All posts by CK Law

Product Recall? Here Are Your Options

Consumer products are recalled nearly every day. As discussed on USA.gov, recalls may be initiated by the manufacturer or the government to protect consumers from products that have the potential of creating health and safety risks.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is responsible for recalls in a range of categories, including children’s products, appliances, electronic and electrical products, clothing, furniture, household products, outdoor products, lighting, and sports and exercise equipment, as reported on Recalls.gov. Recent recalls are posted on the CPSC home page. Before you buy a product, particularly a children’s product, it is good idea to check and ensure that it has not been recalled.

When a recall action is taken, according to USA.gov, sale of the product may be banned or consumers might be asked to return it for repair or replacement. In some cases, the manufacturer provides an additional part to make the product safe.

If you have purchased a product that has been recalled, take the following measures to ensure yours and your family’s safety:

  1. Go to the CPSC website page where product recalls are posted and locate your recalled product.
  2. Find out what the hazard is and why the product was recalled.
  3. Double check the model numbers to ensure you have the same product.
  4. Find out what the remedy is for that particular recall. You may be asked to:
  • Return the item to the manufacturer for a replacement
  • Take the product back to the store for a refund or exchange
  • Return a part of the product to the manufacturer for replacement
  • Order a repair kit free of charge
  • Throw the item away and receive a refund or exchange
  • Remove a dangerous piece from the item to eliminate the hazard
  • Replace instruction books or warning labels for the product

You will almost certainly need to contact the manufacturer of the recalled product. This is generally done by calling a toll-free number, but manufacturers may provide a way to contact them online regarding recalls.

In the case of baby products, About Parenting recommends that you register products using the forms provided when they are purchased so the manufacturer can contact you in the event of a recall. About Parenting also states that CPSC has warned consumers against attempting to repair recalled cribs on their own. In fact, you should not try to fix any recalled product on your own unless you have specific instructions from CSPC or the manufacturer to do so.

Before You Rent Out Your House: Make it Safe for Tenants

Rental properties can be a great and relatively easy investment, particularly if you find responsible renters who love the apartment or house and plan to live at the residence long term. As a landlord, you have many responsibilities which include making your property safe and sound for any potential renters.

Even if you are hesitant to put a lot of money into a property that may get wrecked by rowdy renters, you must keep tenants safe from falls due to a broken stairwell or scalding burns from an old water heater. Your investment in your renters’ safety will save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run.

Your Renters Have Rights

As a landlord, you have expectations of your renters that you make clear in the lease which most often includes paying rent on time and being respectful of the rental property. However, if you fail to make the rental property “livable” you are violating your renters’ rights and they have the right to withhold rent payments, ask for compensation, or even sue you for negligence.

Even if your rental property is older and requires a little work, simply reducing the rent will not compensate for lack of safety or livability. In order for a rental property, apartment or house, to be considered a habitable living space (also known as Implied Warranty of Habitability) includes the following, but may not be limited to:

  • Structurally Safe and Sound: Stairs, floors, foundation, and the roof should all be intact and safe for inhabitants. This means that the roof should be free from leaks and flooring should be strong.
  • Keep the Basics Operational: An apartment with faulty wiring, bad plumbing, or broken elevators are a recipe for disaster and tenant injuries. A good question to ask yourself; would you live in your own rental property? If you say “no”, you’ve got some work to do.
  • Heat & Water: Heat and water are basic needs. Your renters should be supplied with hot water and heat for the colder months. Make sure that equipment to heat water, such as water heaters or boilers, are in good working condition and set to a reasonable temperature. Too hot and your tenants can be injured badly.
  • No Exposure to Toxins: Many rental properties are old homes and buildings built with materials that are now known to pose health threats (such as asbestos and lead paint). Renters must know if they could be potentially exposed to toxins and you, as a landlord, should do your best to eliminate or reduce hazardous material.

When considering the purchase of a rental property, you must always consider the safety of the building. A certified home inspector, upon thorough inspection, can report what may need to be repaired. If too many things need fixing or replacing to make it safe before you rent, it may not be a worthy investment. Remember, as a landlord, your obligations are to recognize your renter’s rights and make your property as safe as possible.

Preparing for a Party or Event? Make Your Home Safe and Secure

Do not take unnecessary risks if you are hosting a party or event. Keep your guests safe, and avoid a potential injury or a lawsuit due to hazardous conditions. In fact, spinal cord injuries have been known to happen from a walk down a flight of stairs gone bad. It’s easy to overlook safety issues with all the activity of setting up a party, but the extra precautions will be worth the effort.

Examine the inside and the perimeter of the event location. Are there cracks in the sidewalk or potholes in the driveway? These could cause a slip and fall, making you potentially liable for any injury. If you have a bouncy house for a child’s party, make sure it is properly anchored and have an adult supervise it. Walkways should be free of obstructions or debris; clear out any furniture that obstructs the passageways. You should consider putting away small objects that can easily break or be swallowed by toddlers. You may want to use plastic and paper products rather than serve food and drinks in glass containers that can break.

A primary cause of accidents is a pool that is ungated or unattended. If you have no gate around your pool, designate one or more persons to keep an eye on swimmers and small children around the pool area. A fenced pool is not a guarantee that children won’t find a way in, so all children must be supervised at all times if a pool is on the property. Be alert for toddlers falling in the pool or jumping in without a parent. Water makes the poolside slippery, so ask guests not to run. Walking with bare feet on cement or slippery tiles could result in a head injury or worse. If adults are drinking alcohol, this adds a risk factor as well.

