If you have a complaint about a vehicle defect, you may already have tried filing a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If you’re having trouble getting them to address your concerns, however, it might be time for you to consider filing a defect petition.

A defect petition is a little more in-depth than a conventional complaint, and it doesn’t guarantee an overnight response. But if your complaint is important to you, filing a defect petition will ensure that your complaint gets the consideration it deserves.

What is a Defect Petition?

A defect petition is a complaint you can file with the NHTSA about a defect you may have encountered with your vehicle. This petition could eventually lead to a product recall, if it is found that your vehicle’s defect is a problem with the whole product line rather than your vehicle alone.

When a defect petition is filed, the NHTSA has to do a review of your complaint and issue a written decision on whether or not to begin an in-depth investigation. While this doesn’t guarantee that there will be an in-depth investigation or that your complaint will lead to a recall, it does require the administration to justify their decision to investigate or not.

Defect petitions are fairly rare. As of December 6, 2018, for example, only four defect petitions had been filed with the NHTSA nationwide. In addition, defect petitions are fairly low-priority for the NHTSA. According to Matthew Oliver of the North Carolina Consumers Council, “Defect petitions seem to have low priority for the agency, even when submitted with complaint data and/or having the same symptoms as recalls that have already been issued for other vehicles of the same kind.”

The agency disputes this, saying that they take seriously their responsibilities to keep drivers on American highways safe. Regardless, the fact is that when you file a defect petition, your complaint is likely to take some time to resolve.

Filing a Defect Petition

The process of filing a defect petition is more in-depth than filing a standard complaint on the NHTSA website. It is rare for the agency to start a full-scale investigation on the basis of a single conventional complaint. Filing a defect petition can require more information and time investment than a conventional complaint, but it can also be a more effective way of getting the NHTSA to address your concerns.

When a Serious Defect Causes You Harm, Contact Us

Though complaints are powerful tools for consumers, in more serious cases where injuries are caused by faulty parts, product liability claims are the preferred option. In a vehicle-related product liability claim, an injured person seeks payment, typically from the manufacturer, for the injury-related costs they face.

The Louthian Law Firm has represented injured South Carolinians in car accident lawsuits since 1959. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident, it’s important to make sure that you understand your legal rights. South Carolina law can be complex, and there is a deadline for filing a claim. The initial consultation is always free, so reach out to us today by calling us or by filling out our online contact form.

It’s been a tough year for Monsanto, largely due to legal developments stemming from their product Roundup. A ruling from a federal judge and a major verdict for a San Francisco groundskeeper have given hope to people suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that the company can be held accountable for the injuries caused by the popular herbicide.

Let’s look at these developments and what they mean for those taking legal action against Monsanto.

A Federal Judge Gives the Green Light to Lawsuits

Earlier in 2018, hundreds of lawsuits filed in state and federal court against agrochemical maker Monsanto were allowed to move forward following a ruling from a federal judge. The lawsuits claim the active ingredient in Roundup, manufactured by Monsanto, have been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The lawsuits not only claim there’s a link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma but that the company was aware of the link and covered up the risks.

United States District Judge Vince Chhabria said that expert testimony that links glyphosate with the illness has credibility and may be heard in court. The ruling means that Monsanto’s effort to get the lawsuits dismissed, due to what the company called “shaky” science, has failed. Monsanto had claimed that the science and expert testimony linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was not credible.

A $289 Million Verdict Against Monsanto

In August 2018, a San Francisco jury awarded $289 million in damages to Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper that had been using Roundup for years. Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014. His case was the first to go to trial because of the severity of his condition, but it set a precedent signaling that more lawsuits on behalf of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma sufferers could find success in the courtroom.

While Johnson’s award was later reduced to $78 million due to efforts by Monsanto’s legal team, the result is no less encouraging for the thousands of people awaiting their day in court against the agrochemical giant.

What is Glyphosate?

Glyphosate has been used in Roundup for over four decades, and it is currently sold in over 160 countries. It is used in large agricultural operations and on residential lawns and gardens. Red flags were first raised about the herbicide in 2015 when the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, called the product a “probable human carcinogen.” This initiated a multitude of lawsuits against Monsanto. It eventually led to California’s adding glyphosate to its list of cancer-causing chemicals. Monsanto has long denied the link between glyphosate and cancer and cites hundreds of studies that says the chemical is safe. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says Roundup is safe “when used in accordance with label directions.”

The court order allowing lawsuits to move forward concluded as follows:

Therefore, the plaintiffs have presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that glyphosate can cause NHL at human-relevant doses. Monsanto’s motion for summary judgment is denied.”

Those interested can read the pre-trial motion here. Other documents involved in the case are available here.

Moving Forward Against Monsanto

The ruling from the San Francisco judge and the jury verdict for the San Francisco groundskeeper represent good news for those who have been pursuing claims against Monsanto, including employees, farmers, landscapers, and those who have used Roundup and have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It also helps substantiate reasons why those considering legal action against the company should step forward.

Monsanto was recently acquired by Bayer, a German company, in a $66 billion merger. Bayer apparently has no plans to use the name Monsanto on its products. The brand has been damaged by those supporting environmental and health issues.

The Louthian Law Firm is Here to Help

South Carolina’s Louthian Law Firm has been helping hardworking people and families receive justice through fair compensation from accidents and injuries since 1959. The Louthian Law Firm is proud to have been recognized in the Top Trial Lawyers in America, the Best Lawyers – The World’s Premier Guide and to be AV peer-review rated for ethical standards and legal professionalism by Martindale-Hubbell.

