San Francisco Injury Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in Product Liability

A problem we reported on in mid-December continues to endanger people, including children, in Northern California and nationwide – hoverboard fires.  Hoverboards certainly turns heads the first few time you encounter them (even if it isn’t quite what those of us old enough to have watched the Back to the Future trilogy think of when we first hear the name!) and they can take time to master.  A few bruises from tumbling off while mastering the ride are one thing, severe burns from an explosion are quite another and our team is here to serve as a law firm for hoverboard fire injuries in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and Oakland.

Petaluma Fire Adds to List of Alleged Hoverboard Explosions

According to CBS SF, a hoverboard is being blamed for a home fire in Petaluma on Monday night.  The hoverboard was allegedly charging and plugged into a wall outlet when it exploded, catching fire and sending burning debris throughout the home.  Thankfully no one was injured, but officials estimate the damage to the home at around $10,000.

hoverboard2Per CBS, the Petaluma fire is the third Bay Area fire in the past two months allegedly linked to hoverboards.  Last week, prior to the Petaluma incident, technology news website CNET reported that the Consumer Product Safety Commission was investigating 39 (presumably now 40) hoverboard fires in 19 states.  The agency is focusing its attention on the lithium-ion batteries and how they interact with the unit’s other electrical parts.  Witnesses say hoverboards have exploded in a range of situations including while charging, during use, and even reportedly while sitting idle near a kiosk in a mall.

In response to the fires, CNET notes that several airlines have banned hoverboards from passenger flights and the US Postal Service forbids shipping hoverboards by air.  Several retailers have suspended sales, some even allowing customers to return hoverboards for a full refund.  Additionally, California has a new law stating no one under 16 may ride a hoverboard on public roads, limiting hoverboard use to bike lanes and roads with a speed limit at or under 35mph, and requiring users to wear a helmet.

California Product Liability Law: Claims and Defenses in Design Defect Litigation

California law is clear – manufacturers and sellers are responsible for injuries caused by unsafe products.  Although other claims exist (e.g., negligence), most claims of injuries stemming from unsafe products are based on product liability law.  As California Civil Jury Instruction (“CACI”) 1200 and related sections provide, product liability claims fall under a strict liability framework meaning the plaintiff does not need to prove the defendant was negligent or had a dangerous intent.  There are three primary categories of product liability claims:

  • Design Defect – Asserts the product’s design was a substantial factor leading to the injury;
  • Manufacturing Defect – Asserts the product deviated from design specifications and that defect was a substantial factor causing injury); and
  • Failure to Warn – Asserts risks known to the defendant but not obvious to a consumer existed and the defendant’s failure to provide an adequate warning was a substantial factor in the injury-causing event.

Design defect cases are further divided into two different categories by the Jury Instructions, the:

  • Consumer Expectation Test (CACI 1203) – Asserts the item “did not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected it to perform when used or misused in an intended or reasonably foreseeable way” and this failure was a substantial factor in the plaintiff’s injury, and
  • Risk/Benefit Test (CACI 1204) – More a defense than a type of claim, under this Instruction the plaintiff first shows that the product’s design was a substantial factor leading to the injury. The defendant then has the burden of proving that the feasibility and drawbacks of an alternative design mean the benefits of the chosen design outweigh the risks.

Of course, lawsuits are not the answer for every injury.  In a prior blog post, we discussed the Nalwa decision, a 2013 California Supreme Court ruling finding a claim for an injury sustained aboard a bumper car ride was barred because the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury when she chose to board the ride and that the risk of a minor injury was inherent in the ride.  If someone stumbled while learning to ride a hoverboard (assuming it wasn’t due to a problem with the device like unexpected braking), the assumption of the risk doctrine might apply.  However, it is much less likely to apply in the case of sudden combustion!

A Law Firm for Hoverboard Fires and Other Northern California Product Liability Claims

From the information available, it appears a design defect claim would be most appropriate in hoverboard fire cases.  However, it would require a close investigation of the facts of each case to determine which claim or claims apply in a specific case.  Our San Francisco product liability firm (with additional offices in Santa Rosa and Oakland) always plans our strategy by investigating the facts, determining the appropriate claims, and anticipating the potential defenses so we are poised to respond.  In appropriate cases, we also consider whether a class action may be appropriate.

If you’ve been injured by a hoverboard fire in Northern California or in any other consumer product related injury, call to arrange a free consultation.  Remember — Attorney Brod is not only a skilled trial attorney, he is also a skilled negotiator and most cases resolve without the need for a trial.  Attorney Brod uses his experience as a California product liability and personal injury attorney to help clients evaluate a specific settlement offer, but ultimately accepting a settlement is always a client’s decision.  Call to learn more.

See Related Blog Posts:

Hoverboards: A Holiday Craze that May Become a Holiday Nightmare

From the Playing Fields to Extreme Sports, Part One: Recreational Injury Claims

(Image by TechStage; Note: Picture is an example of a hoverboard and does not reflect specific product mentioned in the news reports.)

