Sunday Special: Researching defective products

I have featured a few product liability lawsuits.  These are good sources for dark side of a company’s product information but its not easy to find them.   While many courts provide access to their electronic court dockets there are hundreds of them to search and many don’t allow you to search easily by company name.  The SEC filings could be useful but they often mask the true nature of the suits or don’t mention them at all.  For example, earlier I featured a lawsuit against Hewlett Packard involving a faulty video card but if you look at the SEC filings none of those kinds of suits are listed.

This is where the Consumer Product Safety Commission comes in.  Frequently, products are subject to warnings or recalls before major litigation occurs and you can find out about a company’s less successful product offerings.  In the case of Hewlett Packard, you can use the cumbersome search feature (HERE) to look for the products with major safety and health issues.  The most recent HP recalls have all involved products that have caught fire.

Note that the lawsuit involving the video card has no precedent at the commission.  This is because the commission doesn’t recall faulty products unless they cause a health and safety problem.  So if you buy a lemon and you want justice, you’ll have to go to court.  Best to find others in a like position and a class action attorney ready to take the case.  Otherwise, your damages won’t get you into superior court.

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3 Responses to “Sunday Special: Researching defective products”

  1. Tom Taormina Says:

    If you are in a manufacturing, service or distribution business, sooner or later you are likely to be blind-sided by a product liability claim or a law suit. On the other hand, manufacturers and service providers seldom look at their processes, products and services from the perspective of potential risk. It is not our nature to objectively analyze each step in our business model, looking for potential opportunities for a consumer to be injured by our product or services.
    Right or wrong, once a product liability or organizational negligence law suit has been filed, the process is lengthy, expensive and can turn executives and employees into bitter and resentful individuals who may never emotionally heal from the process.
    The root cause of the personal distress is the result of being “blind-sided.” Most business leaders have never contemplated or anticipated the scenario described in the law suit complaint and their first reaction is shock, followed immediately by denial and anger. They become so obsessed with remediation and defense that the personal and financial trauma may be irreversible.
    The preventive approach to risk avoidance is to proactively perform a “CAT Scan” on your business. The procedure requires that everyone in the organization subject their methods and processes to clinical examination with the real possibility that there may be cancerous cells that we would rather not confront, admit to or treat surgically. Most business executives would rather have a root canal than go through the process of self examination of long-established business methods that they perceive as being successful, stable and reliable. To compound denial, most successful business leaders pride themselves as being problem solvers. I have never found one who boasted about being a problem “avoider.” The proactive solution to avoiding law suits is relatively straightforward:
     Develop an irrevocable company goal that NO critical defect shall ever reach a customer.
     Use quality process improvement tools to map all business processes, their interrelationships and their dependencies.
     Assess each process on its own and assign metrics for effectiveness, quality and reliability.
     Dissect each process until all opportunities for defects or mistakes are identified and understood.
     Objectively improve the processes until they are innately safe, reliable and continually-monitored metrics warn of pending problems before they happen.
     Remove the concepts of defect inspection, rework, punishment and blame from your organization.
     Replace them with individual and organizational accountability for the outcome of everyone’s work.
     Continually elicit and scrutinize customer feedback for potential issues and correct them immediately and proactively as a “gift” of valuable information.
    While the tenets are simple, their implementation requires uncommon courage by business leaders to assess their business for systemic disease and eradicate it with tenacity and finality. It requires driving any signs of mediocrity from the organization just as you would remove pre-cancerous cells from your body.

  2. Randy Wilson Says:

    Thanks for the post. What resources do you utilize to research a company’s product offerings and potential risks?

  3. Tom Taormina Says:

    Please contact me directly for a more contextual answer to your question.

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