Heating pads and electric blankets tend to be a common product in most households, but this doesn’t mean they’re without their potential hazards.
When a heating pad fails, it can result in burns to the skin, electric shock, and even house fires. While heating pads can be helpful for relieving pain, it’s important to use them properly and be aware of any potential dangers (or active recalls) that might exist.
While heating pads can help improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and help those suffering from chronic or short-term pain obtain much needed relief, they can also pose unexpected and serious dangers.
The improper design (or manufacturing) of a heating pad can easily create a fire hazard. In addition, there is a potential for these devices to cause severe burns. Sometimes this can occur simply because the heating pad does not turn off automatically.
The reality is that some heating pads have defects or are not properly manufactured. This can result in them having the ability to reach temperatures higher than those that are safe. Even with a properly functioning thermostat, a heating pad can cause severe burns if it is left in contact with the skin for a long period of time, such as in cases when the user turns it on and allows it to remain on when he or she goes to sleep.
Several heating pads and electric blankets have been recalled over safety issues, including overheating, burn hazards, and the risk of fire. In fact, the CPSC just issued a recall this week for electric blankets and throws made by Rural King.
Lawsuits from Defective Heating Pads
On January 1st, 2012, a 65-year-old woman in Nevada suffered third-degree burns on her buttocks when a defective heating pad set her bed on fire while she was asleep. She was awarded $200,000 in damages on October 1st, 2014 from Walgreens—which sold the pad. The unit had a defect that prevented it from regulating its heat, which caused the unit to reach temperatures almost double those the manufacturer recommended.
In 2003, a Portland woman was seriously burned after suffering a grand mal seizure and losing consciousness while wearing a Sunbeam® heating pad around her shoulder. The unit failed to turn off after 20 minutes and continued to cause burns to her rib cage and back. When the woman regained consciousness and realized what happened, she filed a lawsuit. The company discovered that many of their units were defective and failed to turn off automatically. After some units melted even when they were properly used, it led to a large recall of Sunbeam heating pads.
Both Kaz USA and Kaz Inc. (part of a much larger company called Helen of Troy, Ltd.) settled a class action lawsuit in the state of California for deceptively labeling and advertising its electronic heating pads, by omitting the fact that the heating pads could burn consumers if used a certain way.
Your Rights as a Consumer
These are only a few notable cases, but it’s important to understand that every case is unique. Any claim against the manufacturer of a defective or unsafe product falls under product liability law. Consumers need to be aware of their rights following an injury caused by a defective product, and a product liability attorney would be the best person with which to consult.