Fires have been in the news a lot in recent years.  While wildfires are tragic, causing substantial property damage and endangering lives, they are not the only type of blaze that impacts Californians.  Home structure fires are a very real danger that, as revealed in the discussion below, claims nearly 2,500 civilian lives a year (and we cannot ignore the deaths of brave first responders who make the ultimate sacrifice).  As an Oakland apartment fire lawyer, Attorney Greg Brod helps the injured and grieving recover monetary compensation from those responsible for apartment fires whether it is the manufacturer of a faulty device or a landlord who does not provide appropriate fire safety equipment.

Oakland Fire Claims Two Lives

On Monday morning, the danger of home fires became all too real for people residing in the 6200 block of Eastlawn Street in Oakland.  CBS reports that firefighters arrived around 1:15 AM, but the fire quickly grew to two alarms and it took crews an hour to finally extinguish the flames.  Sadly, a man and woman perished in the blaze.  The fire rendered two apartment units uninhabitable and CBS reports that there had been previous fires at the same building.  The fire remains under investigation.

Home Fire Statistics

The National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) uses data from United States municipal fire departments to create estimated statistics on fires nationwide in the hope that the research will help prevent tragedies like Monday’s deadly blaze.  One important part of this research is the Home Structure Fires report, most recently released in September 2015.  According to the report, from 2009 through 2013, there were approximately 357,000 firetruckhome structure fires each year.  These blazes cost $6.9 billion in direct property damage, injured 12,890 civilians, and claimed 2,470 civilian lives each year.  Looking at these numbers differently, one of every 335 households reported a home fire each year and every day seven people in the United States died in a home fire.

Winter is the most hazardous time of year in terms of home fires.  In the 2009-2013 period, 28% of residential fires occurred in December, January, and February (slightly more than the 25% expected if fires hit evenly) and 35% of home fire deaths occurred in those three months.  Reports of home fires peak during the dinnertime window (5-8 PM), while fire death are more likely during the overnight hours (11 PM-7 AM) with a full 51% of home fire deaths occurring in that 8-hour timeframe despite only 20% of home structure fires occurring in that period.

Home Fire Causes & Prevention

Looking at the entire 2009-2013 period, cooking was the top cause of home structure fires, involved in 45% home fires, 42% of home fire injuries, and 17% of deaths.  Focusing on fatalities, smoking materials continue to cause the largest share of home fire deaths at 23% even though smoking materials cause merely 5% of home fires.  Other common causes of home fires include: Heating equipment (16% of fires, 19% of deaths); Intentionally set fires (8% home fires, 14% of deaths); and Electrical/Lighting equipment (8% of fires, 15% of deaths).

Some of the most important statistics involve the efficacy of fire prevention equipment.  In three out of five fatal home fires, there were no working smoke alarms.  Overall, the NFPA research showed smoke alarms were found in nearly 75% of reported home fires, substantially less than the 96% of all homes that have alarms according to survey results.

Sprinkler systems can control a fire until emergency responders can arrive and act.  A related NFPA study found sprinklers were present in a mere 6% of home fires reported between 2007 and 2011.  Further, the death rate per 1,000 home fires dropped a whopping 82% when wet pipe sprinkler systems were in use.

Lawyer for Burn Injuries and Fire Deaths in Northern California

If you or someone you love suffered a fire injury and someone else was responsible, you may have a civil claim.  Examples include suits brought against landlords for failing to provide working smoke detectors and claims against manufacturers when products like children’s clothes are not sufficiently fire-resistant.  Our San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and Oakland home fire attorney is here to help you get the compensation you deserve.

See Related Blog Posts:

Negligence and Responsibility in Northern California Apartment Fires

Cigarette Fires: Smoking Can Be Hazardous to All of Us

(Image by Robert Linder)

 

It is hard to miss the signs that the holiday giving season is upon us.  For many children, the top item on their list for Santa is a so-called “hoverboard.”  Although it isn’t quite the air-riding skateboard some of us remember from Back to the Future II, hoverboards offer both transportation and excitement attracting both the young and young-at-heart.  If a hoverboard is on the wish list for someone you love, or if it makes your own “Dear Santa” letter, you need to know about the growing number of hoverboard fires.  As an injury lawyer with a keen understanding dangerous product and recreational injury claims, Attorney Greg Brod can help people injured by hoverboard fires as well as other injuries caused by toys r recreational equipment.  With three offices serving Northern California, his San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and Oakland product liability law firm wants to ensure holiday gifts don’t become holiday tragedies.

The Hoverboards of 2015

First things first: What exactly are the hoverboards of 2015?  Buzzfeed, a social and entertainment news site, published a fairly comprehensive report this summer titled Everything You Need to Know About the Hoverboard Craze.  The article references multiple types of hoverboards including a mothoverboardorized skateboard and a board with a single wheel in the center.  For those looking for a “true” hoverboard (a la Marty McFly), boards that actually hover above ground are largely in the development and testing stages.

The most popular hoverboards and the boards at the center of the current product safety concerns are two-wheeled devices that resemble a hands-free Segway.  These hoverboards are controlled by shifting your weight to indicate the direction you wish to travel and have a top speed of 6.2 miles per hour.  Brands differ slightly, but Buzzfeed found they can run from the $300 range to well over $1,000.

