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The face of manufacturing has changed dramatically in recent years, with robot automation implemented in many industries to improve efficiency and cut costs. However, there are risks and safety hazards in the workplace when new automation programs are introduced, particularly when robots and workers are integrated into the same workplace.

Machines, robots and other automated manufacturing equipment can pose a serious safety risk at the workplace, especially when workers are not properly trained and do not understand the machine behavior.

Robots are programmable and most of their actions are dictated by human control, so any robotic injuries may be the result of a lack of training or other management shortfalls.

In short, employees should never be around machinery they don’t understand. Comprehensive training is critical for employees who work alongside machines, robots and other forms of automation.

When machine accidents and workplace injuries occur due to defective robot automation or negligent manufacturing workplace design, employers may be held liable in product liability and manufacturing injury lawsuits.

Joe Lyon is an experienced workplace injury attorney and product liability lawyer reviewing robot automation defects and manufacturing injury lawsuits. 


Robot Machinery & Automation Injury


Nearly every production and manufacturing assembly line in the U.S. now has some form of automation. The Robotic Industries Association estimates that in 2017 more than 250,000 robots had been installed in American workplaces, many with automated arms that can weld, paint or assemble parts.

Despite the injury risks that may be foreseeable, robotic systems in the workplace are more and more commonplace. Automatic machines may include:

  • Industrial robots: automatically controlled, programmable, multipurpose machine, with fixed in place or mobile for use in a variety of industrial automation applications.
  • Professional service robots: robot that performs tasks outside of industrial automation, like cleaning, delivery, firefighting or surgery. (Da Vinci Robotic System)
  • Collaborative robots: robots designed to interact and work with humans.

Automation Injury & Manufacturing Hazards


According to the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), many robot accidents occur during programming, program refinement, maintenance, repair, testing, setup, or adjustment. The safety agency describes the following potential hazards of working with robots:

  • Control errors: malfunctions within the control system, software, electromagnetic interference, and radio frequency interference. Such errors can create erratic behavior in a robot.
  • Unauthorized access: unauthorized entry into a safeguarded area by someone untrained in the automated hardware can easily cause serious injury.
  • Mechanical failures: the faulty or unexpected operation of a machine can be quite dangerous.
  • Environmental errors: sudden electrical interference can influence a robot’s performance. Power surges or power loss can lead to manufacturing injury lawsuits. Power sources that are disrupted may lead to malfunctions, and malfunctioning pneumatic, hydraulic or electrical power sources can disrupt electrical signals.
  • Improper installation: incorrect installation can result in safety hazards and endanger any worker in the workplace.
  • Human error: faulty programming, interfacing, maintenance, or unwanted activation may place workers in danger. Management has a duty to apply safe barriers like fixed guards, placards, stickers, and warnings. Worker procedure must be implemented and followed.
  • At least one worker should be maintaining emergency operational controls of robots at all times, with the ability to initiate a shutdown. Most automation injuries occur because workers or management misses or ignores procedure despite training or known safety precautions. It is also common for workers relying on machines to act complacent and inattentive.

Robot Automation & Manufacturing Injury Lawsuits


Training is the single best way to prevent machine injury. Robots are programmable and usually predictable. Employers must stress workplace training and procedure or may risk facing manufacturing injury lawsuits.

Guards should be in place at all times. To minimize the risk of robot injuries and machine incidents, NIOSH offers the following recommendations regarding the design of robotic systems, the training of workers, and their supervision:

  • Robotic System Design should include physical barriers that incorporate gates equipped with electrical interlocks so that operation of the robot stops when the gate is opened. Employers should provide barriers between robotic equipment and freestanding objects such as posts limiting robot arm movement. Employers should provide adequate clearance distances around all moving components of the robotic system, and adequate illumination in the control and operational areas of the robotic system.
  • Training should be provided to workers who will be programming, operating, or maintaining robots. Also, refresher courses should take place to discuss new technological developments should be provided so all workers are familiar with the robot and known hazards. Workers should operate robots at reduced speeds consistent with adequate worker response to avoid hazards during programming and be aware of all conceivable pinch points.
  • Supervisors should know that with time, experienced workers doing automated tasks may become complacent, overconfident, or inattentive to the hazards inherent in complex automated equipment. Close supervision of such operations is imperative.

All too often, employees use machinery they don’t understand or have not been trained to use. These are preventable accidents and worker injuries in almost every case, arising from known hazards:

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Why are these cases important?

