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Personal Injury / March 14, 2017

Defective Products: Mandatory Recalls vs. Voluntary Recalls

According to Brewbound, the craft brewery Sierra Nevada has announced a 36-state voluntary recall of its year-round and seasonal beers that were recently bottled at the company’s North Carolina brewery. Sierra Nevada issued the voluntary recall after quality inspectors discovered that some beer bottles contained a flaw that may potentially cause a small piece of glass to break off and contaminate the beer. The company’s chief supply chain officer released a statement indicating that approximately one in every 10,000 12 ounce glass bottles packaged between December 5th and January 13th may have been affected. Those of us living in Mississippi should be aware that defective bottles have been distributed in our state, and that almost anyone injured by a defective bottle is entitled to file a product liability claim to recoup their losses.

What is the Difference Between a Mandatory Recall and a Voluntary Recall?

Sierra Nevada issued a voluntary recall, but what does that mean? Why isn’t the recall mandatory? To answer these questions we have to take a step back and examine what exactly a product recall is, who can issue a recall, and the motivations that commonly lead to a product being recalled.

According to Investopedia a “product recall” is defined as the process of retrieving defective goods from distributors and consumers in exchange for compensation. Legally speaking, a product can be defective in any of the following three ways:

  • Design Defect: A product is defective if it is unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect. Design defects are present in the product’s blueprints, meaning that they occur even before the product is manufactured, and cause the product to be inherently unsafe in some way.
  • Manufacturing Defects: A product is also defective if a defect that occurred while the product was being manufactured or assembled renders the product unreasonably safe.
  • Marketing Defects: A product that does not contain a design defect nor a manufacturing defect can still be deemed defective if the product is rendered unreasonably dangerous due to improper marketing, such as improper labeling, insufficient instructions, or inadequate safety warnings.

In the United States, if a product is defective and poses a hazard to consumers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has the power to request a mandatory recall of the product. A CPSC recall establishes which batch(es) of a particular product are thought to be defective and requires that products from these batches be returned to the maker. Additionally, companies also have the power to initiate a product recall, however, these recalls are referred to as voluntary recalls because the company voluntarily took action without having been told to do so by CPSC.

These days, almost all product recalls are voluntary because it is generally in a company’s legal interest to issue a voluntary recall rather than waiting for CPSC to request a mandatory recall. Despite the fact that recalls can be extremely costly, companies are often motivated to voluntarily recall defective products because doing so is helpful in limiting liability for corporate negligence.

Need Legal Advice?

Be aware that recalling a defective product does not automatically get the product’s owner off the hook for injuries caused by their product. Individuals injured by a defective product can still successfully pursue a personal injury lawsuit despite the fact that the product that injured them was recalled. If you are interested in filing a product liability claim in Mississippi or have questions about your legal rights concerning a defective product, contact Derek L. Hall, PC today to schedule a free initial consultation.


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