Safety Check: Reports of Hoverboard Fires

While hoverboards are (forgive the pun) flying off the shelves, news outlets are warning about serious product dangers.  On Monday, CNN indicated that federal authorities are looking into 11 reports of hoverboards catching on fire in 10 states.  According to the incident reports, certain models of hoverboards have burst into flames because of malfunctioning batteries and plugs.  A Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman called the agency’s inquiry a “priority investigation” noting that, “This is a popular holiday item and it’s going to be in a lot of consumers’ homes, and we’d like to quickly get to the bottom of why some hoverboards catch fire.”  Officials are testing both new hoverboards and the devices involved in the reported fires.

A number of different groups have taken steps in response to the safety concerns.  As one manufacturer told CNN, Amazon had a large selection of the self-balancing hoverboards until late last week when it removed 97% of the products from its “shelves.”  Amazon reportedly contacted manufacturers asking for proof their products meet safety standards, including those governing batteries and chargers.  Overstock also pulled the products and also offered customers the option of returning previously purchased hoverboards for a full refund.  On a different front, many airlines have banned hoverboards from flights due to the fire concerns.  CNN reports that cities are also taking action with British authorities and New York City officials making it illegal to ride hoverboards in public.

Proving a Product Liability Case

The law takes dangerous products very seriously, applying a strict liability framework to product liability suits.  A plaintiff does not need to prove the company was negligent and does not have to show the company intended or even knew about the product’s risks.  Instead, as detailed in Civil Jury Instruction 1200, the plaintiff must show simply: 1) That s/he was harmed; 2) By the product; and 3) Either: a) the product was defectively designed, b) included a manufacturing defect, or c) the company did not provide appropriate warnings/instructions.  Once liability is established, the plaintiff must show the amount of damages including both past and future expenses (e.g., the costs of ongoing medical care for a serious burn injury and/or the estimated loss of income over a plaintiff’s lifespan due to a major injury).

When Fun Turns Dangerous

During the holidays, bright lights should come from decorations, not emergency vehicles.  We hope your Christmases are merry, your Hanukah was joyful, and your New Year brings safety and health.  If you or someone you love needs our services, whether as a San Francisco toy injury lawyer or for any other injury matter in the Northern California region, please do call.  We can’t turn back time but we can help you get the money you need and deserve to be able to move forward into the new year.

See Related Blog Posts:

California Child Injury Lawyer on the Danger of Scooter Accidents

Northern California Product Injury Lawyer Examines Recall Linking Unexpected Braking to Ignition Panel Design

(Image by Franklin Heijnen)

droneOne of the most controversial tools used by the military and domestic government authorities has become the season’s most in-demand gift.  Drones are becoming more powerful and more accessible, with hobbyists of all ages taking the controls.  Drones are fascinating, but drone injuries are a very real danger.  From interfering with aircraft to injuring an operator or a bystander, drone accidents happen and our Northern California drone injury lawyer is prepared to use a variety of legal theories to advocate for those injured by drones in San Francisco and the surrounding regions.

Drone Nearly Collides with CHP Helicopter Over Martinez, CA

A close call in our area last weekend highlights a potential safety threat from privately operated drones and has the California Highway Patrol (“CHP”) urging operators to take care when flying the devices.  According to ABC7, on Saturday night a CHP helicopter was working with Martinez police and flying above Highway 4 when they spotted a small red light.  The light turned out to be a drone flying at nearly the same altitude as the helicopter, approximately 800 feet, despite the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) recommendation that drones remain under 400 feet.  Luckily, the CHP pilots, travelling nearly 100mph, spotted the drone in time and banked allowing the drone to fly by the helicopter.  CHP officials believe they have identified the drone’s operator and have turned the incident over to the FAA to determine an appropriate response.

A CHP spokesperson told ABC that a two-pound object in the sky poses a threat to its aircraft and could potentially go right through a helicopter’s plexiglass windshield and incapacitate the pilot.  Speaking to drone operators and urging them to fly safely, the spokesman warns: “Don’t send it out of your visual range. Don’t send it out in the dark. You know, if you’re going to hover it in your front yard in the dark, I couldn’t care less, but what I don’t want to see is that thing in my flight path.”

Types of Drone Accidents  

Drone injuries and drone accidents can take many different forms.  In March, the IT-industry website TechRepublic published “12 Drone Disasters that Show Why the FAA Hates Drones.”    The accidents highlighted in the article include:

  • A drone that crashed into a photographer’s face during a store promotion, clipping off the tip of her nose and cutting her chin.
  • In Australia, a drone photographing a competition crashed into a triathlete resulting in a minor head wound that required stitches. The operator claimed someone stole control of the craft.
  • A drone nearly collided with a plane as it took off from a major airport. The governing aviation authority called it a “serious risk of collision,” the highest label on its rating scale.
  • Multiple incidents highlighting the risk a weaponized private drone could pose, especially at crowded public events.
  • An incident involving a drone
    caught in the talons of a hawk that became notable for the video the drone captured during the event.

