As consumers, we like to believe the products that we use are safe. However, in 2017 alone, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) reported 13,458,864 injuries associated with consumer products from the U.S. The report looked at defective products such as toys, recreational equipment, personal use items, general household appliances, and more.
Unfortunately, many times we don’t see or even know about these injuries due to defective products until they have affected too many users. Unless the company, either willfully or by the demand of a major institution such as the US Food and Drug Administration, issue a recall of their defective product. For example, last year, the FDA recalled 9,199 products and sent 15,318 warning letters.
Let’s take a look at the most notorious defective products in recent history, their recall cases, and the loss for the companies, as well as the impact on consumers.
Ford Pinto Fuel Tank Fires – 1978
Recall: 3.1 million Pinto Ford vehicles
Cost: Estimated $15 to $24 million
While this recall story is not recent, it was one of the biggest and most talked-about product recalls ever. During the years 1971 to 1980, Ford sold over 3 million Pinto model vehicles. Before Ford released the ‘78 model, the company was aware of the defective fuel tank used in the cars. However, the company believed at the time it was better to pay for injury claims than to fix the issue.
After a man’s Pinto burst into flames during a low-speed accident, the man was awarded $125 million in damages for his case. It is estimated that around 180 deaths can be attributed to Pinto’s fuel tank fires.
Firestone Tires with Defective Treads – 2000
Recall: 19.5 million Firestone tires
Cost: $3.1 billion
Between 2000 and 2001, Ford had to recall 19.5 million Firestone Wilderness tires outfitted on their Ford Explorer SUV. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 100 deaths involving the vehicle were due to treads separating on one of the tires while driving.
At the time of the issue, Ford and Firestone blamed each other for the safety issues. Whether it was the safety of the SUV or defective tires, both companies had to pay the costs to injured consumers.
Vioxx Causing Cardiac Events – 2004
Recall: 4 million American patients at the time
Cost: $6.4 billion
Possibly one of the deadliest product recalls in history, Vioxx was a “revolutionary” drug for arthritis pain. The pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. issued a voluntary recall after a study by the FDA determined the drug may have contributed to over 27,000 heart attacks and countless sudden cardiac deaths, although the company did not take responsibility for the latter.
The drug not only caused tremendous suffering for the families of patients, but it also had enormous financial implications for the company. The company lost about $725 million in sales, settled most of its product-liability lawsuits for $4.85 billion and paid $830 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit.
Mattel Toys Coated in Toxic Lead Paint – 2007
Recall: 21 million Mattel toys
Cost: $50 million
Back in 2007, Mattel and Fisher-Price recalled Barbie playsets, Dora the Explorer figurines, and other toys due to a lead poisoning hazard. The report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said the toys used paint that contained excessive levels of lead, which is toxic when ingested, especially in young children. Luckily, no reported injuries occurred at the time of the recall.
However, Mattel still had to endure the financial loss and agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit by the families that purchased the defective toys. The settlement estimate was $50 million.
Exploding Takata Air Bags – 2008
Recall: 287.5 million airbags and counting
Cost: $24 billion and counting
The Takata airbag product recall is by far the most notorious and lengthy product recall in history. The NHTSA issued the recall for the infamous Takata airbags found in Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Ford, Mazda, General Motors, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, and Mitsubishi vehicles. The defect caused the airbag to explode, causing serious injury, and in some cases, death. Tens of millions of vehicles were affected in the U.S. alone.
As of 2017, according to the NHTSA, 12 deaths and 200 injuries can be attributed to Takata airbags. The Japanese company filed for bankruptcy in 2017. The estimated total cost for the recall is yet to be determined.
General Motors’ Faulty Ignition Switch – 2014
Recall: 2.7 million vehicles
Cost: $4.1 billion
It seems cars are the most vulnerable to product recalls. In 2014, General Motors vehicles could not escape the faulty ignition switches recall. The defect was the ignition switch could shut down the engine without warning, disabling power steering, airbags, and brakes. At least 124 deaths and over 248 injuries can be attributed to this defective product. The company knew of the safety issues as early as 2004, yet fell short in addressing the issue.
In the end, General Motors said the recall cost the car company $4.1 billion, with almost half of it spent to repair recalled vehicles, nearly $870 million to settle death and injury claims, and another $900 million in a settlement with the Department of Justice.
Volkswagen’s Diesel Emissions Scandal – 2015
Recall: 11 million Volkswagen vehicles
Cost: $14.7 billion
In 2015, Volkswagen was not only facing a product recall, but also a massive scandal (dubbed ‘Dieselgate’) that changed the way consumers looked at the brand forever. According to the recall, the company programmed diesel models’ software to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels during emissions testing. In reality, the affected models were responsible for nearly 40 times the U.S. legal limit for NOx emissions.
After the recall, it took VW’s stock over two years to recover. The company paid a $14.7 billion settlement to compensate car owners and address environmental harm related to the NOx emissions of their cars. Volkswagen agreed to pay $2.7 billion to fund efforts to reduce NOx emissions in areas with severe smog. The company also pledged to invest $2 billion in manufacturing and promoting electric vehicles. However, these actions do not undo the damage done to the brand’s reputation in the eyes of consumers.
Samsung’s Overheating Galaxy Note 7 Batteries – 2016
Recall: 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones
Cost: $10 billion
In one of the most well-known product recalls in recent years, Samsung had to recall almost 1 million cellphones after serious burns and fire hazards. After 92 reports of the battery on their Galaxy Note 7 overheating in the U.S., the company stopped sales and production of the phone, announcing the recall.
Luckily, no deaths were attributed to the defective cell phone. The year after the recall, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 8 with strong sales and reviews.
What to Do if You Use a Recalled Product
If you or anyone you know uses a product that has recently been named in a recall, they may be eligible for compensation. Contact LJW Legal, to discuss the details of how you have been affected with one of our product liability attorneys. The law protects consumers from negligent corporations distributing defective products that may cause injury or death. Our team of attorneys will fight for the compensation you and your family deserve.