Many product liability cases have had a positive impact on public health and safety, and we have witnessed improved lives and future injuries prevented as companies are forced to remove products and change designs and warnings as a result of litigation.

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Questions about Product Liability & Case Types

What is a Product Liability Lawsuit?

Product liability lawsuits often contain causes of action for strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. Strict liability applies to different factors than negligence-based claims.

In negligence cases, the actions of the defendant are the focus. In strict liability claims, the focus is on the condition of a product at the time it left the manufacturer. If a product is determined to be defective, the company is liable for any foreseeable injuries that are in-part caused by the defective condition of the product.

What are some examples of Product Liability?
How is a Product Defined as Defective?
Ohio Definition of Defective

A product is defective if it is unreasonably dangerous for its intended use. A legal cause of action can be based on several types of product defects. The following are Cincinnati product liability and strict liability claims available in Ohio and in most jurisdictions nationwide:

(1)  Manufacturing/ Construction Defect:

These issues arise where the product is released from the factory in a manner that deviates from the intended design or specifications. The defect can be a result of using the wrong materials, including the wrong or completely foreign materials (e.g., Tylenol contamination, food poisoning, damaged car part from factory installation).

As a result of the deviation, the product enters the market in an unreasonably dangerous condition and the consumer is exposed to or purchases a product that is defective. Any personal injuries or economic loss that arise from the the defect are compensable under Ohio product liability law.

(2) Defective design and/or formulation:

Defective design product liability cases arise not because a mistake was made during the manufacturing process, but rather the original design of the product is unreasonably dangerous. A “risk benefit analysis” is used to determine whether safer/less expensive alternative designs were available to the manufacturer.

Federal regulations set minimum standards for the design of many consumer products, and preemption defenses may preclude liability in some situations if the manufacturer follows and obtains federal approval for a product. Automotive recalls and product liability cases are usually a result of a defective design. Common cases include the Toyota Brake Recall, Chrysler Gen III seat belt buckle, lap belt only cases, Metal on Metal hip implants, transvaginal mesh.)

(3) Failure to warn or inadequate warning or instruction associated with the product:

All consumer products come with necessary and appropriate warnings and instructions for use. If the lack of a warning makes the product and use of the product unsafe, the manufacturer is liable for the failure to place the warning. The most common area of litigation for failure to warn is in pharmaceutical litigation.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to warn of the known or foreseeable side effects and update the warnings in a timely manner. Litigation arises where there is evidence the manufacturer failed to timely update a warning in light of new data or simply ignored the risk and failed to conduct sufficient research to identify and then disclose the risk.

(4) Misrepresentation:

The product fails to conform to a representation or warranty. Warranty claims are more common in commercial and economic loss cases than in personal injury cases. In many States, The Product Liability Act does not apply to cases with only economic loss, because the Commercial Code provides recourse for breach of warranty.

The warranty may be written or implied based upon the products intended purpose and merchantability. An example of a breach of warranty cases are cases involving automotive defects.

How do you prove design defects?

Risks:  The following factors are considered under Ohio law when determining the risks associated with the design of a product:  (1) the magnitude of the risk of injury; (2) ordinary consumer awareness of the risk for injury; (3) the likelihood of causing injury; (4) the violation of a private or public standard; and (5) the consumer’s expectation of the performance of the product and level of danger. Ohio Revised Code 2307.5 (B) Product Defective in Design or Formulation.

BenefitsThe following factors are considered under Ohio law when determining the benefits associated with product design: (1) the utility of the product; (2) availability of an alternative design; (3) the magnitude of risks associated with an alternative design. Ohio Revised Code 2307.5 (c)

Defenses for Defective Design(1) a pharmaceutical drug or medical device is not defective by design if it contains an adequate warning of an unavoidably unsafe aspect of the pharmaceutical or medical device; (2) the dangerous aspect is inherent to the product, recognizable, and cannot be eliminated without compromising the product’s usefulness; (3) a lack of a feasible alternative design. 2307.75 (d)(e)(f).

EXAMPLES:

What is a manufacturing defect?
  • A manufacturing defect is based on a defect that occurred during the manufacturing process. Many auto companies have been involved in this kind of product liability lawsuits in recent years, due to defective airbags, software defects, tire failure, and other dangerous manufacturing errors.

    Most manufacturing defect cases are based on a products deviation from the intended specification, formula, performance standards, or design model. In such cases, it may be easy to determine the product did not comply with the intended design.

    The product may be recalled as a specific lot is identified as being non-compliant and defective. A product may be defective in manufacture or construction, materials and assembly, and a manufacturer or distributor may be subject to strict liability, even though it exercised all possible care.  Ohio Revised Code 2307.74.


