As the partial government shutdown entered its third week – and has already become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history – many Americans are wondering how the shutdown has impacted product liability law and, in particular, the reporting obligations that exist for manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and others.
Today, we invited our product liability lawyer in California from Licata & Yeremenko, A Professional Law Corporation to explain how the government shutdown, which began on December 22, 2018, affects the reporting obligations imposed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Contrary to the popular belief, the CPSC’s reporting obligations have not been suspended or put on hold due to the government shutdown. It is true that the Commission’s non-essential personnel have been furloughed, but it does not mean that the obligation exists for product manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and other parties to report any defects, hazards, or immediate threats to the public safety has been discharged.
Reporting Obligations During The Government Shutdown
Our California product liability lawyer explains that the CPSC’s workers designated as essential personnel during the government shutdown have a duty to protect American consumers against substantial, immediate, or imminent threats to human safety. And those essential employees are reviewing product liability reports to determine which products pose a threat to consumer safety.
More importantly, the CPSC has not suspended the obligation to report during the government shutdown, which means manufacturers, distributors, retailers and other parties in the chain of distribution have a duty to report the following:
- A defective product that could pose a substantial threat to consumers
- A product that poses an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death
- A product that does not comply with a certain rule, standard, regulation, or ban imposed by the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA)
- An incident in which a minor has suffered a serious injury or died as a result of suffocation or choking on a certain component in the product
- Settlements of product liability lawsuits.
How The CPSC Defines Grievous Bodily Injury
For the purpose of reporting the severity of bodily injury in consumers who sustain injuries when using a defective product, the CPSC defines “grievous bodily injury” as follows:
- Mutilation or disfigurement, including but not limited to facial disfigurement or scarring
- Dismemberment or amputation
- The loss of a vital bodily function (for example, loss of vision, hearing, etc.)
- Trauma requiring at least 30 days of in-patient care or 60 days in a rehabilitation facility
- Severe burns or electrical shock.
Reporting Settlements Of Product Liability Lawsuits
Our experienced product liability attorney in California also reminds readers that manufacturers and other parties in the chain of distribution have a legal obligation to report settlements of product liability lawsuits. For this purpose, the CPSC has established specific statutory time periods within which these settlements must be reported.
Currently, the applicable period to report settlements of lawsuits is between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2021. Each of the 24-month statutory periods begins every odd year.
Our California product liability attorney at Licata & Yeremenko, A Professional Law Corporation sums up that product manufacturers have an obligation to report any defects or hazards in their products upon discovery or upon receiving reasonable complaints from injured consumers or family members of persons who died when using the product in question.
Do keep in mind that in order to be entitled to financial compensation under California’s product liability law, you – as the consumer who has been injured by a product – face a burden of proof to establish that the product was used in a reasonably foreseeable manner.