Dangerous pet products are products intended for use with a pet that present a risk of injury to either the pet. They may present a risk of harm to humans as well. These can include various items including pet food, toys, harnesses, leashes and the like. Products such as soaps, sprays, and powders can present risks to the people who use them also. These can affect many types of animals, but usually cats and dogs are the subjects of dangerous pet product claims.
Injuries can include:
- Choking or neck injuries from, for example, collars or harnesses;
- Adverse reactions from flea and tick powders or sprays;
- Poisoning or other reactions from exposure to chemicals.
Injuries to pets can range from skin rashes to gastrointestinal symptoms, tremors, seizures, and, in some cases, even death. Similar injuries or conditions can result in humans as well as a result of exposure to such products.
Who Can be Held Liable for a Dangerous Pet Product Injury?
Various parties can be found liable for injuries to pets or humans caused by a dangerous product. This can include:
- Manufacturers of pet products, especially where there is a product defect or product liability issue. For example, the concentration of chemicals may be too strong or there is a choke hazard associated with the product.
- Pet owners or others in charge of pets who were negligent in the use of a pet product, for example, a veterinarian, groomer, or handler. Success would require showing that the person knew or should have known of the risk of danger, yet proceeded to use the product with the pet, resulting in injury.
Are There any Legal Remedies for Dangerous Pet Product Issues?
Injuries to pets or people or pet deaths caused by a dangerous pet product may require legal action to fully resolve legal issues. In most lawsuits, the affected party, usually a pet owner, may be compensated through a monetary damages award.
The theory of liability could be product liability based on negligence, strict product liability or fraudulent misrepresentation.
Product liability is a cause of action that holds manufacturers, producers, distributors, suppliers, and retailers responsible for injuries caused by the products they sell to the public. These entities are legally liable for damages if a defective product injures a consumer of the product. In the case of a pet product, the manufacturers and others in the chain of distribution would be liable for injury or other harm to a person’s pets.
Liability for harm done by a product is based on the premise that the product is defective. A product can be defective in any of three ways:
- Design Defect: Under this theory of product liability, a person’s claim is based on the assertion that there is a flaw in the product originating in its design;
- If there is a design defect, all products with the same design are rendered defective by the design flaw. A manufacturer will be liable for injuries caused by a defective design if the product was designed as intended and injured a person who used the product as it was intended to be used. A manufacturer can also be liable for the foreseeable misuses of its product.
- Manufacturer Defect: Under the manufacturing defect theory of liability, a manufacturer is liable for harm caused by a defect that results from an error in the manufacturing process. With a manufacturing defect, there is no flaw in the design of the product. Rather, an error occurred during the production process which makes it defective.
- Marketing Defect: A marketing defect originates in a manufacturer’s failure to warn about the potential hazards of using its product. Manufacturers and sellers have a duty to warn consumers when their products pose a reasonably foreseeable risk of harm.
In determining whether there was a duty to warn about a particular risk of harm, the court considers the foreseeability of harm, the severity of the potential harm, the ease (or difficulty) of providing an adequate warning, and the likely effectiveness of a warning.
There is no duty to warn when the risk of harm is clear. For example the manufacturer of motorcycles does not have to warn customers about the clear dangers of riding a motorcycle, e.g. a person’s body is not protected in the event of a crash. The manufacturer should warn customers about dangers that may not be obvious.
A recent report told of a defect in pet food. It was a dog “treat” that contained a center portion that was “rock hard” and indigestible. When fed to pet dogs by their unsuspecting owners, they caused gastro-intestinal obstruction in the animals. This type of defect might be a design, manufacturing or marketing defect.
In another recently reported case, pet owners sued on a theory of fraudulent misrepresentation. Manufacturers represented that their product was a “chew toy” that was not made of animal hide, but when analyzed by professionals, the product was found to be made of animal hide. So, if the facts support it, a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation is also an option in a defective pet product case.
A standard negligence cause of action is another option. To succeed with a negligence claim, an injured person must show the following elements of a negligence claim:
- The producer of a pet product owed a duty of care to pet owners,
- The producer was negligent and breached the duty of care in the manufacturing or marketing of its product;;
- The breach caused harm to the injured pet owner;
- The owner suffered quantifiable damage because of the breach.
To succeed with a negligence claim, a pet owner would have to show in what manner the manufacturer was negligent in either the production or marketing of its product.
Calculation of the amount of any award of money damages will depend on various factors, including:
- The type and severity of the injury;
- The breed and size of the animal;
- Whether the animal had any pre-existing conditions, and other factors.
Compensation may cover costs such as reimbursement for veterinary treatment, damages for emotional distress, and if a death is involved, compensation for the value of the pet.
In cases where many pets are affected or threatened by the dangerous pet product, other measures may be enforced, such as a product recall or a ban on the use of the product.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Dangerous Pet Product Lawsuit?
Lawsuits for harm to pets can be complex and typically require the assistance of a lawyer. You may wish to consult an experienced class action attorney in your area if you need legal guidance or representation for your claim. An experienced class action lawyer can analyze the facts of your case and advise you as to the best way to proceed. You are most likely to get the best possible outcome if you have an experienced lawyer representing your interests.