A defective washing machine can cause serious injuries and property damage. If you have been injured by a defective washing machine, you may be entitled to compensation from the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the product.
Washing Machine Defects
Washing machines can be plagued by a host of defects that can ignite fires and cause serious injuries.
For example, in 2016 Samsung recalled 34 top-loading models for “excessive vibration” that, in some cases, caused the washer’s top to be violently flung off of the chassis during the spin cycle. The Korean appliance manufacturer had received 733 consumer complaints, and nine reports of injuries that included a broken jaw.
Mechanical and electrical malfunctions, such as faulty wiring, or leaks that allow water to contact electrical components, are a source of washing machine fires. A March 2017 National Fire Protection Association report on washing machine and dryer fires estimated that between 2010-2014, U.S. municipal fire departments responded to an 1,340 home fires involving washing machines or washer-dryer combination machines each year, resulting in four fatalities, 10 injuries and $7 million in property damage.
Washing machine fires caused by an electrical failure accounted for 60 percent of direct property damage. The components most likely to be first ignited were electrical wire or cable insulation, followed by the appliance housing or casing, according to the NFPA report.
Defective Washing Machine Recalls
There are no mandatory safety standards for washing machines. The voluntary standards are set by organizations such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in consultation with industry representatives. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which regulates washing machines and other household appliances, works with appliance-makers to publicize manufacturers’ voluntary recalls, or uses its regulatory authority to compel a manufacturer to recall a defective product.
Recent recalls of washing machines include:
- In November 2016, Samsung recalled around 2.8 million top-loading washers because the top of the washer can unexpectedly come off.
- In December 2012, LG recalled about 457,000 top-loading washing machines. Loads that are not balanced can cause LG and Kenmore Elite machines to shake excessively.
- In March 2007, Maytag and Samsung recalled approximately 250,000 Maytag and 20,000 Samsung front-loading washing machines because water can leak onto the electrical connections to the washer’s thermal sensor. This could result in an electrical short, igniting a circuit board.
- In September 2005, Maytag recalled about 5,000 front-loading washing machines because, if the washer is operated at maximum load capacity, the spinner could break apart.
To learn more about washing machine recalls and washing machine safety, go to:
- cpsc.gov: This CPSC website maintains a recall list for consumers to check if there is a recall on a certain washing machine.
- saferproducts.gov: This CPSC website has a key-word searchable database where the public can report problems with washing machines, read consumer complaints about washing machines, and find recall notices.
- Consumer Reports: This non-profit organization accepts no advertising and is generally considered to be an impartial source for consumers purchasing washing machines.
- The National Fire Protection Association: This organization investigates the causes of fires and reports on the number caused by washing machines.
Filing a Product Liability Suit for Injuries Caused by a Defective Washing Machine
If you have been injured by a defective washing machine, you can file a product liability suit against the manufacturer of the washer, the distributor, or the retailer.
A product liability lawsuit involving a defective consumer product, such as a washing machine, may be based on three types of defects:
- A design defect: A defect that is built into the inner workings and functions of the product. This occurs during the engineering and planning phase, before the product is manufactured.
- A manufacturing defect: A defect that occurred during the production of the component parts or the assembly of the product.
- A marketing defect: A defect related to the manufacturer’s failure to provide adequate instructions on the proper and safe use of a product, adequate warnings against safety hazards of the product, or information about the safety risks associated with its use.
Your lawyer may pursue a defective product claim against a manufacturer, retailer or distributor be based on one of three theories:
- Strict liability: When a product liability case is based on strict liability, you do not have to prove the manufacturer’s negligence. You must only prove the product was defective and that the defect caused your injury.
- Negligence: When a product liability case is based on negligence, you must prove the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer did not exercise the care that would be considered reasonable by other experts – in legal terms, the “standard of care.”
- Breach of warranty: When a product liability case is based on breach of warranty, you must prove that the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer violated an implied warranty — their assurances that a product is safe when it is used as it was intended.
Manufacturers, distributors and retailers may defend against these claims by arguing the following:
- The statute of limitations: Each state limits how long after suffering a product-related injury a consumer may file a product liability suit. These statutes of limitation vary, ranging from one to six years.
- The statute of repose: Each state limits how long after a product has been manufactured or sold that it can be considered defective. In other words, after a certain period, the law presumes the product is too old to be held liable for a defect. The statute of repose is usually a much longer period than the statute of limitations. It also varies by state, ranging from six to 20 years. Many states have a 10- or 12-year statute of repose.
- Misuse of a product: A manufacturer may argue that you did not use the oven in a proper manner.
- Alteration of a product: A manufacturer may argue that you modified the product.
Compensation in a Product Liability Suit
The compensation you can recover in a product liability suit includes:
- Medical expenses, including future medical expenses and the cost of rehabilitation
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity (what you could have earned had you not been injured)
- Property damages, such as fire damage
- Damages for pain and suffering
- Damages for mental anguish
In some cases, you may also be able to recover punitive damages (damages intended to punish the manufacturer or other responsible party). For example, the manufacturer may have known of a potential hazard for years and chose to ignore it.
If you have been injured by a defective washing machine, call the product liability lawyers at Newsome Melton at 888-808-5977 for a free consultation or make an appointment on our website.
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