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Increase in product recalls may lead to rise in liability suits

Maryland residents purchase millions of different products each year, including food, medical devices, pharmaceutical products and general consumer goods. Some have been on the market for decades, while there are countless new products introduced each year. With an increasing number of products inevitably comes a growing number of warnings about defects, malfunctions and instances of contamination. When producers discover these problems, they usually announce a recall or a warning to consumers about the potentially dangerous product.

In the last year alone, a total of 2,363 products were subject to a recall, amounting to approximately 6.5 recalls every day of the year. With such a staggering number of defective items, it would be impossible for the average consumer to be aware of them all, or even for media outlets to properly inform the public about more than a handful of them. The sad reality, then, is that many people could be seriously injured and even killed by a dangerous product already identified as defective.

One of the obstacles to effectively notifying consumers about product dangers, in addition to their sheer number, is an inconsistency of methods. Some companies rely on phone calls, letters or email; others are more likely to use social media. No single method will reach every consumer, however. Another problem may be that there is no central, uniform network companies can use to notify anyone who might have used their defective products. Companies also sometimes underestimate the time and cost that an effective recall requires. When they become overwhelmed as a result, they risk responding too slowly to customers.

Not surprisingly, with missed recalls come a host of product liability lawsuits. Consumers not properly made aware of a dangerous product may be able to receive compensation for medical bills, lost income and, in the worst cases, funeral and burial costs, among damages for pain and suffering.

Source: USA Today, "Surge in products being recalled may be numbing consumers," Christopher Doering, June 10, 2012

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