How to Hold Makers of Dangerous Products Accountable for Failure to Warn | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Defective and dangerous products harm hundreds of people every day. In fact, most products, from medications to hairdryers and toys, come with voluntary or legally required warnings about injury and disease risks. But what happens when a company knows that a danger to consumers’ well-being exists and chooses to cover that up?




The short answer is to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit for failure to warn.

Corporations that make and sell products have a legal duty to inform consumers about what are called “nonobvious risks.” A simple, but clear example of this, comes from a trend of multimillion jury verdicts against Johnson & Johnson, which for decades marketed feminine hygiene products that contained talc contaminated by asbestos fibers.

The company had internal reports dating back to the early 1970s that some of the mines from which it sourced talc also produced ores from which asbestos could be extracted. Johnson & Johnson never disclosed this information and went so far as to repeatedly declare that none of its talcum powder products contained any asbestos.

Then, daily users of Johnson & Johnson talc products started developing mesothelioma. The women had no reason to suspect that their daily habit of applying powder put them at risk for a deadly cancer, but Johnson & Johnson had a legal duty to inform them of this danger.

It does not matter that the risk of dying from powdering oneself after showering is small. What matters, according to the legal standard applied in failure to warn cases, is that Johnson & Johnson knew the danger existed but kept the potentially lifesaving information from women.

Holding a company accountable for its failure to warn requires showing all of the following:

  • Use of the company’s product caused an injury or death.
  • The company knew or should have known about the nonobvious risk.
  • The risk was, in fact, nonobvious, like hidden asbestos fibers rather than visible metal shavings in talcum powder.
  • The person who suffered an injury, became ill or died used the product as intended and in compliance with other explicit warnings.

Companies faced with failure to warn lawsuits will contest each of these points. Working with a dedicated and experienced Virginia dangerous and defective products attorney will help victims fight back.