We imagine many other types of drone accidents will be seen as drones become more popular.

drone2

The FAA: Rules & Recommendations

The FAA is still working on the best way to deal with drones and other unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”).  According to the agency, “Introducing UAS into the nation’s airspace is challenging for both the FAA and aviation community, because the U.S. has the busiest, most complex airspace in the world. The FAA is taking an incremental approach to safe UAS integration.”  Currently, people using UAS for commercial purposes must obtain FAA approval, but people flying as a hobby do not.  Still, hobbyists must follow some rules including staying a sufficient distance away from certain events like sports contests.

The FAA has also produced an “I Fly Safe” pamphlet dealing with safe drone operations.  Safety pointers include: Flying below 400 feet; Keeping the aircraft in your sight; Avoiding stadiums and other crowded areas; Avoiding airports; Always flying sober; and Staying away from emergency scenes and emergency response efforts.

Our Drone Injury Lawyer

Drone accidents can take many forms and there can be many different people/groups at fault.  Perhaps the two most common scenarios are an accident caused by a careless/inattentive operator and an accident caused by a malfunctioning device.  Respectively, these accidents might give rise to a negligence claim or a product liability injury claim.  Other legal theories might also apply depending on the precise facts involved.

As an experienced personal injury attorney, Greg Brod can help drone accident victims in Northern California recover compensation for their injuries.  His broad experience in accident law, including aviation matters, and an understanding of technology allow Attorney Brod to serve drone injury clients and advocate on their behalf.  If you or a loved one has been injured by a UAS, call our drone accident law firm in Oakland, Santa Rosa, or San Francisco to schedule a free consultation.

Stay safe and fly smart!

UPDATE: As of 12/21/15, ALL drones must be registered with the FAA or the owner may face civil and criminal penalties.  See the agency’s website for more details.

See Related Blog Posts:

Aviation Accidents: Statistics & Causes

Driving Driverless Cars: Researchers Look for the Best Balance Between Humans and Technology

(Image of black-colored drone by Robert Lz; Image of white-colored drone by Michael Coghlan)

Eating healthy has never been so easy…or so hard.   Thanks to the Internet and increased access to information about nutrition and other health topics, consumers have a wealth of information at their fingertips.  Still, sometimes all that information becomes overwhelming, especially with more products appearing on store shelves making a wide range of promises.  Useful and accurate labeling is critical to enabling consumers to make informed choices.  Food labeling lawsuits allow consumers to fight back when companies make false and potentially dangerous promises.  As a food safety law firm in San Francisco, the Brod Law Firm believes consumers must be able to trust food labels and rely on companies to produce safe foods that live up to company promises.

herbsCalifornia Supreme Court Rules in Organic Labeling Case

Last week, the Supreme Court of California issued an important ruling in favor of consumers in a food labeling lawsuit.  At issue according to NBC7 was whether consumers could file suit in California alleging that a product was falsely labeled “organic.”  A lower appeals court had ruled such suits were barred by federal law which typically supersedes state law.  That decision, handed down in 2013, held that Congress intended that government officials would be solely responsible for policing the term in order to create a uniform national standard.

In last week’s ruling, the state Supreme Court disagreed.  The court held that consumer suits would further congressional goals of preventing fraud and allowing consumers to rely on organic labels.  Thus, since consumer suits would promote the federal law’s objectives and would not be inconsistent with federal law, the claims are not barred.  In response to the defendant’s assertion that allowing consumer suits would allow lay juries to second-guess federal certifications, the court said that judges would be the ones to decide disputes about the labeling rules.

NBC explains that the underlying case involved allegations that a large herb company labeled products “100% organic” that actually contained a mix of both organic and non-organic herbs.  Filed as a purported class action, the suit seeks to represent thousands who paid premium prices in reliance on the allegedly inaccurate labels.  The company argued that it had been authorized by federal authorities to use the term while the plaintiff cited California Department of Public Health guidance that items labelled “100% organic” must contain only organic ingredients, meaning all ingredients were produced via sustainable practices and did not involve the use of synthetic fertilizers, genetically engineered products, irradiation, or sewage sludge.  As a result of the ruling, the herb labeling suit will be reinstated and allowed to proceed.

organicThe Growing Market for Organic Food

Consumer demand for organic goods continues to grow.  According to the Organic Trade Association (“OTA”), sales of organic products (both food and non-food items) hit $39.1 billion in 2014, a new record that represents an 11.3% increase over 2013 purchases.  In the food sector, organic items accounted for 5% of the total food market, another record.

Why do people buy organic?  The OTA touts health and environmental benefits of organic products.  On the health side, the industry group says organics reduce the exposure of food workers, their families, and consumers to potentially toxic chemicals and cites evidence that organic foods provide nutrition without the risks associated with nitrates and pesticides.   Although noting that the issue is still being debated, the OTA suggests that “evidence is mounting that there are some healthier nutritional profiles linked to consuming various organic products.”  Further, the OTA suggests that organic products not only protect but also improve the environment.

