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Defective Product Caused Personal Injury

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Plainfield, CTIn August 2006, a pulley system on Penny Lee Palazzo's bedroom window snapped, slamming down hard on her hand and crushing four fingers. Unfortunately for Penny (but the window manufacturer and its insurance company assumes fortunately) the window was built in 1979.

defective window"I put my head out the window to call my daughter into the house," says Penny. "I moved my head inside but my right hand was on the window sill. Within a split second, the window hurtled down and smashed my fingers. It is about 40 inches wide and a solid wood framed window. Luckily the glass didn't smash.

As soon as my husband got home I went to the local emergency room and an orthopedic surgeon told me (and stated in the medical report) that my hand will take about 6 months before the swelling will go down and there is a 99 percent chance that I have permanent damage to my fingers from the impact. X-rays determined that I had trauma to the bone. My hand was twice the size and completely bruised - I could only move my thumb.

Of course I couldn't go to work that day or the next day. I am a customer service rep and I have to work on a computer for most of the day. I don't have any medical insurance through my employment so I lost two full day's pay. On the third day I reluctantly went back to work and luckily my boss let me stay, although I still couldn't use the keyboard. It took at least two weeks for me to get back up to speed. My employer should also be compensated - they certainly didn't get much work out of me for those two weeks.

I filed a complaint online to Anderson Windows and about one week later, I got a call from their insurance company. Someone asked me a lot of questions and said she would send me some paperwork. They mainly wanted to know about lost wages and medical report. From these questions, I assumed they were going to pay my medical bills and two days wages.

In the meantime, Anderson Windows sent an inspector to our house. He found that the windows were made in 1979, but our house was built in 1985. We thought this was strange but he said that sometimes the manufacturers don't rotate their stock properly; in other words, we were given windows that were sitting in a warehouse for six years. But he also said that they were in really good shape and they should not have failed. There was no leakage and they were all well maintained. I have a few other Anderson windows in my house and the pulley system is starting to snap on them as well. The inspector said that, instead of replacing windows, he would suggest that Anderson change the bearings in all the windows.

About three weeks later I called the insurance company, wondering why I hadn't received anything from them. She told me the forms were mailed; this time I asked her to fax them to me. I then filled out all the paperwork they required, and mailed and faxed back the same day. Two weeks later, my employer got a letter from the insurance company, requesting a form to be filled out regarding my time off work, which he did.

Since then, I have called the insurance company three times and they haven't returned my calls. I feel that I have a rightful case. The inspector for Anderson Windows even stated that this should not have happened.

I have two kids and I will not let them open another window - it looks like I will have permanent damage in my fingers and I am afraid the same thing is going to happen again. I contacted Anderson to see if they are going to change the bearings and I also told them that I have no response from their insurance company. Now it's no word from Anderson Windows either.

I am very frustrated. My husband phoned consumer affairs but apparently in this state there is a 10 year limit on product defects. Because the windows are older than 10 years, there is nothing they can do. I am sure the insurance company is banking on this statute.

I think the insurance company sent these forms out at first to compensate me; at that time I told them that I was seeking legal advice because this was a product defect. But I think they filed my complaint in the trash as soon as they discovered how old the window was."

What You Can Do

"I have been in the consumer protection business for more than 20 years and I know there are many defective products on the market but it isn't the intent of the manufacturer to make a defective product," says Elizabeth Owen at the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA). The NACAA is a government agency that looks at potentially defective products, with the exception of children's safety seats and automobiles. There are two agencies that handle defective products and Owen advises the consumer to contact both:
  1. First, call your local consumer protection office; many states have a 1-800 number; it could be the attorney's office, city or state office.

  2. Then contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission,.the official Federal Agency that handles recalls, reports and alerts: a href=http://www.cpsc.gov/ target=_blank>http://www.cpsc.gov/
"You will probably get results from either one or possibly both of these offices," says Owen. "I can't speak for them but they usually contact the store where the item was purchased or they will contact the manufacturer directly - but here is where it gets dicey: sometimes the store will have better luck if they contact the manufacturer." In other words, every case is different. Whatever the product, and especially if you have suffered an injury, remember to contact both. "They will take different approaches and this doubles your chances of success," she advises.

"As a responsible consumer, let the right people know about defective products," says Owen. "This is where the Consumer Product Safety Commission comes in. They will swing into action and issue a recall so that it will be on the news."

You want two results: your money back (generally from your local consumer protection office) and you can potentially save lives.

Start a Product Liability Lawsuit

If you have suffered an injury from a defective product, you must be able to legitimately allege that the product was "defective", meaning that the product was unreasonably dangerous. If you have suffered an injury or been killed due to a defective product, your next of kin are entitled to compensation - that is the law. Unfortunately, as in Penny Lee Palazzo's case, insurance companies don't always comply with the law and will try to deny what is legally due. Know your rights and don't take no (or no response) for an answer.

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