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Can Peloton Be Held Liable for Their Recalled Treadmills?

Peloton, a company known for its exercise machines, recently recalled many of its treadmills in a highly publicized move. Reports of adults, children, and even pets being injured by the brand’s Tread and Tread+ machines made the news, and Peloton responded poorly; at first claiming that no one would be hurt as long as they used the treadmills correctly. Not long after this response, reports surfaced of a 6-year-old killed by a Peloton treadmill. This prompted Peloton CEO John Foley to submit an apology, publicly stating, “I want to be clear, Peloton made a mistake in our initial response.”

After the death of this child, Peloton officially recalled these products. Consumers can be completely refunded up until November 6, 2022. Only partial refunds will be available after the cutoff date. For owners who wish to keep their treadmills, Peloton is offering to have the treadmill moved to a safe area, away from kids and pets, free of charge.

Peloton made the right move in recalling these products, but they could be open to litigation. For those who were harmed by this product, do you have grounds to file a lawsuit? The answer is yes.

Defective Product Lawsuits

In personal injury law, one person sues another for negligence. The essential claim is that due to the defendant’s actions, the plaintiff was injured. When someone is injured by a product, they can sue the manufacturer. In this kind of personal injury suit, the plaintiff is claiming that the company was negligent in making their product, causing injury.

There are three different claims you can make in a product liability suit: manufacturer error, improper labeling, and design flaw.

Manufacturer Error

This argument states that the product was made incorrectly, and someone got hurt. If a treadmill’s conveyor belt became unraveled and flew off, this would be an example of a manufacturer error. No one at the company intended for this to happen. There was a mistake when assembling the product, or a particular part was defective.

Improper Labeling

In this claim, you are stating that a product was inherently dangerous, and the manufacturer did not properly warn consumers. Perhaps a company releases a treadmill that overheats, and consumers could not reasonably expect this overheating. The company has a duty to warn their customers of dangers in their products. When they do not do so, they can be sued for improperly labeling their items.

Design Flaw

Design flaws are at the very core of a product. The product was made correctly, and all the individual items were produced the same way. It works exactly as intended, and there are no defective parts or pieces. The product, however, still injures people. This is a design flaw. Something in the very engineering of the piece is dangerous, and it was overlooked by the developers.

Peloton’s Product Liability

If people choose to sue Peloton for their injuries, they will likely be able to argue a design flaw or improper labeling.

The Tread and the Tread+ have very attractive designs. Eschewing the bulky design of traditional treadmills, Peloton created a machine that has a conveyor belt completely open to the elements. There are no boxy, protective plastic layers around the belt. The belt itself is higher off the ground than those you see in other models. The Tread designs are visually appealing, with an almost modern architecture flair. This beauty is the very thing that made them deadly.

Treadmill conveyor belts move fast. Moreover, they have rough tread, designed to keep your feet firmly in place as you run. An exposed belt that is high off the ground can catch things and pull them under, which is exactly what happened. Pets and small children made contact with the belt while it was running. The friction and velocity pulled them under, trapping, abrasing, or crushing them.

The injuries weren’t limited to the household’s smallest members. While running, adults could easily find themselves at the back of the belt. One simple misstep could cause the belt to grab the top of your foot, pulling your leg under. At that point, you wouldn’t be able to reach a kill switch, and the belt could simply keep running, chewing off layers of skin.

These are clear examples of a design flaw. No one believes that Peloton intentionally made a dangerous treadmill, but the company appears to have put form over function. The treadmills work as intended, but the dangers of having an open, exposed conveyor belt were not considered. In an effort to make the treadmills beautiful, Peloton created a dangerous trap, especially for small children.

Peloton could also be accused of improper labeling. After injuries were reported, Peloton released a statement saying the treadmills should not be used around children or pets. That warning, however, was not included in the original packaging. Although Peloton has since backtracked, their original statement could be used against them in a civil case. By placing the blame on the consumer, Peloton was essentially admitting that they believed the product was safe and needed no packaged warnings.

Product Liability Lawsuits

There are a few different ways to sue a manufacturer for a dangerous product. One is simply a standard, individual lawsuit. You, the consumer, are bringing a complaint against them, the company. You must prove that your injuries were a direct result of using the product, and that you used the product correctly.

Class action lawsuits happen when a large group of people are injured by a product in a similar way. For example, they all suffered the same leg injury from a defective treadmill. These plaintiffs can unite as one, and an individual will represent them as a single plaintiff. If the court rules in the plaintiffs’ favor, everyone suing the company will receive compensation.

Similarly, plaintiffs can file together in multi-district litigation, or MDL. This is where many people are injured, but in different ways. It is a kind of hybrid of individual lawsuits and class action lawsuits. The details are complicated, but essentially, the individual suits can be brought together and addressed as a whole. Again, winning plaintiffs will all receive individual compensation.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Depending on where a lawsuit would be filed, the parents who lost their child in a Peloton accident could sue for wrongful death. Wrongful death suits are personal injury cases where the injured party did not survive their injuries, and surviving family members sue on their behalf.

States differ on what kind of compensation you can receive in a wrongful death suit. Many allow damages to be rewarded for the survivors’ pain and suffering. Other states, however, only compensate for lost income after a death. New York is one of these states. Since a child does not bring income into the home, you cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of a child in New York.

At this time, there have not been any reports of lawsuits against Peloton.

If you have been injured by a defective product, give us a call at (607) 228-8404, or contact us online. With years of experience, we can research the details of your injury, help determine how you were injured, and help detect how the manufacturer was responsible.

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