Holding Companies Accountable via California Food Labeling Lawsuits

Consumers should be able to rely on product labels, especially when it comes to food.  Labeling fraud not only endangers consumer’s wallets, it threatens their health and the health of their children.  Health experts urge consumers to pay attention to the products they buy, but that attention is meaningless if labels are inaccurate or deliberately misleading.  Food labeling lawsuits address a range of issues from the use of terms like “organic” and “natural” to whether a food contains potentially lethal allergens.

If you have been misled by a food label, fight back.  We can help you get compensation and we can help you effect major change, protecting consumers in California and nationwide.  Call our San Francisco food labeling law firm to learn more.

See Related Blog Posts:

Food Allergy Litigation in California

San Francisco Consumer Law Firm Applauds Ruling on the Use of the Term “Natural” on Food Labels

San Francisco-Oakland Product Liability Attorney Comments on Not So Healthy Organics

(Herbs image by Julie Lyn; Organics image by stevesworldofphotos)

 

The family has gathered, the feast has been eaten, and the hosts are contemplating the inevitable leftovers.  Today is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday shopping season, although it seems like some stores have been holiday-ready for weeks!  As you begin to think about gifts for the youngest set, we urge you to consider the issues of toy safety.  Some of the hardest cases we see in our office involve children and our San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Rosa toy injury lawyer wants children in Northern California and worldwide to enjoy a fun and safe holiday season.

WATCH Releases 2015 10 Worst Toys Listgifts2

World Against Toys Causing Harm,  a mouthful of a name that lends itself to the handy acronym “WATCH,” believes (as does our firm) that “One injury to one child as a result of a poorly designed or manufactured children’s product is one too many.”  Sadly, the group explains on its website, the toy industry makes some $70 billion worth of sales worldwide each year and with thousands of avoidable toy injuries occurring every year, WATCH believes that “safety often takes a back seat to earnings.”

Continuing an annual undertaking started in 1973, last week WATCH issued a press release announcing its 2015 10 Worst Toys List, a tally of some of the toys that WATCH believes pose a risk of injury or even death.  The list is not intended to be inclusive, but instead illustrates some of the dangers lurking on toy store shelves.  While we won’t name the exact toys herein, some of the hazards (many of which apply to multiple toys) that “earned” items a spot on the list include:

  • Parts that can break/come off or toys that children may naturally put in their mouths and pose a INGESTING, CHOKING, or AIRWAY BLOCKING HAZARD
  • Overly REALISTIC TOY WEAPONS that pose a range of dangers
  • Toys that cause an undue risk or HEAD, NECK, and OTHER INJURIES, including when used unsupervised, by young children, or without safety equipment (especially when the child on the package is not using any).
  • ALLERGY-RELATED dangers, particularly when only noted on “throw-away packaging”
  • Items with a risk of EYE and/or FACIAL INJURIES, including toys with various forms of ammunition firing capacity or long protrusions (particularly if anticipated play might raise the risk)
  • Toys that could cause BLUNT FORCE INJURIES, such as rigid toys that encourage battle-like play
  • Items with the potential to cause STRANGULATION and/or ENTANGLEMENT, including pull-type toys with cords at or over 12 inches (a maximum length for playpen/crib-play toys

Warnings, Standards, and Ethical Duties

According to WATCH, at least one of the toys contains a warning that “babies and young children have no idea what is dangerous or potentially harmful, so supervision is important.”  We agree that parents should supervise children, but we also believe manufacturers have a duty to make toys that are reasonably safe for the intended audience and, as a back-up defense, issue recalls if the dangers later become apparent.

Notably, the Toy Industry Association states that:

“All toys sold in the U.S., regardless of where they are made, must be tested to verify compliance with rigorous U.S. toy safety requirements, including more than 100 safety tests and standards. These standards are shaped by a variety of considerations, including research on child development, dynamic safety testing, and risk analysis. U.S. toy safety requirements are among the most stringent in the world and are widely emulated in other markets around the globe.”

A Closer Look at the Danger and Our California Child Injury Law Firm

Last month, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (“CPSC”) released its “Toy-Related Deaths & Injuries: Calendar Year 2014.”  According to the CPSC, the agency received reports of 11 toy-related deaths involving children under age 15 (the actual ages of the victims ranged from 13 months to 9 years) in 2014.  Additionally, the CPSC reports that hospital emergency departments in the United States treated approximately 251,800 toy-related injuries in 2014.  Of these injuries, 73% percent (183,800) involved children under age 15 and 69% (173,300) involved children under age 5.

One of our firm’s core beliefs is that prevention is always best.  This is especially true when it comes to children who by their nature require adult protection.  Together, these precepts demand that toy manufacturers have a duty to produce toys that are reasonably safe.  In most cases, children cannot stand up to assert their own legal rights.  If your child has been injured by a toy or other dangerous/defective consumer good, call our child injury law firm in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, or Oakland.  We can help you obtain compensation for your child and also remind manufacturers that unsafe toys will not be tolerated, a message that can help prevent other child injuries or even child deaths.

