After the Jerry Sandusky debacle, everyone was hoping that Penn State would catch a break from bad press. Instead, the school was hit with this latest scoop: Customers at Penn State's Berkey Creamery allegedly found bits of plastic and even a penny in their ice cream, according to the Centre Daily Times.
The university is erring on the side of caution and pulling all the ice cream that was produced between May 16 and Aug. 11, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The recall was prompted after a criminal investigation into reports of plastic allegedly found in ice cream sold at the Creamery. The school's own investigation found that the foreign objects somehow entered the ice cream after the ice cream was produced in its facility.
So far, there are no reports of injury. But if someone had been hurt, would the Creamery be liable?
In a products liability setting, anybody within the supply chain can be held liable for injury caused by a defective product. This means the designer, manufacturer, or even retailer could potentially have to pay for hospital bills of a person who was injured.
However, a company can avoid liability if it can be shown that the product was substantially altered from the condition in which it was originally sold. For example, you can't put jet fuel in your chainsaw and complain to the company after you hurt yourself.
In the Penn State Creamery recall, it is possible that a criminal third party could be to blame for the foreign objects. If that is the case, then any potential lawsuit against the Creamery would fail because there was not a defect in the product, but rather an intervening action that caused the harm.
It is also possible that a disgruntled employee was the culprit. This could lead to liability for the school if it's found that it failed to ensure that the ice cream was safe before it left the premises.
Hopefully the origin of the alleged foreign objects will soon be determined so everyone can go back to enjoying the ice cream out of State College.
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