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Portable Generator Injuries

Portable generator accidents kill an average 70 people a year in the U.S. That makes generators one of the deadliest consumer products on the market, and by far the most dangerous engine-driven power tool used widely. About 2,800 people a year suffer carbon monoxide poisoning directly related to portable generators.

The hazards are not new for consumers, though regulators have failed to harness the dangers presented by generators used at home and at the workplace. Manufacturers have continued to make defective generators and have not provided sufficient warnings.

Warning labels on machines are often small or do not warn the consumer about the risks of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Because the gas is difficult to detect and of the gradual onset of symptoms, carbon monoxide (CO) is often referred to as a “silent killer.” It is a leading cause of toxic-related deaths and illnesses worldwide. In the U.S. alone, hundreds of people die each years from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning—many of the victims at the workplace.

One of the more common sources of Carbon Monoxide (CO) in the workplace is the internal combustion engine. The obvious occupations at high risk are auto mechanics and others working around automobiles in a body shop or garage.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), at-risk occupations include any employee who works in a confined space. Additional work environments with a known increased carbon monoxide exposure risk include boiler rooms, steel mills, breweries, various warehouses, oil refineries, pulp and paper producers and shipyards.

Carbon monoxide exposure to  may be due to the negligence of an employee, defective gas detectors, or workplace management failing to properly ventilate a workspace.

Improperly ventilated areas with appliances and engines, particularly in enclosed spaces, may allow carbon monoxide to build up and cause harm to employees. Although most cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are mild, some serious complications may result.

Joe Lyon is an experienced product liability attorney and consumer safety lawyer reviewing portable generator accidents and reviewing injury claims for plaintiffs nationwide.

CO Poisoning Injury

The Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) chairman says every portable generator injury and accident is preventable, and urges companies to put safety over profit. Basic safeguards can save lives and deliver the same product.

Some portable generator accidents are due to machine defects, though the majority are CO poisoning related, generally when users run the machines in enclosed spaces like garages and workshops—Workplace Ventilation Risks. CO-related deaths linked to generators have risen, and there were at least 64 deaths in 2005 from portable generator CO poisoning.

CO Poisoning Symptoms

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in the bloodstream following acute exposure. When there is an excess of carbon monoxide in the air the body replaces oxygen in red blood cells with carbon monoxide, quickly leading to serious damage.

High levels of CO concentration in the body will prevent sufficient amounts of oxygen from reaching the heart and brain, ultimately leading to suffocation, hemorrhaging, nerve damage, brain damage, and possibly death. Severe CO gas poisoning may cause long-term heart health issues like coronary heart disease.

Initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to differentiate from other potential health conditions. Low-level exposure is likely to cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea. Some people exposed to CO may feel as though they have the flu. Extended exposure will worsen symptoms and can be accompanied by a rapid pulse, confusion, loss of coordination, or collapse.

If multiple people in the same building have the same symptoms, CO poisoning should be suspected, and safety authorities alerted. The longer individuals are exposed to carbon monoxide, the more severe the symptoms and complications. Within the first hours, an exposed person may experience the following:

  • Memory issues
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Coordination difficulties

Portable Generator Defects

If you have suffered an injury related to a defective generator, you may have grounds for a product liability claim against the manufacturer. Defective generators have caused consumer deaths and serious injury such as:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Burn injury
  • Accidental Electrocution

Defective generators may also leak fuel that can lead to home and workplace fires. Defective generator components parts can ignite materials and lead to explosion accidents. Generator warning labels must warn consumers and workers that exhaust can contain carbon monoxide, and warn of the hazards of using generators in enclosed spaces like garages.

Portable Generator Accidents

Portable generators are internal combustion engines that present specific hazards, which include electrocution, fire and burn injury, and carbon monoxide from the generator’s exhaust. Some basic guidelines for generator safety include:

  • Never attach generators directly to the home or office electrical system
  • Plug electrical appliances directly into the generator using the manufacturer’s supplied cords or extension cords that are grounded
  • Do not overload a generator
  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)
  • Keep generators dry
  • Never use a generator indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages, crawl spaces, and basements
  • Make sure a generator has 3 to 4 feet of clearance space on all sides
  • Be aware of symptoms of CO poisoning—dizziness, headaches, nausea, and fatigue
  • Before refueling, shut down the generator and allow it to cool


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Joseph Lyon has 17 years of experience representing individuals in complex litigation matters. He has represented individuals in every state against many of the largest companies in the world.

