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A federal judge has cleared the way for a personal injury lawsuit over chemical burns from Tide Pods to proceed, after refusing the manufacturer’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, allowing a claim for breach of implied warranty to continue.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Ariana Swartz in June 2016, over injuries she suffered when a Tide laundry detergent pod ruptured and sprayed the contents on her neck, chest and arm in October 2014. As a result, she was left with chemical burns, severe skin irritation and nerve damage, according to the lawsuit.
Swartz presented claims for defective design, defective manufacturing, failure to warn, breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranty.
Procter and Gamble, the manufacturer of Tide Pods, filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there was no way Swartz could establish that her chemical burns were caused by the detergent.
In an order (PDF) issued on May 16, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Leitman of the Eastern District of Michigan, dismissed most of Swartz’s claims, but allowed the claim for the breach of implied warranty to continue, indicating that there was sufficient evidence to establish a link between the burns and the exploding Tide Pod.
“Swartz did not have a burn on her breast when she began doing her laundry. And only one thing happened to her breast between the time she started washing her clothes and the time the burn appeared on her breast roughly two hours later: her breast came into contact with the concentrated detergent from the POD,” Judge Leitman noted. “Indeed, when the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to Swartz, it would appear to be mere speculation to conclude that the chemical burn on her breast was caused by anything other than the contact with the concentrated detergent.”
The case is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, where it is expected that a trial date will now be scheduled following Judge Leitman’s ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment.
Tide Pod Safety Concerns
The lawsuit is one of a growing number of claims being pursued over Tide Pod injuries, which have also been linked to thousands of reports involving laundry detergent poisoning among children who mistook the small packs for candy or chew toys.
Proctor & Gamble has faced criticism for marketing the single-load laundry detergent packs in bright colors that resemble infant teething toys, and for selling Tide Pods in packaging that resembles candy.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) has reported that more than 10,000 calls involving laundry pod ingestion problems are received nationwide every year involving children five and younger exposed to Tide Pods and other similar laundry detergent packs, such as All Mighty Pacs, Purex UltraPacks and others. As of the end of March 2018, poison centers nationwide had already received calls on nearly 2,000 incidents involving children.
The incidents peaked in 2015, when poison centers received more than 12,000 exposure reports involving children five and under. Recent years have trended slightly downward, as manufacturers made several design changes and more parents become aware of the risks. However, if the current rate continues, this year would still result in about 8,000 exposure reports involving young children.
Those numbers do not include poisoning incidents linked to teenagers and adults. Earlier this year, the AAPCC noted that it has seen a spike in intentional ingestion of Tide Pods and other detergent packets among teenagers, due to an internet “Tide Pod Challenge” that encourages eating the pods on purpose.
In 2012, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued warnings to alert the public about the risk of detergent packet injuries. The safety alert highlighted the poisoning risk the packets pose to children who are exposed to the product, and came after several other regulatory agencies and health experts raised concerns about the risks associated with the single-use detergent packets.
In response to substantial criticism over the brightly colored packaging Tide Pods are sold in, Proctor & Gamble did agree to make several changes to their product packages in 2013.
The manufacturer altered the containers to an opaque material, instead of a clear plastic, to deter children from seeing the brightly colored product and trying to get inside the container. However, many say those changes were not enough.
A number of laundry pod exposure lawsuits are now being pursued against various manufacturers, alleging that inadequate steps were taken to ensure the safety of the products. Plaintiffs say stronger warnings should have been provided about the importance of keeping the pods out of the reach of children, and that individual packaging for the pods would reduce the risk of injury.