John Foley publicly admitted his company should have “engaged more productively with [the Consumer Product Safety Commission] from the outset” of a safety recall. He “apologized” for this error.
Two models of Peloton treadmills have caused multiple serious injuries and at least one death.
The Tread Plus has an unsafe motion which, according to regulators, pulls pets and children “under the rear of the treadmill.” The Tread’s touchscreen could break off unexpectedly and cause similar injuries.
CPSC acting director Robert Adler announced that, despite Peloton’s resistance, regulators and the company had reached a voluntary recall agreement.
“The agreement between CPSC and Peloton is the result of weeks of intense negotiation and effort, culminating in a cooperative agreement that I believe serves the best interests of Peloton and of consumers,” he stated.
Types of Product Defects
As of this moment, about all we know about the Peloton products in question is that they were defective and these defects caused injury. Then, the company resisted the government’s recall effort and clearly put profits before people.
As for the defect itself, manufacturers are legally responsible for any defect which occurred while the company had exclusive control over the product.
So, if a doctor mis-prescribes a drug or a retailer doesn’t properly handle a manufactured product, the company usually isn’t responsible for injuries.
Legally, there are two basic types of product defects. Dangerous metal-on-metal hip implants illustrate both of them.
The hip is a cup-and-socket joint. When people move their legs, their socket bones grind against their cup bones.
As a result, tiny bone flecks break off and enter the bloodstream. The body disposes of these non-toxic flakes, so there is no problem.
Many artificial hips are defectively designed. Instead of bone, the parts are metal.
When toxic metal flakes break off, the body cannot dispose of them. Instead, they build up and cause metal poisoning.
The body’s natural reaction to such poisoning, which is inflammation, usually dislodges the artificial hip.
So, these patients generally lose whatever mobility they had before device implantation. And, they need expensive corrective surgery to remove the damaged device.
A manufacturing defect could accelerate the process. Many device makers use cheap imported parts. These components often have high levels of mercury and other toxic heavy metals. Additionally, these heavy metals could cause other problems, such as a brain injury.
The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof in a defective product injury claim. To meet this burden, a personal injury attorney usually partners with outside professionals. Some jurisdictions require such testimony.
Dangerous device claims, like hip implants, often involve engineers.
These professionals break things down for jurors without talking down to them. This testimony usually includes standards for product safety and a demonstration of how the company fell short in this area.
Some jurisdictions also require victim/plaintiffs to show that the manufacturer rejected a safer alternative design. That’s especially true in design defect claims. An engineer provides the needed evidence on this point.
If a dangerous drug side effect caused injury, a doctor usually provides the necessary evidence.
These claims are a bit different. Jurors don’t need to fully understand why a drug was defective. They just need to see that it was defective. Doctors often point to cancer clusters and other anomalies which only dangerous drug side effects could explain.
How Does an Out-of-Court Apology Affect a Court Case?
An apology in court could be a statement against interest which is admissible at trial.
The statement doesn’t always qualify. People like corporate CEOs usually measure their words carefully.
For example, the Peloton CEO said he was sorry that his company didn’t fully cooperate with regulators. He didn’t say he was sorry his company sold defective treadmills. So, his apology might or might not be relevant to damages.
In many negligence claims, apologies are relevant to liability. For example, a surgeon might apologize in the wake of a medical mistake, or a driver might say “I’m sorry” to a victim.
Since the burden of proof is rather low in negligence claims, an ill-advised “I’m sorry” could go a long way toward obtaining fair compensation.
The burden of proof is even lower in defective product claims. Manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries they cause. So, victim/plaintiffs usually don’t need apologies to establish liability for damages. But an apology could be important in terms of damages.
Jurors may award additional punitive damages if there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally disregarded a known risk. In this context, an apology could satisfy these requirements.
Unsafe consumer products often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We handle these claims on a nationwide basis.