When you purchase a product, you expect it to be in perfect working condition and have the ability to fulfill the purpose it’s supposed to. Dangerous products that are released to the public may find themselves at the center of product liability lawsuits. When the product manufacturer is deemed negligent and puts consumers at risk, they may have to pay a settlement.
One unique product liability lawsuit was recently filed in May 2018. The Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring claimed Warren Retrievers Inc. and CEO Charles D. Warren Jr. sold non-functional “service dogs” to patients with “invisible diseases” like diabetes. The lawsuit cites more than 50 complaints by dog owners that the dogs were little more than untrained puppies, in an investigation covering several years.
Dogs may well be one of the most surprising entities named as products in a lawsuit like this. Here is more information about the lawsuit, how the lawsuit fits into product liability, and what you should know if you experience a similar situation.
The lawsuit against Warren Retrievers Inc. claims the nonprofit organization charged $18,000 to $27,000 for 3-month-old Labrador retriever puppies that were poorly trained and failed to carry out the duties they were advertised to, let alone execute basic tasks. The puppies cited in the suit were not able to come when commanded or walk properly on leashes, making them of little use to the patients who received them. Patients were told the diabetic alert dogs would be able to detect blood sugar levels, get help from humans, and dial emergency services.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties of up to $2,500 per willful violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. The lawsuit also seeks $5,000 per violation of the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions Law, as well as refunds for dogs that do not have the skills promoted by the nonprofit.
Something that may hurt the defense’s credibility is that Warren is also accused of claiming he served in the Marine Corps, trained dogs in the military, and was medically discharged due to diabetes. The lawsuit claims Warren never served in any military branch. Warren’s statement that he did may have influenced customers and donors, which adds to the complexity of the case. Warren’s lawyer denies all allegations of wrongdoing.
Some product liability lawsuits involve deadly products like malfunctioning MRI machines and nail guns. Puppies might be cute and cuddly, but in this case, the threat of death as a result of their defects was also a reality. Patients who relied on these “service dogs” to protect them in cases of extreme blood sugar levels could have collapsed in a dangerous environment or experienced deadly kidney failure. Patients who obtained the dogs in hopes of getting vital protection in an emergency received no security.
On top of that, they had to pay up to tens of thousands of dollars for a service animal. The costs involved with the purchase and potential damages incurred all add up to what may be deemed as negligence in court.
Consumer protection laws mandate that products meet the ordinary expectations of a customer. The product does not necessarily have to be sold to the person who experiences an injury because of it. It may be a gift or a product that is used by someone who did not purchase it.
Product defects may include design defects, manufacturing defects or marketing defects. Proper warnings of dangers for any product must always be supplied, as well. In this case, a lack of training for the puppies may relate to the design of the product, while the way the dogs were marketed as service dogs is also an influential factor.
Because this case involves more than 50 complaints about the dogs/products, there is strength in numbers regarding the credibility of the claim. This case shows us that living and breathing life forms may be involved in future product liability cases.
What to Do If You Encounter a Defective Product
If you or a loved one is seriously injured by a defective product, you should keep the product intact, get medical help, keep organized records, and contact a Birmingham product liability attorney. You may be one of many people who has been hurt by the same type of defective product. Your attorney should offer a free consultation and work on a contingency basis, meaning there is no risk to you, and you only pay attorney fees if you win.
In a case like this, where you have purchased a service animal who doesn’t deliver the services provided, you may also want to consult with an attorney. Although the damage may not be immediately noticeable, your health and livelihood deserve to be protected, no matter what product you are using.
This case is also a reminder to donors that they should research and thoroughly consider the value of the “nonprofits” they’re donating to. Avoid giving your funds to a fraudulent organization that could actually be harming people. Evaluate case studies and testimonials so you know you’re supporting upstanding organizations.