During 2017 (the most recent year for which we have a fiscal year review), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported nearly 3,000 product recalls affecting more than 9,000 different products. These products included a wide range of items, including food, dangerous drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics that the FDA determined failed to satisfy regulatory requirements or posed an unreasonable risk of injury to users.
Of course, virtually any type of product can pose risks of harm to the people that use it, and each year many thousands of other products are recalled by manufacturers or government agencies to help protect the public.
Such recalls are an important part of how the law protects Ohio residents and other Americans against dangerous goods. Understanding when products are recalled, how to keep track of product recalls, and what to do with a recalled product is critical for Ohioans to keep their families safe. If you have been affected by a product recall, an experienced product recall attorney can help you assess your claim and figure out how to proceed.
Article at a Glance
- Products are recalled by a manufacturer or government agency when the product fails to satisfy regulatory requirements or otherwise poses an unreasonable risk of harm.
- There are many websites that Ohioans can use to track and learn about product recalls.
- When an Ohioan is injured by a defective product, he or she can report that product to appropriate government authorities and seek compensation through an Ohio product liability claim.
When Are Products Recalled?
In general, products are recalled in one of two circumstances:
- The product is defective. A product may be recalled if it poses an unreasonable risk to users’ health and safety.
- The product violates regulatory requirements. Alternatively, a product may be recalled when the product fails to meet minimum government safety standards.
Recalls can be initiated voluntarily by a manufacturer or mandated by a government agency. Which agency has authority over product recalls depends on the type of product involved. At the federal level, the following agencies have authority to order a recall:
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC has regulatory authority over thousands of different types of consumer products, including appliances, furniture, toys, cribs, electronics, and household products.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA regulates automobiles, auto equipment, and accessories, including airbags, tires, and children’s car seats.
- S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard exercises authority over recreational boats and associated equipment.
- S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issues recalls for meat, poultry, and egg products.
- S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has recall authority over other types of food (including pet food and animal feed), drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has authority over recalls involving pesticides, rodenticides, fungicides, and vehicle emission testing.
Keeping Track of Product Recalls
Several resources are available to track recalls. You can start with Recalls.gov, a federal website that provides links to information about recalls from the six federal agencies discussed above. You can even sign up to be notified by email when a new recall is issued.
Other federal recall resources include Safercar.gov (vehicles and equipment, including car seats) and Foodsafety.gov (food recalls from the FDA and USDA).
In addition, numerous private businesses and nonprofit organizations also track product recalls, with some offering the ability to sign up for e-mail updates. These include:
- ConsumerAffairs.com maintains a list of a wide range of consumer product recalls.
- Edmunds.com publishes a list of motor vehicle recalls.
- GoodHousekeeping.com tracks food, toy, and appliance recalls.
- SafeKids.org, which provides a monthly summary of child-safety-related recalls from the CPSC, FDA, and NHTSA.
Finally, many popular retailers also publish recall information online based on manufacturer and government recalls, including Walmart and Sam’s Club, Trader Joe’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Costco, Whole Foods, and Giant Eagle. You can also check manufacturers’ websites for sections devoted to recalls of their own products (like this page from Ford).
What to Do When a Product You Own is Recalled
When you learn of a product recall, your first step should generally be to stop using the product. Because recalls are typically initiated when products are defective or fail to meet regulatory requirements, it is usually unsafe to continue using a product that has been recalled.
You should check the specific instructions provided in the recall notice to determine appropriate next steps. These instructions will vary depending on the type of product and from one recall to another. You may be asked to return the product to the store where you bought it, dispose of the product, or return it to the manufacturer for a refund, repair, or replacement.
What to Do if You’ve Been Injured by a Defective Product
If you’ve been injured by a defective product, whether that product is subject to a recall or not, there are two steps you should take. First, you can report product defects to the manufacturer and the appropriate regulatory agency. Reporting dangerous products can help protect others from the risk of harm.
Second, you can receive compensation for your injuries by filing a product liability claim against the manufacturer. Under Ohio law, manufacturers are subject to liability for personal injuries caused by their defective products.
How to Report Product Defects
If you discover that a product that you own has a defect that you believe makes it dangerous, you should stop using it and report it to the manufacturer and the government agency with jurisdiction over that type of product. To report a defective product to the federal government, you can follow the links below:
- Report an unsafe consumer product to the CPSC
- File a vehicle or auto equipment complaint with the NHTSA
- Report a safety defect for a boat or related equipment to the Coast Guard
- Report a problem with food to the FDA or USDA
- Use the FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal to report drugs, food, dietary supplements, or tobacco products
Ohio Product Liability Claims
Reporting a defective product may help protect others against the dangers posed by the product, but obtaining compensation after being injured by a product defect requires a different approach. In Ohio, as in other states, that approach is pursuing a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
In an Ohio product liability claim, the plaintiff (i.e., the injured person) must prove that his or her injuries were caused by one of the following types of product defects:
- Design defects, which exist if the risks posed by a product’s design outweigh its benefits;
- Manufacturing defects, which are defects introduced in the manufacturing process;
- Warning defects, in which the manufacturer fails to provide adequate instructions on use or warnings about the risks of using a product; or
- Misrepresentations, which occur when a product does not conform to what the manufacturer says about it.
A successful plaintiff can recover many different types of damages, which are monetary awards intended to compensate an injured person for all aspects of his or her injury. Depending on the facts of a case, these can include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, damages for pain and suffering, and more.
Get Help with Ohio Product Liability Claims
Keeping up with manufacturer and government recalls for the products you own is a critical first step in protecting yourself and your family from harm when using those products. Unfortunately, not every defective product will become subject to a recall. Some defects affect so few units of a product that they may not be discovered before someone is injured by it.
But whether a defective product has been recalled or not, you can still pursue a claim against the manufacturer if you suffer an injury because of it. To do so, you should contact an experienced Ohio product liability lawyer for help. Prevailing on a product liability claim is a complex process, and a lawyer can help you navigate that process and obtain the compensation you deserve.
Plevin & Gallucci is an Ohio product liability law firm with offices in Cleveland, Columbus, and Waverly. Our firm’s attorneys have been helping Ohio residents with product liability claims since 1971. If you’ve been injured by a defective product in Ohio, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.