Instability & Tipping Hazards
According to the CPSC, there were a total of 42,700 appliance instability and tipping-related accidents between 2000 and 2006. Most of these were related to tipping of furniture and appliances. In the same period, 180 fatalities resulted from instability and tipping-related accidents. 96 of these resulted from the tipping over of furniture, while 87 occurred when televisions tipped over. In most of these accidents, children below the age of 10 were the most frequent victims, accounting for nearly 45% of all injuries and close to 80% of all fatalities.
Household appliances that are most often linked to instability and tipping hazards:
- Trash compactors
- Cooking ranges
- Washing machines
Typical injuries reported include the following:
- Organ damage
Instability vs. Tipping
The CPSC defines instability and tipping as two different concepts to classify such hazards.
- Instability is described as a problem with the center of gravity of an appliance that renders it unstable.
- Tipping, on the other hand, involves interaction in the form of exerting force or pressure on the appliance, causing it to topple over.
Over the years, the CPSC has announced recalls for many appliances prone to toppling over. One of the most recent and high-profile recalls was the Sears stoves and cooking ranges recall in 2008. These were made of lighter lower grade steel to cut production costs, and they were prone to falling over when pressure was placed on the doors of the ovens. People, including children standing nearby, suffered burn injuries, scalding, and crushing injuries. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) mandates safety standards for the sturdiness and stability of stoves and ranges. They require that they be provided with brackets to help secure them to countertops and walls before use to avoid tipping over. However, even as Sears manufactured these brackets, it did not train its delivery crews to install them. Consequently, homeowners remained unaware of the dangers of tipping over of the stove, and as a result, there were several injuries as stoves and ranges toppled over.
Electrocution Hazards: Defective Products
When electrical shock results in death it is called electrocution; however, non-fatal exposure is called electric shock. All levels of electrical exposure can cause severe injuries. The severity of the injuries will depend on the intensity of the electrical current and the duration of exposure.
40% of all electrocution deaths in the country take place because of defective consumer products.
Sources of Electrocution in the Home
- Large appliances, such as washing machines, cause 19% of all electrocutions in the U.S.
- Exposed wiring is the leading cause of electrocution in this category of deaths.
- Gardening equipment such as lawn blowers and weed eaters count for almost 7% of all electrocutions.
- Lighting equipment such as lighting fixtures, bulbs, lamps, etc. is responsible for 6% of all electrocutions.
- Smaller household appliances such as microwave ovens cause 4% of deaths due to electrocution.
Signs of Electrocution
- Burns where electrical current passed
- Blurred vision or difficulty seeing
- Paralysis of the muscles
- Disorientation and inability to talk coherently
- Seizures or respiratory arrest
- Irregular heartbeat
- Weak or irregular pulse
- Elevated or low blood pressure
- Muscular contractions
- Hemorrhage of the brain or of other organs
Fire & Burn Hazards
Every year, household appliances and electronics are responsible for many fires, explosions and burn injuries.
- Faulty Wiring
Defective wiring in an appliance can quickly short circuit, causing the appliance to burst into flames. It is not possible for a consumer to detect wiring problems and when accidents occur, they often result in burn injuries.
Defective manufacturing and design can cause appliances to overheat, resulting in burn injuries to persons using the appliance. In 2008, Sears recalled a line of coffee makers that were prone to overheating, causing melting of the plastic casing and damage to the countertop. JCPenny also recalled a line of deep fryers after the heating element of the fryer was found to overheat, causing burn injuries to users. Sony was forced to recall a line of laptop computers after overheated batteries began to result in smoke and flames emerging from the computer. Several burn injuries were reported before the notebooks were pulled off the shelves.
A defective product can cause injuries even when it is used in the manner intended by the manufacturer. In the past few years, several products have been recalled due to manufacturing defects that can lead to serious burn injuries. For instance, in 2007, Lowe's was forced to recall the Perfect Flame Four Burner Gas Grills that were missing a hose connecting the grill to the side burners, exposing users to fire and burn hazards.
- Gas grills that melt while heating
- Gas ovens that can cause gas to build up within the oven, resulting in minor explosions
- Self-cleaning ovens that burst into flames when the door is opened
- Stoves with ill fitting burners that cause propane gas leaks
- Stoves with missing parts that result in fire hazards
- Appliances with faulty labeling or insufficient instructions
Boiler Failure Injuries
Boilers are commonly found in peoples' homes to provide them with hot water or in industrial environments to produce steam power; when boilers fail, they can cause burns, scalding injuries, and even explosions. When boilers fail, they can also cause fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, and extensive property damage. A boiler can malfunction due to design or fabrication defects, improper installation, improper operation, or poor maintenance. Rising temperatures and corrosion can also lead to boiler malfunctions with catastrophic results. Overuse, wear and tear, and improper repairs can also lead to boiler failures. Boiler explosions can occur when pressure builds up in a boiler; when this is the cause, the resulting explosion can often be strong enough to take down a building. Human error can trigger boiler explosions, such as failing to remove explosive gases from the firebox before lighting the device or allowing the boiler to operate without enough water.
- Head trauma
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Loss of limbs
Individuals who have experienced a boiler failure that resulted in personal injury or property damage may be entitled to seek compensation from the boiler manufacturer or installer, depending on the cause of the malfunction.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs as a result of inhalation of toxic carbon monoxide fumes. These fumes are emitted from the combustion generated by automobiles, heaters, stoves, lanterns, and fires. From 1985 to 1990, more than 250 deaths occurred as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning; close to 80% were linked to furnaces and room heaters. The majority of these deaths were attributed to fumes emitted from natural gas water heaters and furnaces. When carbon monoxide is inhaled and enters the bloodstream, it interferes with the ability of the blood to supply oxygen to different parts of the body. Hemoglobin, the blood molecule that is responsible for oxygen supply, finds carbon monoxide easier to carry through the body than oxygen. The carbon monoxide binds tightly to the hemoglobin molecule and is transported to various parts of the body through the blood. This results in body cells being depleted of fresh oxygen, eventually contributing to cell death.
- Difficulty breathing
- Change in skin tone to a bright cherry pink
- Disturbance in eye-hand coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mental confusion
- Inability to move body parts
- Blood pressure may drop
- Convulsions may occur
- Cardiac failure may occur
- Body temperature may become lowered
- Kerosene heaters
- Barbecue grills
- Gas furnaces and heaters
- Gas dryers
- Gas powered cooking ranges and ovens
- Propane run refrigerators
- Wood burning stoves
Outside the house, sources of poisoning may be in the form of a car emitting carbon monoxide fumes in a garage, lawnmowers, camping gear like lanterns and stoves, as well as wood-burning stoves. Since 1995, several indoor and outdoor consumer products linked to carbon monoxide emissions have been recalled. Specific models of carbon monoxide detectors and alarms configured to detect and warn consumers of emissions have also been recalled due to inefficiency and inability to identify increasing levels of carbon monoxide.
Ready to receive skilled legal counsel? Contact a product liability attorney at our firm to review your options after injuries caused by a defective appliance or electrical device. Call us today!