Espresso Machine Recalled: Not a Whole Latte Love

In a prior post, I extolled the virtues of coffee, both as a close companion and a healthy dietary component. Another friend—a human of the non-coffee-drinking genus – recently won an espresso machine, and she gave it to my wife. The device now sits prominently on our kitchen counter looking rather judgmentally at the every-day coffee maker. I imagine that the two trade sardonic barbs when alone, each deriding the other for her seemingly limited functionality: the age-old “I’m for special occasions” vs. “I’m for daily use” controversy. I love the newborn as much as I do her older sibling because each makes my family happy in her own way. Neither seems particularly reassured by my reassurances.

Now, my firm handles products liability cases, many of which involve defective household appliances (juicers, blenders, microwaves, etc.) But I don’t quite know what we would do if presented with an allegedly hazardous coffee machine (espresso or regular). Skeptical as I am that anything that delivers such a wonderful elixir could meet the legal definition of a “defective product,” it would probably be easier for me to defend rather than to prosecute the seller.

Take the PREMIUM® espresso maker, for example.  Recently, the Precision Trading Corporation of Miami, Florida, received a report that a consumer sustained burns to her arm when the cap unexpectedly released steam from the espresso maker.  Whether the machine is a defective product or not may be determined through litigation.  But in the meantime, the company recalled some 4,700 units noting that: 1) the filler cap at the top can crack and allow steam to escape, posing a risk of burns to the user; and 2) the cap can pop off unexpectedly as a result of pressure buildup, posing a risk of injury to a bystander. The recall involves the four-cup model (number PEM585 and product date code “0914” or “1114”), that was manufactured in China in September 2014 and November 2014 and sold between November 2014 and February 2015. The Premium logo is printed on the bottom front of the espresso maker. Espresso makers with “2015” marked on the cap are not included in this recall.  The company has encouraged consumers to visit its website at www.premiumus.com and click on Recall Information for more information.

When I get home tonight, I will check the label on my espresso machine.  I’m hoping it’s not a Premium machine, just in case it is a defective product.  Not for safety sake, mind you.  I just don’t want to give the daily machine something else to crow about.

An Un-Safety Gate

A father of three and an owner of several canines, I am no stranger to safety gates. Whether to keep toddlers off the stairs or pups off the couch, my wife and I have purchased and have given away innumerable such devices over the past 25 years.  Some were plastic with lift gates, some wood which accordianed, but we bought and installed them all.  The children are on their own now and some of the dogs have departed.  But our walls still bear the scars of affixation, a daily attestation to the role they played in supporting those marvelous gates and keeping our loved ones safe and our furniture soil-free.

Today, IKEA recalled the Patrull Klämma and Patrull Smidig pressure-mounted safety gate due to a fall hazard.  According to the Danish manufacturer, the friction between the wall and the gate is insufficient to hold the device in its intended position and the lower metal bar can be a tripping hazard. The recall involves about 58,000 units in the United States and 17,000 in Canada, the defective products sold in IKEA stores nationwide and online from August 1995 through February 2015 for about $35. The implicated safety gates are white, made of steel and plastic, and measure about 29 inches high with an adjustable width from about 29 inches to 34 inches. The gate has a spring mechanism that fits between the two sides of the door frame to hold the gate in place. A permanent label is attached to the metal bar at the bottom of the safety gate containing an article number.

There have been 18 incidents reported worldwide, including three in which children were injured from falling down stairs. No injuries have been reported in the U.S.  The manufacturer has urged consumers to stop using the safety gates and to return them to any IKEA store for a full refund. Consumers who want to keep them for limited use can contact IKEA to receive free updated user instructions and new adhesive warning labels to put on their safety gates.

Lead Poisoning in Baby’s Safe Place

Those of us who defend property owners in lead poisoning litigation always look for an alternate source of the infant plaintiff’s exposure.  Sometimes the child has spent summers in a country which does not prohibit lead-based paint in housing interiors and/or does not regulate leaded gasoline emissions as carefully as does our own federal government. Sometimes she ingests lead from toys, cosmetics or home remedies that are manufactured abroad. In a case we defended years ago, our client retrieved Chinese-made crayons from the plaintiff’s apartment; not only did the crayons have teeth marks but they also had very high levels of lead. Invariably, we examine all surfaces that young children can access with their mouths, cribs in particular.

On May 8, 2015, Baby’s Dream Furniture Inc., of Buena Vista, Ga., recalled approximately 4,600 full-size cribs, furniture pieces and accessories because their surfaces exceed federal lead limits. The recall involves products sold in a vintage grey paint finish under the Brie, Braxton, Heritage, Everything Nice and Legendary collections. The items were manufactured in Chile between March 2014 and March 2015 and in Chile.  A label affixed to the bottom of the crib’s back frame and the back panel of the furniture lists the product name, date and location of manufacture, model number and purchase order number (PO#).  The cribs sold in specialty furniture stores nationwide and online at BabysDream.com for $350 to $900 for the cribs, the dressers, hutches, nightstands, bookcases and chests for $450 to $1,000 and the accessories for $100 to $300.  Anyone who is interested in this subject, whether a consumer or legal professional involved in lead poisoning litigation, can go to www.cpsc.gov to obtain the model numbers.

