Practice/Industry Group Overview
Keller and Heckman has one of the preeminent product safety practices in the country. With its technical staff to assist, the firm counsels clients on product safety and liability issues, advocates before legislative and regulatory bodies, works with them on product safety standards, and, when needed, represents them in product liability litigation, particularly in complex cases involving chemistry and toxicity, or highly technical issues like flammability. Our clients include manufacturers, distributors and trade associations.
Keller and Heckman is noted for product safety management counseling and our work on the recently adopted Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. We work with clients to develop comprehensive programs that help them manage and reduce product liability and regulatory compliance risks. We also help clients deal with compliance, enforcement, and rulemaking issues before the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Our legal and technical staff evaluates the safety of chemical ingredients in products, including products intended for children, and conducts risk assessments on their use in products. This is particularly helpful in the design or reformulation stage of product manufacturing.
Product safety standards are always at issue in determining the safety of a product. Our attorneys are experienced in working with clients before standards organizations such as the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the International Organization for Standards (ISO) as well as before building code bodies. We counsel clients on product liability and antitrust aspects of standard development activities. Keller and Heckman attorneys also assist clients in identifying applicable standards that might apply to a particular product and in determining if their products comply with those standards.
Aside from design defects, the most significant product liability claims, especially in the U.S., stem from failure-to-warn allegations. We work with clients to develop warnings and instructions, and our comprehensive understanding of advertising law enables us to fully advise clients on product liability as well as competitive implications of advertising and marketing claims. We review claims to be sure that adequate substantiation exists, and verify that advertising claims are consistent with warnings and instructions. Our substantial trademark expertise allows us to help clients balance their obligations as trademark owners to assure the quality of goods on which their marks appear with their desire to minimize product liability in trademark licensing activities.
Typical activities handled by members of our product safety group include the following:
- Preparing and updating product safety and liability management programs;
- Reviewing product labels and formulas for compliance with regulatory requirements;
- Reviewing instructions, labels, manuals, installation and service guides, and advertising for product liability risk management purposes;
- Participating in standards development activities;
- Identifying and evaluating the relevance of government and third-party standards to specific products;
- Litigating in state and federal courts, primarily involving more complex cases, such as "toxic tort" claims, where chemistry, toxicity, combustibility, machinery safety, or other complex issues are involved;
- Conducting risk assessments on product ingredients;
- Lobbying on product safety legislation;
- Preparing and reviewing contracts to minimize product liability exposure, including trademark licensing agreements;
- Counseling on government reporting obligations under the Consumer Product Safety Act and the European Product Safety Directive;
- Advising on domestic and global recall strategies;
- Evaluating insurance coverage issues; and
- Advising clients on how to incorporate regulatory compliance requirements with their product liability risk management programs.