The Firm focuses on single-event civil cases and class actions involving corporate neglect & fraud, toxic exposure, product defects & recalls, medical malpractice, and invasion of privacy.


The Firm offers contingency fees, advancing all costs of the litigation, and accepting the full financial risk, allowing our clients full access to the legal system while reducing the financial stress while they focus on their healthcare and financial needs.

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A Voice for Those who have suffered 

Why are these cases important?

Many product liability cases have had a positive impact on public health and safety, and we have witnessed improved lives and future injuries prevented as companies are forced to remove products and change designs and warnings as a result of litigation.


Questions about Product Liability & Case Types

What is a Product Liability Lawsuit?

Product liability lawsuits often contain causes of action for strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. Strict liability applies to different factors than negligence-based claims.

In negligence cases, the actions of the defendant are the focus. In strict liability claims, the focus is on the condition of a product at the time it left the manufacturer. If a product is determined to be defective, the company is liable for any foreseeable injuries that are in-part caused by the defective condition of the product.

How is a Product Defined as Defective?
Ohio Definition of Defective

A product is defective if it is unreasonably dangerous for its intended use. A legal cause of action can be based on several types of product defects. The following are Cincinnati product liability and strict liability claims available in Ohio and in most jurisdictions nationwide:

(1)  Manufacturing/ Construction Defect:

These issues arise where the product is released from the factory in a manner that deviates from the intended design or specifications. The defect can be a result of using the wrong materials, including the wrong or completely foreign materials (e.g., Tylenol contamination, food poisoning, damaged car part from factory installation).

As a result of the deviation, the product enters the market in an unreasonably dangerous condition and the consumer is exposed to or purchases a product that is defective. Any personal injuries or economic loss that arise from the the defect are compensable under Ohio product liability law.

(2) Defective design and/or formulation:

Defective design product liability cases arise not because a mistake was made during the manufacturing process, but rather the original design of the product is unreasonably dangerous. A “risk benefit analysis” is used to determine whether safer/less expensive alternative designs were available to the manufacturer.

Federal regulations set minimum standards for the design of many consumer products, and preemption defenses may preclude liability in some situations if the manufacturer follows and obtains federal approval for a product. Automotive recalls and product liability cases are usually a result of a defective design. Common cases include the Toyota Brake Recall, Chrysler Gen III seat belt buckle, lap belt only cases, Metal on Metal hip implants, transvaginal mesh.)

(3) Failure to warn or inadequate warning or instruction associated with the product:

All consumer products come with necessary and appropriate warnings and instructions for use. If the lack of a warning makes the product and use of the product unsafe, the manufacturer is liable for the failure to place the warning. The most common area of litigation for failure to warn is in pharmaceutical litigation.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to warn of the known or foreseeable side effects and update the warnings in a timely manner. Litigation arises where there is evidence the manufacturer failed to timely update a warning in light of new data or simply ignored the risk and failed to conduct sufficient research to identify and then disclose the risk.

(4) Misrepresentation:

The product fails to conform to a representation or warranty. Warranty claims are more common in commercial and economic loss cases than in personal injury cases. In many States, The Product Liability Act does not apply to cases with only economic loss, because the Commercial Code provides recourse for breach of warranty.

The warranty may be written or implied based upon the products intended purpose and merchantability. An example of a breach of warranty cases are cases involving automotive defects.

How do you prove design defects?

Risks:  The following factors are considered under Ohio law when determining the risks associated with the design of a product:  (1) the magnitude of the risk of injury; (2) ordinary consumer awareness of the risk for injury; (3) the likelihood of causing injury; (4) the violation of a private or public standard; and (5) the consumer’s expectation of the performance of the product and level of danger. Ohio Revised Code 2307.5 (B) Product Defective in Design or Formulation.