See Related Blog Posts:

Northern California Child Injury Lawyer on Strangulation by Window Cord Blinds: The Product Danger Remains

Toy-Related Injuries in the Holiday Season

(Image by mateoutah)

It seems like food safety is in the news more and more.  Last week, officials announced that an e. coli outbreak tentatively linked to a major chain restaurant has hit California (CBS News).  Foodborne bacteria LOVE the holidays.  As you contemplate Thursday’s feast, our San Francisco food safety law firm has some advice on holiday food safety to ensure foodborne illness doesn’t hit your Thanksgiving table.

Foodborne Illness and Holiday Celebrations

thanksgiving2Foodborne bacteria can strike at home as well as in commercial dining establishments.  The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) webpage Tracking and Reporting Foodborne Disease Outbreaks reports that 48% of the outbreaks linked to a known single setting from 2009-2010 involved a restaurant or deli while 21% involved food consumed in a private home.  We suspect these numbers might be skewed since it is easier to trace a larger outbreak to its source.  Regardless, consumers have much greater control when it comes to home cooking.

Many people associate foodborne bacteria with hot summer months.  However, the CDC’s “It’s Turkey Time” page notes that most outbreaks of clostridium perfringens, the second most common source of bacterial food poisoning, occur in November and December.

Turkey Safety

For most of us, centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal is the turkey.  Some tips from the CDC and Foodsafety.gov on turkey safety:

  • Thawing/Storage – Purchase fresh turkeys no more than two days before preparation. Frozen turkeys are safe, but be sure not to leave them out for too long, including during your shopping trip (pick it up last, unpack it first!), and thaw safely.  The danger zone is 40 to 140⁰F when bacteria present before freezing may start to grow.   A sub-page contains some more detailed tips on thawing.
  • Pre-Cooking Handling/Preparation – Do not wash the raw turkey; it spreads more bacteria than it eliminates! Use separate tools, including different cutting boards, for raw and cooked meats.  Thoroughly clean hands, utensils, and work surfaces after working with raw poultry to avoid bacteria transfer.
  • Cooking – Set the oven to a minimum of 325°F and begin cooking only after the turkey is fully thawed. The CDC recommend cooking breast-side up on a wire rack over a 2 to 2.5-inch-deep roasting pan.  Cooking times vary.  Test temperature using a food thermometer, ensuring it hits at least 165°F in the meaty part of the breast, thigh, and wing joint.  Let stand for 20 minutes before removing stuffing (if relevant) and carving.
  • Stuffing – The safest way to prepare stuffing is outside the turkey in its own dish. If you do stuff the turkey itself, do so immediately before cooking and use a food thermometer to make sure the center area reaches 165°F.

The Fixins’ and the Leftovers

Of course, turkey is only part of the story.  Although all foods have their own safety issues, here are some general tips on holiday sides from Foodsafety.gov:

  • Avoid Cross-Contamination — Keep side dish components separate and away from raw turkey. Good cleaning of utensils, hands, and surfaces is a must.
  • Washing — Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables.
  • Cooking – Cook items completely, including cooking dishes containing eggs to at least 160°F.  Avoid partially cooking one day and finishing cooking another day, especially with multi-ingredient dishes like casseroles, because bacteria can multiply between cooking sessions even if the food is refrigerated. Resist the desire to taste foods before they are fully cooked (including that cookie dough!).
  • Meat/Poultry/Seafood — Take extra care with anything containing meat, even just crumbled bacon in a vegetable side. Cook meat, poultry, and shellfish to safe temperatures before adding them to a recipe.  Keep meat and/or cheese trays cold and make sure pre-assembled trays are refrigerated at the store.
  • Leftovers — For many, this is the best part of Thanksgiving! Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible and at least within two hours of cooking.  Do not store stuffing in the turkey.  Transfer leftovers out of cookware to help decrease temperature and limit the time food is in the unsafe 40°F to 140°F range.  Be sure the fridge is set at 40°F or below and consume leftovers within 3 to 4 days.  “Doggy bags” travelling more than two hours should be packed in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs.

A Message from Our Team

At Thanksgiving and year-round, our San Francisco injury law firm gives thanks to everyone who helps make the Bay Area such a great place to live and work.  We give special thanks to all of our clients for trusting us to help them in some of the most trying times of their lives.  It is an honor to work with all of you.

We wish all of our readers a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

See Related Blog Posts:

Foodborne Illness Litigation: Examining the Law and Looking at a Shigella Outbreak in San Jose

Spotlight on Listeria as Retailers Pull Dips from Shelves Nationwide

(Image by Jennifer Gaillard)

From hard corners softened with cushions to outlets plugged with guards, parents spend hours making their homes safe for their children.  Still, even the most diligent parent can’t spot every potential danger in their own homes or in other places children visit.  That truth is one of many reasons we demand that companies produce and sell safe products, a demand backed up by California’s strict liability rules in product liability cases.  At The Brod Law Firm, a San Francisco child injury law firm, we believe in both prevention and accountability.  Today’s blog entry looks at a danger lurking in many buildings including children’s homes, child care centers, and the residences of relatives or other caregivers – window blind cords.  We encourage every parent to be alert for this danger, but we also believe the manufacturers should be held responsible when unnecessarily dangerous products harm our children.