    Manufacturing Defect Examples:

What is a failure to warn lawsuit?

In determining whether a product is defective due to inadequate warning or instruction, evidence must be presented to prove:

  • The manufacturer knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known about a risk
  • A reasonable manufacturer would have provided a warning of the risk
  • The manufacturer failed to provide the warning
  • The person was injured due to a lack of warning. The same elements apply whether the claim is based on a warning present during the marketing or post-sale warnings.

Defenses to Failure to Warn Claims(1) the risk was open and obvious or a matter of common knowledge; and (2) in cases of a pharmaceutical drug or medical device, the warning was provided to the prescribing physician (“Learned Intermediary Doctrine”).

Many pharmaceutical companies have been targeted in failure to warn lawsuits for either failing to place warnings on medication guides and packaging or failing to properly test their product before putting it to market.


 

What are consumer product safety regulations?

Design and manufacturing defects result in thousands of product recalls each year in the United States, initiated by federal safety agencies. Following injury and illness, regardless of recall status, victims and plaintiffs may pursue legal action and contact a product liability lawyer to begin the litigation process. Rightful compensation can be sought and help plaintiffs recover medical costs and other related damages.

Product liability law overlaps with regulatory law, which are the systems of legislative rules and administrative agencies, and part of federal and state governments. These agencies regulate the safety of the products sold to the public. Examples include:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA;)
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

The listed government agencies, however, may initiate recalls of dangerous products but do not provide remedies or compensation for damages where an individual is injured due to the defective product.

Why should I hire The Lyon Firm?

Our Firm will help you find the answers.  The Firm has the experience, resources and dedication to take on difficult and emotional cases and help our clients obtain the justice for the wrong they have suffered. 

 Experience:  Joe Lyon is an experienced Cincinnati Product Liability Lawyer. The Lyon Firm has 17 years of experience and success representing individuals and plaintiffs in all fifty states, and in a variety of complex civil litigation matters.   Product Liability lawsuits can be complex and require industry experts to determine the root cause of an accident or injury.  Mr. Lyon has worked with experts nationwide to assist individuals understand why an injury occurred and what can be done to improve their lives in the future. Some cases may go to a jury trial, though many others can be settled out of court.

Resources/Dedication: Mr. Lyon has worked with experts in the fields of accident reconstruction, biomechanics, epidemiology, metallurgy, pharmacology, toxicology, human factors, workplace safety, life care planning, economics, and virtually every medical discipline in successfully representing Plaintiffs across numerous areas of law. The Lyon Firm is dedicated to building the strongest cases possible for clients and their critical interests.

Results:  Mr. Lyon has obtained numerous seven and six figure results in personal injury,  automotive product liability, medical negligence, construction accidents, and auto dealership negligence casesThe cases have involved successfully litigating against some of  the largest companies in the world 

Your Right to Safety

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Defective products on the market present safety and health hazards for adults and children. Cheap and defective products may pose fire and burn risks; electrocution, strangulation and choking risks; and severe health risks. The manufacturers of consumer products have a duty to foresee potential injury and properly design and test products before they are released.

Companies must also properly warn consumers of any risks associated with their products. Any failure to protect consumers that results in accidents and injury can lead to lawsuits filed by plaintiffs and their Cincinnati product liability lawyer

Our Victories

The Lyon Firm aggressively, professionally, and passionately advocates for injured individuals and families against companies due to a defective product or recalled product to obtain just compensation under the law. 

DEFECTIVE LAP BELT RESTRAINT

SPINAL CORD INJURY

(Pikeville, Kentucky): Confidential settlement for Plaintiff who suffered spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia due to defectively designed seat belt. Four passengers with three-point (lap/shoulder) belts walked away from the accident, and the only passenger wearing a two-point belt (lap only) suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury. The settlement assisted with home improvements to assist in daily living. GM entered federal bankruptcy during the process and no longer manufactures two-point lap belts for vehicles.

DEFECTIVE PROPANE WALL HEATER

WRONGFUL DEATH 

(Hillsboro, Ohio): Confidential Settlement for the family of elderly man who was catastrophically burned while operating a propane wall heater. The burns resulted in his unfortunate death. The heater, manufactured and sourced from China, was alleged to allow the flame to reach outside the grid area in violation of ANSI standards. The Defendant resolved the case following discovery and mediation. The recovered funds were paid to the victim’s surviving spouse and children. The company no longer manufactures this type of heater.

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