Bert Louthian is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. You can be assured that your case will be handled by an attorney who will treat your case with the personalized and professional attention it deserves, both in our offices and in the courtroom.

For a free initial consultation to discuss your potential case, call the South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Louthian Law Firm today. You can also fill out our confidential online case evaluation form. Get the representation you deserve, from Louthian Law Firm.

Since “60 Minutes” aired an expose about some Lumber Liquidators flooring products having illegal and dangerously high levels of formaldehyde, Lumber Liquidators’ stock has plunged, a U.S. Senator has called for a congressional investigation, and millions of homeowners are concerned that the air inside their homes may be polluted. Here are answers to some of the questions you might have about the problem.

What is formaldehyde?

It is a chemical compound — flammable, colorless, but certainly not odorless. It is a VOC, or volatile organic compound; other VOCs you may have heard of are acetone, benzene, and ethylene glycol.

Where is formaldehyde found?

In a liquid solution, it is used for embalming and specimen preservation (Remember your high school biology class?). It is used numerous products, including cleaners, paints, textiles (permanent press), cosmetics, fabric softeners, pesticides, and the pressed-wood products used in cabinets and other home furnishing items.

How is formaldehyde harmful?

Exposure to formaldehyde can cause adverse health effects, particularly respiratory ailments. At high levels it has been linked to leukemia and other cancers.

Is its use regulated?

Yes. Of particular importance with regard to flooring and cabinetry is the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, which was signed into law in 2010 and sets limits for formaldehyde emissions from plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard. The California Air Resources Board has also established emission standards for products sold, used or manufactured in that state. Formaldehyde can be safely used in the manufacture of wood products, but only if used sparingly so that the chemical dissipates quickly.

What’s wrong with Lumber Liquidators’ flooring?

It’s important to note that only some products have been implicated as potentially harmful. They were manufactured in China, and lab tests found levels of formaldehyde that exceeded (in some cases up to 20 times) acceptable limits. The “60 Minutes” report sampled laminate flooring sold in California, Virginia, Florida, Texas and Illinois.

Have people been harmed by formaldehyde in flooring?

ConsumerAffairs is a non-governmental consumer news and advocacy organization. Consumers post product reviews on their website. These are some of the comments placed on ConsumerAffairs.com regarding Lumber Liquidators’ flooring:

  • Recently, I had bamboo flooring from Lumber Liquidators installed… I noted the odor as the installation took place and found it quite peculiar… Within the next 48 hours I realized it was not a temporary odor. I have burning nostrils; my face feels like it is stinging, and I’m having a dull headache.
  • I noticed my eyes burning whenever I was in the room where the flooring had been placed.
  • [T]he fumes were AWFUL – I mean, make your eyes tear and your nose burn awful… I wake up with a burning nose and a headache and my husband’s eyes swell up.

Are consumers filing lawsuits about formaldehyde in flooring?

So far there have been three class-action lawsuits filed, two in California and one in Florida. They allege violations of federal and state laws, false and deceptive advertising and labeling, and violations of expressed and implied warranties. Only one plaintiff has alleged actual physical harm which may be linked to the flooring he purchased, stating: “Mr. Tyrrell began experiencing symptoms that include extreme shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, and incessant coughing and sneezing. Despite repeated medical tests, his doctors have not been able to identify the cause of these symptoms.”

Have there been other situations where formaldehyde was alleged to cause similar problems?

You may recall that after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA contracted with a number of manufacturers to provide billions of dollars worth of trailers for residents of Gulf Coast states who were homeless after the storms. Within months, thousands of trailer occupants began reporting headaches, nosebleeds, burning eyes, flu-like symptoms and respiratory problems. Tests found high levels of formaldehyde in the units, averaging five times what is normally found in modern homes. Some of the hazardous wood products were imported from China. Eventually a federal class action ended in a $42.6 million settlement for about 55,000 residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.

What should we do if we suspect high levels of formaldehyde in our home?

If you experience any of the symptoms of formaldehyde exposure while you are at home but not when you are at work or elsewhere, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggests that you ask yourself these questions about your home environment:

  • Have the flooring or cabinets recently been refinished?
  • Has remodeling occurred using pressed-wood products like wall paneling or laminate floors?
  • Have new cabinets, wall coverings, or furniture been installed?
  • Has a wood-burning stove or other combustion source been used?
  • Has an indoor air-cleaner that intentionally generates ozone been used?
  • Have you recently worn new, unlaundered crease-, stain-, or static-resistant clothes?
  • Do you or others smoke indoors?
  • Has your house been tightly insulated recently for energy efficiency?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions and you have re-occurring symptoms, contact your physician and/or state or local health department for assistance.

Should we have formaldehyde tests run on our home?

It is possible to have formaldehyde levels measured, but the CPSC points out that there are no state or federal certification programs for indoor air quality testers unless they’re testing for lead or asbestos. For this reason, you should be wary of unqualified, unlicensed companies and seek input from the health department or EPA. (One of the public relations defenses Lumber Liquidators has launched since the “60 Minutes” segment is that the program’s laboratory testing was deficient.) Do-it-yourself kits for formaldehyde testing are available but may not be reliable.

If we find out that a product in our home emits unacceptable levels of formaldehyde, do we have grounds for a lawsuit?

At the Louthian Law Firm, we have helped many victims of dangerous products. If you believe a wood product in your South Carolina home has polluted the air you and your family breathe, we want to hear your story. Call our Columbia office at (803) 454-1200 for a free, no-obligation evaluation.