ABC7 Reports on Strangulation Danger Despite Industry Standards

The threat of strangulation by window blind cords is not an unknown danger, but ABC7 recently investigated and found the danger remains despite industry standards intended to prevent child injury and child deaths.  According to the report, the government estimates that one child dies every month after being strangled by blind cords.  The news channel relays the story of one California toddler whose mother had tied the pull cord out of reach to protect blindsher children and then, one tragic day, found her son dangling from blinds near his crib.  Sixteen month old Jacob had gotten trapped in the inner cord of the window coverings.

Blind cords can kill in seconds and, as ABC7 notes, children are unable to cry for help, resulting in 405 strangulations in the past three decades despite the fact that the industry is aware of cord dangers.  The news report says that Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”), is working to ban blinds with any form of accessible cords.  Although two retailers have already stopped selling such blinds and more have pledged to follow suit, the industry is pushing back.

State Assemblywoman Susan Eggman has also joined the fight, contesting what she claims is an effort by lobbyists to shift blame and stating strongly, “Parents are not to blame.”  Eggman introduced a bill earlier this year to ban blinds with dangerous cords from stores and daycare locations in California, but much of the bill has already been altered.  Eggman suggests the manufacturing industry, which disputes the strangulation numbers and says changes have made an impact, stopped the bill.  Both Eggman and the CPSC are continuing their mission.

Keeping Your Children Safe

A CPSC safety poster warns of the danger with the vivid and upsetting image of a doll’s throat caught in a blind cord.  The agency suggests three steps for parents to take to keep their children safe: 1) Examine window coverings for any exposed cords; 2) Use only cordless blinds in homes that young children live in or visit; 3) If parents cannot purchase cordless blinds, see the website of the Window Covering Safety Council (a coalition of industry players) for additional safety tips and order a free retrofit kit that can mitigate dangers.

Demanding Accountability through Product Liability Litigation

While we applaud the industry for forming a safety-oriented coalition, ABC’s report suggests it may not be enough.  Companies must be held accountable for dangerous products, especially when those products threaten children.  If your child has been hurt or killed because of a window blind cord or any other unnecessarily dangerous consumer product in Northern California, please call our product safety law firm in Oakland, San Francisco, or Santa Rosa.  We offer a free consultation and we are committed to fighting for our children and yours.

See Related Blog Posts:

Water Heater Fires: A Threat on All Our Minds

Northern California Child Injury Attorney Examines Rising Number of Bounce House Injuries

A Warning About the Danger of Falling Furniture from Our California Child Injury Law Office

(Image by Tiffany Terry)

It’s a story we’ve followed for years – problems that plagued the Bay Bridge construction project and continue to arise more than two years after the grand re-opening.  We hope that paying attention NOW helps prevent tragedy LATER, such as the frightening collapse of the previous span during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  As a San Francisco construction defect injury law firm, we represent plaintiffs injured by construction defects, people for whom repairs come too late.  We hope our services are never needed for injuries tied to the Bay Bridge construction (or any other project, for that matter), but when shoddy workmanship on a home, road, or any other manmade structure leads to injuries anywhere in Northern California we are here to help.

More Defects Found in Bay Bridge Components

baybridgeAccording to the San Francisco Chronicle, new documents are raising new concerns about the integrity of steel rods used in the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.  The newly released report includes statements from an independent engineer suggesting that previously discovered micro-cracks caused by water exposure are present in parts of the span far from where issues were first discovered.  Cracking could, per experts, lead to failure.  The report is part of a $20 million testing program undertaken after flooded sleeves caused cracking and, in one case, failure of tower rods.

The Chronicle reports that Caltrans concedes it failed to inspect the 2,000-plus rods to ensure they met industry standards.  Per the project’s chief engineer, “It looks like we didn’t do the quality assurance we were supposed to do.”  The report suggests that Caltrans believes the rods will not cause any major problems, but some experts disagree and are raising the alarm.  Additional problems in connecting threads have also been uncovered.  The Chronicle article details problems with cables, tower rods, bridge decks, and leaks that have plagued the$6.4 billion project.

California Construction Defect Litigation: General Requirements

We hope that discovering problems before an accident helps prevent any injuries or loss of life due to construction defects on the Bay Bridge.  Bridges are certainly not the only structure susceptible to construction defects; they can occur in almost any manmade structure from homes to highways.  When defects lead to injuries, the victims can and should seek compensation from those at fault.  In some cases, a strict liability product defect framework applies.  Other cases proceed under a typical negligence framework requiring the victim to prove that: 1) The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care; 2) The defendant did not meet that standard; and 3) That failure caused harm to the plaintiff.  Importantly, in order to be actionable, the injuries stemming from a defect must be reasonably foreseen.

For this blog entry, our inquiry is focused on cases involving actual injuries or fatalities.  However, it is worth noting that California has a legal framework for addressing residential defects prior to an actual injury.  While Civil Code 895 et. seq. provides an exclusive remedy in those matters, it does not bar other actions when an injury has occurred.

