There is an old saying, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Unfortunately, some purveyors of miracle cures and other dubious products are trying to take advantage of consumer fears surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The Food and Drug Administration is issuing warning letters to sellers of allegedly fraudulent COVID-19 products on almost a daily basis.
Even Amazon has had to reassess what it sells online to avoid any complicity in potential fraud that could lead to product liability lawsuits.
There is likely to be a glut of product liability litigation in the U.S. once the coronavirus pandemic ends and life returns to something akin to normal. Product liability lawsuits are based on the legal responsibility of manufacturers and distributors to ensure that products are safe when used as intended. Consumers who are harmed by defects in a product or deceptive marketing of a harmful product may be entitled to claim compensation for their medical bills and/or other losses.
The Corpus Christi product liability attorneys at Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C. are ready to fight for you if an unsafe product sold as COVID-19 prevention, treatment or cure has harmed you or your loved one. We are meeting remotely with prospective clients in Corpus Christi and throughout South Texas to assess potential claims. Contact us today at (361) 882-4357 or online to set up your free legal consultation.
Dangerous Products and COVID-19 Coronavirus Fraud
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there is no known cure nor any generally approved treatment for the COVID-19 coronavirus, regardless of what President Trump or any television personality or advertisement says.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says Americans have lost $13.4 million to coronavirus-related fraud since the beginning of the year, according to CNBC. “Because not all consumers may have reported fraud to the agency, the true dollar figure could be much higher,” the report says.
FTC Commissioner Paul Witt writes in an April 15 blog post that the agency is hearing about callers invoking the COVID-19 pandemic and making illegal medical or health-care pitches. Other reported frauds include websites promising scarce cleaning products or masks, which never arrive after being ordered, problems related to being reimbursed for canceled travel plans and attempts to steal consumers’ coronavirus economic relief checks.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posts daily announcements of actions it has taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They include notices of warning letters issued to companies about coronavirus-related products. Among the companies most recently warned and the FDA’s explanations are:
- Fishman Chemical of North Carolina, LLC, and G’s Marine Aquaculture of Florida, which distribute chloroquine phosphate products intended to treat disease in aquarium fish. The agency is concerned that consumers may mistake unapproved chloroquine phosphate animal drugs for the human drug chloroquine phosphate, which is currently under study as a potential treatment for COVID-19. People should not take any form of chloroquine unless it has been prescribed by a licensed health-care provider.
- The Art of Cure, a Washington company that offers homeopathic drug products for sale in the U.S. that are unapproved and misbranded with misleading claims the products are safe and/or effective for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
- Herbs of Kedem, which sells unapproved and misbranded herbal products for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
- GBS, dba Alpha Arogya India Pvt Ltd, an Indian company that offers unapproved and misbranded ayurvedic products including “Alpha 11” and “Alpha 21” for sale in the U.S. with misleading claims about the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
- Gaia Arise Farms Apothecary, a North Carolina company that offers unapproved and misbranded products, including “True Viral Defense” or “Viral Defense Tincture.” The company makes misleading claims the products are safe and/or effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 in people.
- Free Speech Systems LLC, dba Infowars.com, which offers unapproved and misbranded products for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
- Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, which sells fraudulent and dangerous chlorine dioxide products known as “Miracle Mineral Solution” for prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
- Savvy Holistic Health dba Holistic Healthy Pet, which sells fraudulent products with misleading claims about the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in people and pets.
- CBD Online Store, which offers unapproved and misbranded CBD products with misleading claims the products are safe and/or effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 in people.
If you have purchased COVID-19 products from any of these sellers, you should not consume them. If you have consumed any of these products and become ill, you should contact a product liability attorney.
Amazon Responds to Potential Liability for Defective COVID-19 Products
In March, online retailer Amazon announced that it had pulled more than 1 million products for price gouging or falsely advertising the products’ effectiveness against the coronavirus. Wired magazine says the move followed reports by Wired and others of price gouging and misleading claims.
CNN Business points out that third-party sellers on Amazon have come under criticism in the past for selling defective or fraudulent products with little oversight.
But PBS’s Frontline reports about a trio of court cases that may subject the e-commerce giant to product liability claims based on injury caused by items sold by third-party vendors on Amazon’s Marketplace.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, Pa., was the first to reject Amazon’s claim that it cannot be considered a seller of products offered by third parties under state product liability law.
According to Frontline, neither the injured consumer nor Amazon was able to locate the third-party seller to seek damages for an allegedly defective product, so the consumer sued Amazon. Like other e-commerce companies, Amazon argued it is not responsible for third-party sales.
“In a surprise 2-1 decision in July, a three-judge panel said Amazon was liable as a seller of products sold by third-party vendors,” Frontline says. “‘We do not believe that Pennsylvania law shields a company from strict liability simply because it adheres to a business model that fails to prioritize consumer safety,’ wrote Judge Jane Richards Roth in the panel’s majority opinion.”
Federal district courts in Wisconsin and New Jersey have since relied on the Third Circuit’s decision to rule that Amazon can be held liable for injuries and damages done by third-party sellers’ products on the Amazon website.
Contact Our Corpus Christi Product Liability Lawyers
If you have questions about whether a product advertised and sold as a prevention treatment or cure for the COVID-19 coronavirus caused you to be injured, contact the product liability attorneys of Herrman & Herrman in Corpus Christi for a free initial consultation. We anticipate numerous product liability claims in Texas and across the country once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. Get the circumstances of your case on the record and a potential claim underway by contacting us now at (361) 882-4357 or through this website.