BenefitsThe following factors are considered under Ohio law when determining the benefits associated with product design: (1) the utility of the product; (2) availability of an alternative design; (3) the magnitude of risks associated with an alternative design. Ohio Revised Code 2307.5 (c)

Defenses for Defective Design(1) a pharmaceutical drug or medical device is not defective by design if it contains an adequate warning of an unavoidably unsafe aspect of the pharmaceutical or medical device; (2) the dangerous aspect is inherent to the product, recognizable, and cannot be eliminated without compromising the product’s usefulness; (3) a lack of a feasible alternative design. 2307.75 (d)(e)(f).


What is a manufacturing defect?
  • A manufacturing defect is based on a defect that occurred during the manufacturing process. Many auto companies have been involved in this kind of product liability lawsuits in recent years, due to defective airbags, software defects, tire failure, and other dangerous manufacturing errors.

    Most manufacturing defect cases are based on a products deviation from the intended specification, formula, performance standards, or design model. In such cases, it may be easy to determine the product did not comply with the intended design.

    The product may be recalled as a specific lot is identified as being non-compliant and defective. A product may be defective in manufacture or construction, materials and assembly, and a manufacturer or distributor may be subject to strict liability, even though it exercised all possible care.  Ohio Revised Code 2307.74.

    Manufacturing Defect Examples:

What is a failure to warn lawsuit?

In determining whether a product is defective due to inadequate warning or instruction, evidence must be presented to prove:

  • The manufacturer knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known about a risk
  • A reasonable manufacturer would have provided a warning of the risk
  • The manufacturer failed to provide the warning
  • The person was injured due to a lack of warning. The same elements apply whether the claim is based on a warning present during the marketing or post-sale warnings.

Defenses to Failure to Warn Claims(1) the risk was open and obvious or a matter of common knowledge; and (2) in cases of a pharmaceutical drug or medical device, the warning was provided to the prescribing physician (“Learned Intermediary Doctrine”).

Many pharmaceutical companies have been targeted in failure to warn lawsuits for either failing to place warnings on medication guides and packaging or failing to properly test their product before putting it to market.


What are consumer product safety regulations?

Design and manufacturing defects result in thousands of product recalls each year in the United States, initiated by federal safety agencies. Following injury and illness, regardless of recall status, victims and plaintiffs may pursue legal action and contact a product liability lawyer to begin the litigation process. Rightful compensation can be sought and help plaintiffs recover medical costs and other related damages.

Product liability law overlaps with regulatory law, which are the systems of legislative rules and administrative agencies, and part of federal and state governments. These agencies regulate the safety of the products sold to the public. Examples include:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA;)
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

The listed government agencies, however, may initiate recalls of dangerous products but do not provide remedies or compensation for damages where an individual is injured due to the defective product.

Your Right to Safety

Watch our Video About the Process

Defective products on the market present safety and health hazards for adults and children. Cheap and defective products may pose fire and burn risks; electrocution, strangulation and choking risks; and severe health risks. The manufacturers of consumer products have a duty to foresee potential injury and properly design and test products before they are released.

Companies must also properly warn consumers of any risks associated with their products. Any failure to protect consumers that results in accidents and injury can lead to lawsuits filed by plaintiffs and their Cincinnati product liability lawyer

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Our Victories

The Lyon Firm aggressively, professionally, and passionately advocates for injured individuals and families against companies due to a defective product or recalled product to obtain just compensation under the law.



(Pikeville, Kentucky): Confidential settlement for Plaintiff who suffered spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia due to defectively designed seat belt. Four passengers with three-point (lap/shoulder) belts walked away from the accident, and the only passenger wearing a two-point belt (lap only) suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury. The settlement assisted with home improvements to assist in daily living. GM entered federal bankruptcy during the process and no longer manufactures two-point lap belts for vehicles.



(Hillsboro, Ohio): Confidential Settlement for the family of elderly man who was catastrophically burned while operating a propane wall heater. The burns resulted in his unfortunate death. The heater, manufactured and sourced from China, was alleged to allow the flame to reach outside the grid area in violation of ANSI standards. The Defendant resolved the case following discovery and mediation. The recovered funds were paid to the victim’s surviving spouse and children. The company no longer manufactures this type of heater.