The legal concept of product liability holds a manufacturer or seller of a product accountable if they place a defective product into the stream of commerce. Any party or entity that is responsible for any step or part in the manufacturing of the product may be held liable for any resulting injuries, just as a seller may be held liable.
An example of this issue would include an automobile. Automobiles are often produced by multiple manufacturers, where one creates the engine and another creates the tires.
All of these individual pieces are then put together and assembled, and the automobile will go to a retailer or dealer. If the resulting automobile is defective, and of the following parties may be held liable for any resulting injuries, including:
- The assembling manufacturer;
- The wholesaler;
- The dealer; and/or
- The manufacturer of the piece of the product which was determined to be defective.
Defective products are governed by a body of laws which dictate what parties are responsible for injuries, called products liability law. This category of law is distinct as compared to an ordinary personal injury lawsuit.
Product liability laws are designed to protect consumers as well as to compensate consumers for their injuries and to serve as a deterrent to entities by punishing those that make or sell goods which are not safe. Product liability laws provide that manufacturers and sellers are held to a higher standard than an average defendant in a civil lawsuit.
This fact may make recovery easier for an injured party to obtain as compared to other types of civil lawsuits.
What Are the Different Types of Product Liability Claims?
Because there are no federal laws which govern product liability cases, the majority of product liability lawsuits are filed in state courts. In order to establish as much uniformity as possible throughout the different jurisdictions, the Department of Commerce published the Model Uniform Products Liability Act in 1979.
Product liability claims are usually based on one of the following legal theories:
- Breach of warranty; and
- Strict liability.
Strict liability is the basis that is most commonly used. The elements of negligence claims are the same in a products liability lawsuit as other cases based on negligence.
The elements of negligence include:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached that duty to prevent unreasonable risk of harm and injury when using the product;
- That breach of duty caused harm to the plaintiff; and
- The plaintiff suffered actual damages.
Strict liability eliminates the element of intent, meaning that a plaintiff is now required to prove negligent or reckless behavior. Under this theory, if certain products are defective and cause injury, liability exists.
A warranty is a type of guarantee that is made by a seller regarding a product or good. An express warranty is created by an overt statement or an overt action by a seller.
For example, if the seller provides an oral or written promise about a product. A breach of warranty occurs when the product does not match these claims which are made.
An implied warranty is created by laws and applies to products regardless of whether or not the seller makes any statements regarding the product. The two most common implied warranties include the implied warranty of fitness for a particular use and the implied warranty of merchantability.
An express warranty guarantees that a product is fit for use in the way in which it is intended to be used. An implied warranty is created when a buyer tells a seller how they wish to use a product and the seller confirms that the product can be used in that manner.
What Are the Elements of a Product Liability Claim?
In order for a consumer to prevail in a products liability case, they are required to prove the following elements:
- A product has been sold in the marketplace to the plaintiff;
- The seller or manufacturer of the product was under an obligation to sell or manufacture the product in such a manner as to meet the ordinary expectations of average consumers;
- The product contains a design defect or a manufacturing defect;
- The defect in the product caused the product to become unreasonably dangerous;
- It is foreseeable, or predictable, that an average consumer could have been injured by the defect; and
- The defect caused an average consumer to sustain injuries or damages.
Design defects are defects in the way a product is initially designed. This defect in the product design renders the product inherently unsafe.
This type of defect comes into existence when the designer of the item was planning the item but prior to the manufacturing of the item. For example, if a child car seat does not properly seat-belt, or restraints the child because of a flaw in the product’s design.
Another example is a clothing dresser which falls over too easily and does not include hardware to anchor the dresser or the suggestion to anchor the dresser to the wall. Manufacturing defects are defects which result from how the product is assembled, or put together.
Before and up to the time of assembly, the product does not have any defects. During the assembly process, however, the product is rendered defective due to a mistake during assembly or incorrect assembly.
This mistake in assembly renders the product as unsafe, especially because it now has the potential to cause harm or injury to individuals who use it.
What is Acitretin?
Aitretin, referred to in the consumer market as Soriatane, is a form of Vitamin A that is often used to treat individuals with severe psoriasis. This type of Vitamin A is typically prescribed as a latch ditch effort to curb an individual’s symptoms of psoriasis.
What are the Adverse Effects of Acitretin?
Although Acitretin has been effective in helping individuals with psoriasis, severe birth defects have been linked to the use of Acitretin within 3 years of using the drug or pregnancy. Birth defects linked to Acitretin may include, but are not limited to:
- Severe malformation of the hip;
- Alterations to the spinal cord and brain; and
- Reduced cranial volume.
What is the Current Status of Acitretin?
Currently, Acitretin may be used as an effective treatment for severe psoriasis. However, it has been cautioned that Acitretin should only be used in cases where no other therapy is effective.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently revised the warnings for Acitretin because of the possibility of birth defects. If an individual has gotten pregnant while they were taking Acitretin within 3 years and their child is born with birth defects, they should consult with a physician immediately.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you have had an issue related to Acitretin or your baby was born with birth defects after your use of Acitretin, it may be helpful to consult with a class action attorney who can assist you with recovering damages for your child’s injuries. It is important to be aware that you may still be able to recover damages even if you signed a waiver which released the manufacturer of Acitretin from liability.
Product liability cases are often complex and require specific types of evidence in order for a plaintiff to prevail. Your attorney is best equipped to present the most effective case on your behalf to the judge or jury.