Defective Electric Blankets: How California Product Liability Law Protects You

A federal court jury in Missouri recently found that a Sunbeam electric blanket was defective. The case involved a elderly woman, Barbara Kay, who had been partially paralyzed due to an earlier stroke. She was sleeping under an electric blanket when it caught on fire causing her to suffer serious burns. Ms. Kay was spent five months in the hospital recovering from her burns, and had to have part of her left arm amputated.

A jury awarded her two million dollars compensatory damages for her injuries and her medical expenses. Evidence was presented that a faulty safety circuit in the electric blanket was responsible for the fire. The company has been the subject of many such lawsuits and has been investigated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

California product liability law protects consumers from defective products, such as electric blankets. Under California law, a product may be defectively manufactured or defectively designed. A product is defectively manufactured when the finished product deviates from the normal design. A product is defectively designed if the product as designed does not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected.

The case of the electric blanket is an example of a product which is defectively designed and does not meet consumer expectations as to safety. As an Oakland personal injury attorney, I have seen many cases over the years where corporations have put profits over the safety of the public. Our product liability laws were designed to curb such abuses. Hopefully, the recent Missouri verdict will deter Sunbeam from continuing to sell this particular product and design blankets which are not so susceptible to starting fires.

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