Take Safety Precautions to Avoid an Accident

Some safety precautions to take are:

  • Place decorative markers on sliding glass doors so no one runs into them.
  • Put extension cord covers on electrical wires to prevent tripping.
  • Put safety runners on slippery surfaces such as high polished wood or tile.
  • Cordon off staircases if small children are present or if stairs are worn; make sure hand railings are secure.
  • Keep knives or sharp objects beyond the reach of children.
  • Monitor alcohol intake of your guests; make sure they do not drink and drive.

It is well worth your while to make a checklist ahead of time for party and event safety. Make especially sure that there are sufficient fire exits and bathroom facilities. If it is a pool party or barbeque, have supervisors at these locations. An event or party can be a fun and memorable experience for you and your guests. Keep everyone safe and secure and it will be a hit!

Slip and Fall Cases – A Serious Risk for Business Owners

Most business owners have their attention focused on the day-to-day operations of their business, as well as its immediate and future success. The majority work hard to present a positive image of the business, improve sales and keep customers happy. Very few are worried about the risk of accident or injury, despite the fact that slip and fall cases can pose a serious and costly risk for business owners.

Under premises liability laws, business owners have a duty to reasonably maintain their property and premises in such a way so as to keep customers and invited guests safe. If a broken stairwell goes unrepaired, a leaky pipe is allowed to drip to the point where water pools on the ground, or an uneven sidewalk is not fixed in a timely fashion, it can pose a significant danger. In these situations, if a customer were to slip and fall due to an unsafe condition the business owner should have been previously aware of and taken prompt action to fix, that business owner could be liable for any injuries or loss caused as a result of his or her negligence.

The Severity of Slip and Fall Accidents

The severity of injuries in a slip and fall accident will largely depend on the surface where the accident took place, the cause of the accident, the force of impact, and the age of the victim. Some people will only suffer bumps and bruises after a slip and fall, while others may suffer broken bones, severe back and neck injuries, and traumatic head injuries. In rare instances, an individual could succumb to injuries sustained in a slip and fall. The medical bills, rehabilitation costs, loss of income, and other accident-related expenses for which a business owner could be held liable will quickly add up.

In one case, an appeals court awarded $400,000 to the family of a victim who slipped, fell and broke his hip in a Target store parking lot. The man’s surviving family members received the award, as the victim and his wife had passed away before they were able to get their day in court.

Another woman was recently awarded $5 million dollars in a settlement brought about by injuries she suffered after slipping and falling on wet flooring glue at the school where she was a high school administrator. Her injuries caused long-term nerve damage and left her unable to walk without the use of the cane. She was later diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, as a result of her injuries, and requires assistance 24 hours a day.

What Business Owners Can Do to Minimize the Risk of Slip and Falls

Business owners can minimize their risk in slip and fall accidents by being diligent. Making sure walkways stay free of debris and clutter, keeping an eye out for potential slip and fall hazards, encouraging employees to report conditions which could prove dangerous, and following through with timely repairs can all reduce the liability a business owner may face. Even putting up wet floor signs can reduce the risk of injury and lower the potential for a premises liability case.

Important – But Often Overlooked – Business Start Up Tips

New business startups are challenging and adventurous, with a multitude of factors to consider. If you plan to grow your business or sell it someday, it is important that you run it right from the beginning and operate within the confines of the law. The basics steps involved in starting a new business are not difficult to find. For example, an article on Forbes tells you how to go about it in 8 key steps. The Small Business Administration also provides step-by-step instructions. However, certain new business tips, although equally important, are frequently overlooked.

Commonly Overlooked Tips for Business Start Ups

Get the insurance coverage your business needs. According to an article on Forbes, a small business owner may need any combination of 13 different types of insurance. A business owner’s policy (BOP) combines coverage your business needs in one package and typically saves you money. A BOP may include property insurance, auto insurance, liability insurance, crime insurance, and business interruption insurance. Depending on the type of business you have, you may also need errors and omissions professional liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, directors and officers insurance, data breach insurance, or other types of coverage.

Set up your general ledger properly. You can buy off-the-shelf software for this purpose, but according to an article on Entrepreneur, you should carefully consider your initial financial setup in order to fully understand your company financials and for future proof of the value you have built in your business. It may be in your best interests to hire an accountant to set up your books initially.

Keep careful records of your expenses. As covered in the Entrepreneur article, it is important to understand the extent of the items you are allowed to expense in your business. Keep all your receipts and meticulous records. This will help you with audits and due diligence of future potential buyers or investors, and enable you to reduce your taxable income without hurting the value of your company.

Keep business and personal expenses separate. A range of expenses meet generally acceptable accounting principle (GAAP) standards and it is perfectly legitimate to use business funds to pay for them. Using business funds for personal use, on the other hand, can get you in trouble with the IRS and expose you to liability, as covered in the Entrepreneur article. If you paid for personal expenses with business funds, it would be difficult to separate them out if your company was being valued in the future. The best policy is to keep personal expenses out of the business from the start.

Report all company revenue. If you are doing business in cash, it may be easy to skim money off the business, but that would be unadvisable. It could get you in trouble with the IRS and reduce the value of your company in the long run. It would be difficult to establish the value and growth of your business if you were not reporting the correct numbers.