Total Recall?

No, today’s post isn’t an homage to Arnold. Or maybe it is . . . . If you are like me, you are likely growing tired of all of the product recalls that have been issued this year. We here at Abnormal Use try to stay on the cutting edge and provide our readers with up-to-date and timely information whenever a recall is issued. Think of us as the informant to the informed.Whether it’s McDonalds’ Shrek glasses, SpaghettiOs, Tylenol, or baby strollers, we were there for our readers. Despite the wonderful content for our blog, I believe that our readers, like most Americans, are beginning to hit their saturation point with all of these product recalls.

Recently, there was a great article in The Washington Post that addressed this very issue. This phenomenon actually has a name: “product fatigue.” In her article, the writer points out that people are becoming confused by the number or recalls or even worse, simply ignoring the recalls.

‘It’s a real issue,’ said Jeff Farrar, associate commissioner for food protection at the Food and Drug Administration, who said even his wife has complained about the difficulty of keeping pace with recalls. ‘That number is steadily going up, and it’s difficult for us to get the word out without oversaturating consumers.’ The problem is twofold: Some people never learn that a product they own has been recalled, and others know they have a recalled product but don’t think anything bad will happen. ‘The national recall system that’s in place now just doesn’t work,’ said Craig Wilson, assistant vice president for quality assurance and food safety at Costco. ‘We call it the Chicken Little syndrome. If you keep shouting at the wind — ‘The sky is falling! The sky is falling!’ — people literally become immune to the message.’

The article from the Post also detailed some of the manufacturers’ reactions to recalls. Costco is actually notifying its customers, with a telephone call, when a product purchased by the customer has been recalled. I applaud Costco for their efforts, but at the same time I’m not sure that I want my local Publix asking me for my personal information so that they can call me if there is ever a problem with a product that I purchased from their store. It will be interesting to see how other manufacturers and sellers respond to this issue.

From the perspective of defense lawyer, I am becoming increasingly concerned about my clients’ future. Yes, we defense lawyers are always worried about our clients’ well-being and more specifically their exposure to bogus claims. My concern is this: what’s to keep some plaintiff from claiming the following: “Back in 2010 there were just so many product recalls I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know that I couldn’t use my Shrek glass from McDonalds to help me swallow my Tylenol that I felt that I needed to take after eating my bowl of SpaghettiOs.” Besides the obvious procedural issue which would require me to immediately move the court to add additional defendants, how am I to respond to such a claim?