It is hard to buy a manufactured product these days that doesn’t come from China or some other sweat shop nation. But that doesn’t mean much when you are out shopping. Normally we buy what we need and take the product at face value. News stories of product defects, of tainted materials used in the manufacturing process, are usually sloughed off by the everyday ordinariness of life. That’s why it took me by surprise when the reality of the danger struck home.
Here’s the situation: T and I had started working out in the pool by swimming laps using kick boards. The weather had turned warm early and we both needed to get back in shape after a winter of stress and strain. I had noticed though that T likes to float around in the pool after a workout while I get out to enjoy the sun. So I went back to the store where we got the kick boards and picked up small size belly board that was small enough for pool use but large enough for her to float on. So much for good intentions. What’s that saying “No good deed goes unpunished.”
Skip forward about two days. T says “Look at this.” She is pointing to a small row of pimples on her right side. “And this.” She turns so I can see a similar breakout across her chest. I can tell from the way she is looking that she thinks this is more of the same weirdness that has happened to her body since the gall bladder surgery in February. In another two days the breakout has spread to the backs of her knees and all across her abdomen. “I don’t understand what could be causing this.” she tells me. “I stopped using any medications over a week ago.” So we go back to the doctor, who prescribes a steroid ointment, and then, either Benadryl or Zyrtec, whichever works since he really doesn’t know what the cause is but sees it as some sort of allergic reaction.
Meanwhile, I am still trying to figure out what could have caused this to happen. Could it be more post surgery body stress? Was it the sunshine, the pool water, the combination of both? It didn’t make sense. Then I looked at the belly board I bought for her to float on. China, tainted lead-based paint, asbestos, flash across my mind and I suddenly realize that the pattern of the breakout actually matched the way she would lay on the board as she floated in the pool. Shit.
“There are generally three types of product liability cases: negligence, strict liability and breach of warranty” say the folks at lawyers.com.
Strict Product Liability
If you can prove that a product is “unreasonably dangerous” – that it has a design or manufacturing defect – then you may be able to establish that the defendant is “strictly liable.” Unlike negligence cases, you may not have to prove the manufacturer knew about the danger, because even if they didn’t, they should have. (One of the main purposes of this provision is to hold manufacturers accountable for developing safe products). You still, however, have to prove that the product caused your damages.
Is this the case? How can I even start to prove it? Yes, the board was made in China, but how do I pursue a product liability case with so many other factors involved? Maybe it wasn’t even mis-manufactured but just made with latex in the processing. She is allergic to that. The lawyer.com site recommends talking to several lawyers, and warns that the whole process of pursuing a claim will be extremely expensive.
No, for now I’m stuck with this. Blogging about it in hopes that the blogosphere might have a response. I’m also going to take this question over to JD’s getrichslowly forum and see what the folks there might suggest.