In a time when people are under extraordinary pressure to be hygienic due to the coronavirus pandemic, a severe shortage in hand sanitizer products is leading to allegations that companies are putting out defective, unsafe products. This situation is likely to result in more product liability claims involving hand sanitizer.
What are the allegations?
According to reports, many hand sanitizers are being pulled from the market because they contain toxic methanol. Methanol is a form of alcohol that – if ingested – can cause severe damage to organs and blindness. If the methanol is inhaled or absorbed, it can cause nausea, seizures, and blurred vision. Methanol can also be fatal.
The methanol can wind up in a product when manufacturers do not fully or properly extract it during the distillation process.
In all, the Food and Drug Administration has identified and recalled more than 150 products.
Defenses to claims
When companies face accusations of making or selling a contaminated or dangerous product, there are several potential defenses.
In some cases, it may be possible to prove that the injured party misused the product. For example, if the product’s packaging features adequate warnings specifying approved uses, the manufacturer may not be liable when a consumer ignores those warnings.
There may also be grounds to challenge whether a product is actually responsible for a user’s illness or injury. In the case of allegedly contaminated hand sanitizers, it is quite possible that a claimant would use several different types and brands. Linking a specific product to the one that purportedly caused damages can, therefore, be quite difficult.
However, keep in mind that product liability claims are incredibly complex; rarely are the defenses this straightforward. Further, they can involve in-depth investigation and input from expert witnesses. And many parties find ways to resolve claims outside of court. Because of this, it is crucial for companies facing such cases to have experienced legal guidance.