Product Safety Laws: Child Toys, Seatbelts, & Prescription Drugs

Children’s toys, prescription drugs, and seat belts. Three things that seem like they have nothing in common, but when you think about it, all three are things we trust. Who expects a toy to be dangerous? That prescription drug is saving your life. And that seat belt, well, we’ve all seen those videos growing up on why you should wear them. So, what do we do when such items cause us harm? This blog covers some of the product safety laws enacted by CA, or by the United States and used by CA, to keep you safe.

Children’s Toys

In 2014, an estimated 251,800 children were treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. Eleven children suffered fatalities from toys that same year. When it comes to your children’s toys, most of the product safety laws in California come from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”).

In 2003, the CPSC passed The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to improve and enhance previously passed product safety laws. This act requires that children’s toys:

  1. Comply with all applicable children’s product safety rules; (a huge list!)
  2. Be tested for compliance by a CPSC-accepted accredited laboratory (exceptions apply);
  3. Have a written Children’s Product Certificate that provides evidence of the products’ compliance; and
  4. Have permanent tracking information affixed to the product and its packaging where practicable.

That same year, California took product safety laws for children’s toys one step further by passing the California Safer Consumer Products Act. While this law was not specifically directed at children’s toys, its goal was to regulate the amount and which chemicals are going into products. With children being prone to putting anything and everything in their mouths, this can only be viewed as a good thing.

If you believe that your child has been harmed by one of their toys, your personal injury lawyer will most likely bring an action for defective product against the manufacturer of toy. For more information on this action, read our page on defective products.

Product Safety Laws Children Toys

Prescription Drugs

Nobody wants to take prescription drugs. They’re expensive and are almost always due to some other worse situation that may occur were it not for taking the prescription drug. So what happens when you DO suffer a side effect from one?  Luckily, there is an extensive list (with changes as recent as 2016!) of product safety laws to cover the handling, warning and manufacturing of these necessities.

If you suffer an adverse effect from a prescription drug, what does your personal injury lawyer have to show? There are, generally, two situations that adverse effects arise from when it comes to prescription drugs.  The first is a failure of someone to properly warn you of the side effects, and the second is an actual defect with the prescription drug.

When reaction to a prescription drug is due to the failure of your doctor, your personal injury lawyer will have to show:

  1. That the defendant manufactured/distributed/sold the prescription drug;
  2. That the prescription drug had the potential side effects/reactions that were known or knowable in light of the scientific and medical knowledge that was generally accepted in the scientific community at the time of manufacture/sale/distribution;
  3. That the potential side effects/reactions presented a substantial danger when the prescription drug is used or misused in an intended or reasonably foreseeable way;
  4. That ordinary customers would not have recognized the potential side effects/reactions;
  5. That the defendant failed to adequately warn of the potential side effects/reactions;
  6. That you were harmed; and
  7. That the lack of sufficient instruction or warnings was a substantial factor in the cause of the harm.

If you did receive proper warning, it is also possible that you are suffering from a design defect in the prescription. In most case, these are weeded out in the testing of drugs, but the California Supreme Court has said that “a product is defective in design either (1) if the product has failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner, or (2) if, in light of the relevant factors . . ., the benefits of the challenged design do not outweigh the risk of danger inherent in such design.”[1]

For example, if you are taking a prescription for acid reflux, but there is a high possibility of a heart attack that was not found during the testing, your prescription drug has a design defect.

Seatbelts

We are a commuter nation. We drive everywhere, and you have probably had the importance of seatbelts drilled into you since you were a young child. And for good reason! Even with the California seat belt usage rate over 97%, 21,132 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in 2013.

Are there Specific Product Safety Laws in California Regarding Seatbelts?

Generally, because seatbelt technology has not had drastic changes since the modern three-point seatbelt was introduced by Volvo in 1959 the majority of laws specifically directed at seatbelts have been mainly driver deterrence. The “Click-it or Ticket” campaign began in California in 2005 and can result in a minimum adult seat belt violation of $162 and a minimum of $465 for an improperly restrained child.

So, How am I Protected From Defective Seat Belts?

While there are not any specific product safety laws regarding seatbelts, there is well-established defective product case law protecting you.  Simply, if a seatbelt rolls off the factory line with a variance from what the manufacturer intended, or if the product does not perform as safely as an ordinary customer would expect, there is a defect.

I Knew About the Recall, but I Forgot to Return my Product

Recall notices are great ways for manufacturers to protect both themselves and their consumers, and they prevent many injuries. However, there are times when, for whatever reason, you are either unable to get a refund, replace, or repair. Is the injury suddenly your fault? Though there are no specific product safety laws protecting you in this instance, the Courts have. In Springmeyer v. Ford Motor Co., the California said that “[a] manufacturer cannot delegate responsibility for the safety of its product to dealers, much less purchasers.”[2] Thus, just because you did not follow-through with a recall notice does not mean that the manufacturer is not responsible.

Statutes of Limitations in Product Safety Laws Cases

Because cases involving product safety laws are usually classified under a theory of liability of product defects and not as a specific types of injuries in and of themselves, the statute of limitations for these cases is two years. This is set by California’s Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1.  That being said, if you believe that you or a loved one has been injured by anything listed above, contact a personal injury lawyer to have your case reviewed.

To learn more about product defects, view our page discussing the matter.

[1] Barker v. Lull Engineering Co. (9178) 20 Cal.3d 413, 418 [143 Cal.Rptr. 225, 573 P.2d 443]

[2] Springmeyer v. Ford Motor Co. (1998) 60 Cal.App.4th 1541, 1562-1563 [71 Cal.Rptr.2d 190]

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