Most people rely on smoke alarms to let them know if their lives are in danger from a household fire.
Unfortunately, not all smoke alarms work the way that they're expected to work. In fact, a recent recall by a major manufacturer of smoke alarms, Kidde, was prompted by a defect that was -- fortunately -- discovered before anyone ended up injured.
In this case, the manufacturer discovered that a small cap may have been accidentally left on a part of the alarm somewhere in production. That cap could impair the alarm's effectiveness. Nearly 500,000 alarms may carry the defect.
Manufacturing defects aren't the only reason that smoke alarms can fail, of course. While manufacturing defects generally happen during the assembly of an item, other product defects can be just as dangerous.
A design defect, for example, could make a smoke alarm practically useless if its sensors aren't delicate enough to pick up smoke and heat long before a blaze is out of control. Smoke alarms are only useful when they provide enough advance warning to let people escape a fire before it is fully engaged.
A marketing defect can also create problems with a smoke alarm. For example, if the instructions included with a smoke alarm don't specifically tell people that the alarm has to be on the ceiling to work, they may install it on a wall instead. If one that comes with a battery doesn't instruct people to remove the clear plastic around the battery in order to activate it, people may not think to look and never realize the alarm is inactive. Labeling errors and a lack of clear instructions can bring about deadly consequences.
Anyone who is injured in a fire after a smoke alarm fails to operate should question why that happened. Was it a case of "owner error," like forgetting to change the batteries? Or was the problem something you couldn't predict because the product itself was faulty in some way?
If you believe you're the victim of a product defect, you may need help to determine exactly who can be held responsible under the law.
Source: FindLaw, "Smoke Alarm Recall: Half a Million Alarms Defective," Ceylan Pumphrey, March 22, 2018