- March 28, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Product Liability
Differences in quality from brand to brand are, of course, extremely common across almost every type of consumer product. People are so used to these differences, and the often-correlating differences in price, that we tend to associate low prices with an element of risk.
Expressions like “buyer beware” and “you get what you pay for” reinforce the inaccurate idea that consumers are responsible for whatever consequences come from cheap purchases.
There are some situations where it does makes sense to apply different standards to differently priced products — expecting a $100 professional paint set to perform better than a $10 children’s set, for example. When it comes to matters of safety, however, manufacturers are always responsible for putting in the work.
The very least any buyer should be able to expect from any product, at any price, is that it will not harm them without warning. Manufacturers who injure and kill people through poor quality control or inadequate warning labels are liable for the damage they cause.
At the same time, retailers like Walmart also have a responsibility to make sure the products they choose to carry are safe for their customers. There is no price low enough to excuse any company from this duty.
A Tainted Fragrance Spray Has Killed Two and Disabled Two More
Between March and July of last year, four U.S residents, all from different states, were diagnosed with melioidosis. Melioidosis, also known as Whitmore’s Disease, is a rare bacterial illness almost never seen in North America, and none of the four patients had traveled overseas recently.
One of the patients was a 5-year-old boy from Georgia, who did not survive. He was suffering from COVID-19 in addition to melioidosis, and his death appears to be a result of the two illnesses combined. However, melioidosis alone is extremely serious, with a mortality rate estimated between 21% and 40%.
Another of the patients, a woman from Kansas, also died of her illness, and the two survivors suffered debilitating neurological damage.
The CDC was able to trace all four of these cases to a product called “Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones.” The spray was being manufactured in India, where melioidosis bacteria is naturally occurring, by a company called Flora Classique Inc. It was then sold under the Better Homes and Gardens Brand in Walmart stores for $4 a bottle.
Walmart and Better Homes and Gardens May Share Responsibility
Liability in cases like these is not an either/or question. Multiple parties can be appropriate defendants for wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits.
Flora Classique is the most obvious apparent culprit. Better sterilization at the manufacturing level could presumably have saved these four people from death or serious injury. Flora Classique is even officially headquartered in the U.S, which may alleviate the obstacles that usually come with suing an overseas company.
Walmart and Better Homes and Gardens should not be overlooked, however. If these companies had any reason to believe that the product they were distributing was dangerous, they had a duty to stop. Even if they had no way of knowing, they chose to profit financially from the product’s distribution. That alone gives them a measure of financial responsibility for the outcome of that distribution. In this case, the outcome was devastating, for at least four families.
If you are the parent of the Georgia boy killed by this room spray, or if you have been injured or lost a loved one due to any defective product sold at Walmart, reach out to The Stoddard Firm to learn about your options.