You’ll Scream, All Right.

On April 20, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries voluntarily recalled all of its products including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks.  The company did so after sampling of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream produced on March 17, 2015 and March 27, 2015 was found to contain listeria monocytogenes.  The bacteria causes listeriosis, an infection that is life-threatening, particularly to pregnant women and their newborns, adults 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems.  The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has recommended that consumers not eat any Blue Bell brand products and that institutions and retailers not serve or sell them.  As of April 21, 2015, ten cases of listeriosis (including three deaths), have been identified in four states (Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas), an outbreak believed to be related to the recalled products.

Not So Easy to Ride THIS Bicycle.

Spring is upon us and thoughts turn to spending time outdoors…walking, jogging, bicycling. But be careful if you plan to climb aboard your expensive two-wheeler. The Trek company of Waterloo, Wisconsin just recalled about 900,000 of its bicycles equipped with front disc brakes sold in the United States and 98,000 in Canada. According to the company, an open quick release lever (black or silver) on the front wheel hub can come into contact with the front disc brake assembly, causing the front wheel to come to a sudden stop or separate from the bicycle, posing a risk of injury to the rider. The recall involves all models from years 1999 through 2015 costing between $480 and $1,650. Models with front quick release levers that do not open a full 180 degrees from the closed position are not included in this recall. The recall was prompted by three incident reports, one occurrence resulting in quadriplegia, one in facial injuries and one in a fractured wrist. Trek has committed to remedy the problem by having authorized dealers install new quick releases on front wheels at no charge to the consumer.

“One Package of Flu Medication…Unleaded, Please.”

On April 16, 2015, the Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Services, Dr. James Tomarken, warned parents that a powdered product marketed to treat influenza, fever, sneezing and nasal discharge in infants and children may contain excessive levels of lead. The product, Bo Ying Compound, is manufactured by Eu Yan Sang (Hong Kong) Ltd., is labeled in Chinese and English, and is marketed in retail outlets and online. “Parents and caregivers should not use Bo Ying Compound, Commissioner Tomarken said, “due to the potential risk of lead poisoning.” “Those caregivers who have the product in their homes should discard it, and those who may have already given Bo Ying Compound to their children should consult a health care provider for evaluations and possible blood lead testing,” the Commissioner stated. The warning was apparently prompted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene having found elevated lead levels in samples taken from two stores in the state. In 2014, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene received a report of lead poisoning in an 18-month-old child who was given Bo Ying Compound. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene analyzed samples of this product collected in New York City and also found elevated levels in the product.

The CDC has stated that “no safe blood lead level in children has been identified.” It estimates that approximately one-half million U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 5 have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the reference point at which the agency recommends that public health actions be initiated. Exposure to lead has long been believed to cause serious damage to the central nervous system, the kidneys and the immune system. In children (whose brains and nervous systems are developing), chronic exposure to lead, even at low levels, is associated with impaired cognitive function, including reduced IQ, behavioral difficulties, and other problems.

Quit Your (Cheap) Wining

There are a number of ways to get arsenic poisoning, the most common of which is from drinking water.  One of the arguments against hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), in fact, is that this method of mining may mobilize arsenic in the groundwater.  In addition, harmful exposure can occur occupationally (smelting of zinc and copper ores) and from food products (rice can accumulate arsenic from the soil rather easily) and feed has been found to contain levels detectable in commercially-raised chickens.  Now add wine as another potential source.  Cheap wine.

In a recently-filed lawsuit naming 28 wineries, four individuals complain that some 83 low-priced (i.e., $5-$10 per bottle) California wines contain dangerously high levels of arsenic.  The litigation claims that testing by three independent laboratories on 1,306 bottles (representing 75% of the U.S. market), found that in some cases arsenic levels were 500% higher than what is considered safe.  It appears that the high levels may have been due to the vinting process and were not naturally-occurring.  A few of the brands named in the lawsuit are Almaden, Beringer, Fetzer, Franzia, Korbel, Sutter Homes, and kosher brand, Mogen David.

The Wine Institute (which represents some 1,000 wine producers), called the suit “irresponsible,” and sees no reason to recall any wines.  An Institute spokesperson stated that “all wines being sold in the U.S. marketplace safe” and that California vintages have never come close to exceeding acceptable levels.

There seems to be no question that wines costing over $20 are safe for consumption.  So with the Passover and Easter holidays approaching, don’t be cheap when it comes to the fruit of the vine.