Manufacturing and processing plants have an inherent responsibility to ensure that the products they bring to the marketplace are of the highest quality and safety. Every country has a body responsible for ensuring that the products are assessed for these standards. In the United States, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission plays this role and tests and certifies quality standards for products and provides a list of those recalled by the manufacturers. Over the years, thousands of such products and criticisms have been forwarded concerning various dimensions of liability for negligence on the manufacturers, which is an essential business ethics issue.
The DeWalt cordless kerosene forced-air heater, models DXH90CFAKM and DXH90CFAK, is one such product listed on the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission website that was with the recall number 21-074. About 4500 heaters were rescinded on the 3rd February 2021 by the manufacturer-Enerco group. They unexpectedly re-start while in standby mode, whenever the room temperature falls below the set thermostat point (CPSC, 2021). This potentially leads to carbon monoxide and fire poisoning hazards. Therefore, consumers should stop using the heaters and contact Enerco for free replacements.
Manufacturers’ Liability for Negligence
Regardless of any underlying liability contractual limitations, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and retailers are always liable for defects in whole or part of their products under the common law of negligence or the Consumer Protection Act. Therefore, Enerco is liable for any harm caused by the product if does not recall it. Manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure that they take all requisite precautions during production and test performance effectiveness before placing the products in the consumers’ hands (Salminen, 2019). Failure to implement such measures is regarded as a sign of ignorance and negligence and makes the company responsible for all possible accidents and injuries caused by the product.
Issues Relating to Product Recall
Duty of Care
Duty of care entails welfare, good practice, compliance, and individual wellbeing. Manufacturers have a legal and moral obligation to ensure that consumers associated with their products are adequately protected from any harm (Goudkamp, 2017). Enerco in this regard had to take reasonable care to ensure that the heaters are safe for use by any foreseeable user. Therefore, they had a duty to anticipate risks in all spheres to prevent them from amounting to harm. However, Enerco did not take reasonable care to prevent the heaters’ re-starting, which is why they had to recall them. Nonetheless, they are still liable for negligence due to the potential harm they exposed their consumers to.
Standard of Care
Standard of care is particular to the professional duty that manufacturers have in providing quality services and acting reasonably. In tort law, a manufacturer is required to demonstrate a given degree of caution and prudence under the duty of care (Salminen, 2019). However, it is dependent on circumstances like in the case of the heaters. In such an instance, it can be used to determine the negligence level based on what a manufacturer of similar heaters would have reasonably done. Nonetheless, Enerco recalling the heaters was in line with the standard of care through having such products in the markets in the first place was negligent.
Breach of the Duty of Care
A manufacturer’s breach of their duty of care is often more subjective than objective. Under certain circumstances, they are not held legally responsible for negligence if reasonable care was taken, but defective products were still manufactured (Goudkamp, 2017). However, like the recalled heaters, telling whether manufacturers carried out their duty reasonably is not easy due to the subjectivity involved. Nonetheless, under the Consumer Protection Act, Enerco is still liable for the breach of duty of care since the product they brought to the market is defective. The liability comes regardless of whether reasonable care was taken or not.
In tort law, actual causation is more straightforward, referring to the factor without which the particular event would not have taken place. Evaluating this concept always covers a wide array and is full of what-ifs (Goudkamp, 2017). For instance, if Enerco had obliged their duty of care and standard of care, they would not have let defective heaters into the market. This shows that negligence of their duties and responsibilities led to this situation. The terms concern themselves more with cause-effect relationships.
In contrast, proximate cause means that manufacturers owing to their consumers a duty of care that must be adequately related to the injuries and accidents they sustain. In this regard, the law considers them responsible for the harm in a legal sense (Goudkamp, 2017). There has been no reported harm by consumers from Enerco’s heaters. However, if such a report arises, a proximate cause can quickly be established in line with the production and the defective products they brought to the market. This, in essence, would be the primary cause of the injuries and accidents arising from these products.
Consequently, actual injury refers to the actual prejudice regarding existing or contemplated litigation referring to the harm caused by one person to another. The degree of such harm can vary from slight to grievous (Goudkamp, 2017). However, Enerco is not liable for this legal concept as its products had not led to any harm before the recall. Though there was a single report of the heaters putting a consumer’s life in danger, there was no actual recorded injury to the consumers, their property, or those around them (CPSC, 2021). Nonetheless, in case any of the heaters lead to such damages before replacement, Enerco will be liable.
Defenses for Negligence
Negligence has three common defense doctrines: the assumption of risk, contributory negligence, and comparative fault. Under the premise of risk, the defendants can avoid liability if they can establish that the plaintiff voluntarily consented to the given danger, either implied or expressed, created by his/her negligence. On the contrary, the contributory negligence defense amounts to both the manufacturer and the consumer’s actions leading to the creation of the injury (Goudkamp, 2017). However, comparative negligence weighs the plaintiff’s involvement in the situation, and damages are waived based on this percentage. In case they are sued, Enerco can seek to adopt any of these defenses, provided there is adequate evidence to prove the existence of the same.
Consumer Protection Statute
The Federal Trade Commission Act would apply to the atrocities of Enerco for bringing a defective product to the marketplace. The statute protects consumers from any deception, unfairness, or fraud (Salminen, 2019). Enerco selling faulty heaters amount to unfairness as it infringes on consumer safety and brings injustice. In this regard, the company violated the law and consumers’ rights and even placed their lives in danger. Therefore, under the jurisdictions of this act, any consumer can seek legal redress for compensation.
Manufacturers need to ensure that they take adequate caution and test their products for defects before bringing them to the marketplace. If such care and responsibility are not guaranteed, their morality and ethics become questionable, and lose their trading licenses. Further, such negligence can easily place consumers’ lives in danger, which may, in some instances, lead to death. Therefore, manufacturers like Enerco must uphold their duties and responsibilities as required.
CPSC. (2021). Enerco group recalls DeWALT cordless kerosene heaters due to fire and carbon monoxide poisoning hazards. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Web.
Goudkamp, J. (2017). Breach of duty: A disappearing element of the action in negligence?. The Cambridge Law Journal, 76(3), 480-483. Web.
Salminen, J. (2019). From product liability to production liability: Modelling a response to the liability deficit of global value chains on historical transformations of production. Competition & Change, 23(4), 420-438. Web.