed to produce safer products. Also, the company provides access to information on its website on how to fix your drill if parts need to be replaced.
The newly designed NR83A2 features a stainless steel magazine and a comfortable rubber grip and it includes protective bumpers and safety glasses. The safety enhancements are that it has an open nose design for easy extraction of a jammed nail and it has selective actuation that allows transition from single actuation to contact actuation. The regulatory agency that oversees the nail gun industry is the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction (CPSC, 2011).
The CPSC website offers information about pneumatic nail guns that consumers can analyze and evaluate prior to purchasing one of them. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission and Hitachi power tool company recalled about 65,000 coil nail guns because a faulty feeder mechanism was causing the nails to discharge from the gun without being in direct contact with a surface (2011). Manufacturers recall many of their own products every year when defects and/or safety risks are discovered in their products. Most recalls occur for safety-related reasons.
Sometimes, a manufacturer will voluntarily recall products, and sometimes they are compelled to issue recalls. The CPSC website allows consumers to report unsafe products, research recalled products, and report accidents and injuries sustained from using a product. Nail guns are classified in the power tool category according to the CPSC and safety standards are a major concern in this particular category. Information as to how to contact a member of the CPSC is also available on the website and how the governing body regulates the agency is also available on the website.
The CPSC has a major responsibility to make sure consumers are purchasing safe products and if one is injured it must be reported accordingly and recalls will be posted on the CPSC’s website. In order for the Hitachi power tool company to avoid future lawsuits, they need to make sure the tools they are manufacturing are free from defects that could result in injuries or death to consumers. If the company continues to manufacture defective products, it is likely they will face more lawsuits that could cost the company millions of dollars.
The engineers should have to design a diagram that outlines every part that is required to assemble the product and they should study how each part will affect the next part. After carefully studying the diagram, proper machinery should be in place as well as certified workers that will properly assemble the products on the line. The first products should be made at a slow pace to make sure every part is in place and then it should be inspected for quality and then tested rigorously for defects.
If a defect is discovered, it should not be concealed but it should be examined thoroughly and adjustments should be made to the product. The company should not allow any products to be released from the company knowing that it has a defective part because it could cost the company in punitive damages in the days to come. Before releasing it to stores or wholesalers for public access, the company need to make sure the product has safety features that will prohibit nails from being released sideways and causing harm.
Also, the company should make sure the product has a safety manual that explains how to properly use the product so that an injury can possibly be avoided. The safety manual should address how to carry the nail up ladders properly, how and when to press the handle, the need to wear safety glasses and offer safety data on their website. If the safety manual is not available, the product should not be released from the company due to some consumers not knowing how to use the product safely.
The safety manual should provide illustrations for the person using the product to view and they will be able to see exactly how they should position and maneuver the product. Hitachi needs to value their products and the consumers that use them! However, proper assembly and safety should be their main priority prior to making a product available to the public and that should allow them the ability to avoid possible lawsuits in the future. References Halbert, T. , & Ingulli, E. (2012). Law & ethics in the business environment (7th ed. ).
Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. Hitachi Home Improvement Power Tools & Accessories (2010). Retrieved September 09, 2012, from www. hitachi. us/products. Product Liability (2011). Retrieved September 09, 2012, from www. legaldictionary. com. Product Liability Case Involving Nail Gun (2012). Retrieved September 09, 2012, from www. geklaw. com/news_nail_gun_victory. html. Product Liability Law (2011). Retrieved September 08, 2012, from. www. uslegal. com. US Consumer Product Safety Commission (2011). Retrieved September 09, 2012, from, www. cpsc. gov.
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Law and Ethics In the Business Environment. (2016, Oct 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/product-liability/