Construction Defect Litigation: Standard of Care

California plaintiffs must specifically establish the standard of care in construction defect cases via expert testimony.  Courts often look for a failure to meet building code requirements or more general professional standards.  Contractors and subcontractors are generally liable for ordinary negligence and must perform work in a good and workmanlike manner that complies with all contractual duties and is sufficiently free from defects.  In contrast, architects and engineers must meet a higher professional standard of care (see Civil Jury Instruction 600).  This higher standard means acts are judged against the skill and care of an ordinary member of the profession under similar conditions.  General contractors are typically responsible for the acts of a subcontractor.

A San Francisco/Oakland/Santa Rosa Lawyer for Construction Defect Cases

If you were injured or lost a family member because of a construction defect in a bridge or any other structure in the Northern California region, call our defective construction lawyer in San Francisco.  Attorney Brod is committed to helping victims recover needed funds in San Francisco defective road lawsuits and similar actions throughout Northern California, including cases against government and private parties.  Call to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Building Defects and Design Defects: Key Forms of Construction Defect Injury Claims in California

Bridge Safety Lawyer Comments on Bridge Collapses as Caltrans Announces Another Problem on Bay Bridge

(Image by Edward Stojakovic)

ecoliWhether it’s to celebrate a special event, a way to spend time with someone you love, an opportunity to get to know someone new, or simply a chance to give the kitchen (and the family chef”) the night off, Americans love dining out.  Restaurants can tantalize the taste buds with something new while connecting with our companions or with ourselves.   Thanks in part to a network of health-related laws and regulations, dining out is usually a safe experience and typically the biggest health risk lies in overindulging.  However, on occasion a restaurant meal leaves diners dealing with a foodborne illness, including conditions that can be fatal.  When a meal out in Northern California leaves a patron ill, especially when the illness is serious, our San Francisco restaurant lawyer can help.

Shigella Outbreak Traced to San Jose Restaurant

As of Wednesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, officials had identified more than 80 people who were sickened by a bacterial infection after eating at a San Jose restaurant.  After numerous people sought treatment at area hospitals last weekend, doctors and investigators concluded they were dealing with an outbreak of shigella and traced the bacteria to a suspected source, a Mexican seafood restaurant in downtown San Jose.  All of the infected patients had dined at the establishment on Friday or Saturday.   Of the 80 plus people believed to have been sickened by the outbreak, testing has confirmed that 15 have the shigella bacteria.  Twelve patients required treatment in intensive care.  The restaurant is closed while the investigation continues.

Shigella and Shigellosis

According to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), there are four different species of shigella, the bacteria that causes shigellosis and is implicated in approximately 500,000 cases of diarrhea in the U.S. each year.  Shigella is very contagious and transmitted when people consume or otherwise come into oral contact with even a tiny amount of infected fecal matter.  The CDC says shigella infection can occur in several ways including via food that has been contaminated by food handlers or in the growing process.  Symptoms usually arise one or two days after exposure and may include diarrhea (possibly bloody), abdominal pain, and fever.  Although a mild infection may resolve on its own, antibiotics may be needed in more severe cases.  Antibiotic resistance is a problem with shigella and doctors may perform cultures to determine which antibiotics are most likely to successfully treat the condition.


Foodborne Illness Generally

Looking at foodborne illnesses more generally, the CDC reports that 1 in 6 people in the Uni
ted States contracts some form of food poisoning each year.  While most of those 48 million people experience relatively mild symptoms, approximately 128,000 people are hospitalized 3,000 die annually due to foodb
orne illness.  Bacteria can be introduced at various points in the food production process including via watering with water that contains animal fecal matter, by a food handler/service worker with unwashed hands, through the re-use of contaminated utensils or other food preparation equipment, and by cross-contamination from another food item.

Foodborne Illness Lawsuits and a Northern California Foodborne Illness Lawyer

Typically, a foodborne illness lawsuit relies on a defective products claim.  To win via this strict liability theory, a plaintiff usually needs to show that the food consumed was contaminated and that this contamination caused the plaintiff’s illness.  The plaintiff does not need to show the defendant was careless.  Negligence claims may also be brought, but these do require proof that the defendant did not exercise reasonable care.  In some cases, a breach of warranty claim may be appropriate.  Similar claims may be made via wrongful death litigation.

Defective product defendants can include parties at various points in the food distribution process including the manufacturer and seller.  Ultimately, the plaintiff will also need to show the amount of damages incurred including physical, economic, and mental/emotional injury.  In the case of a large outbreak, a class action might be appropriate and may be helpful in cases where the amount of damages is fairly low.

While the law is relatively straightforward as to what needs to be proven, actually proving contamination and causation can be difficult.  People who are made seriously ill by food and/or their families should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible in order to preserve evidence and ensure all claims are timely.  With nearly thirty years of legal experience advocating on behalf of the injured and grieving, Attorney Greg Brod is a knowledgeable San Francisco foodborne illness lawyer with additional offices in Oakland and Santa Rosa.  Our firm would be honored to help you.

See Related Blog Posts:

Contaminated Water and the Threat of Waterborne Illness

Sonoma Food Poisoning Lawyer on Food Safety Law and Allegations of Arsenic in Wine

(Image of e. coli bacteria by James Joel)