Product liability refers to the liability of a manufacturer, retailer, or seller of a product when they allow a defective product to reach consumers, regardless of the consumer’s negligence. Product liability laws determine who is responsible for defective or dangerous products. It is important to note that all parties in the distribution chain may be found liable under the product liability theory.
Product liability laws and claims regarding those laws vary by state. Commercial statues exist in each state that model the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which contains warranty rules affecting product liability.
What is a Defective Product?
A defective product is a product that is unreasonably dangerous when it is used for its intended purpose, with no alterations or interference. A defective product causes injury to an individual because of a design defect, manufacturing defect, or marketing defect.
Common examples of defective products include:
- Food items;
- Medical devices; and
- Children’s toys.
What Is a Defective Product Injury?
If a product is defective due to its design, manufacturing, or warning about dangers, then a user or users may become injured by the product. If a defective product was the cause of an injury, the purchaser may be able to recover damages for that injury.
An individual who is injured by a defective product can sue the manufacturer of that product. They may also be able to sue the party responsible for repairing the product.
The injured individual may also be able to sue the seller of the product, which can include wholesalers or distributors responsible for getting the product from the manufacturer to the retailer, even if that seller did not cause the defect. Some jurisdictions allow an injured party to sue the seller of used goods, depending on the circumstances of the case.
How Do I Prove a Defective Product Claim?
There are four different legal theories under which an individual may bring a product liability claim if they have been injured or suffered damages due to a defective product. These include:
- Breach of express warranty;
- Breach of implied warranty;
- Strict product liability; or
A breach of express warranty may occur if the defective product violated an express warranty that was guaranteed by the manufacturer. This type of warranty is created by the overt words or actions of the seller. An express warranty can be created by:
- A promise by the seller about the product;
- A description of the product; or
- A model of the product.
Even if the product does not have an express warranty, it may have implied warranties. An implied warranty is not required to be expressly written or guaranteed by the manufacturer. It is a warranty that the product will be fit for the purpose for which it was sold.
An implied warranty automatically applies when a seller offers a product for sale, even if the seller does not discuss how the product will perform. There are two common implied warranties, an implied warranty of merchantability and an implied warranty of fitness for a particular use.
An implied warranty of merchantability guarantees that a product is fit to use in a way that the product is supposed to be used. When a seller sells a product, an implied warranty of merchantability guarantees that:
- The product is fit and suitable and can be used for the ordinary purposes for which buyers would intend to use it;
- The product’s quality is adequate; and
- The product conforms to promises made by the manufacturer, usually found on the container or label.
An implied warranty of fitness for a particular use applies when a product is given after an individual tells a seller they want to use a product in a specific way. By giving an individual individual the product, the seller warranties the product is fit for the use the individual had in mind. This warranty applies when:
- A seller knows the buyer will be using the product or good for a particular purpose; and
- A seller knows that the buyer is relying on the seller’s expertise and knowledge about the product’s ability to be used in the way the seller requires.
A strict liability product defect occurs when a purchaser buys a product that was defectively designed, manufactured, or had a lack of warnings which resulted in an injury to the purchaser. Under this legal concept, an individual may hold an individual or entity liable for damages or losses without the need to prove intent or carelessness. This concept usually applies to circumstances in which a product is inherently dangerous or hazardous.
Another defective product claim is a claim of negligence. Under this theory, the consumer of the product is required to show that the defendant was not reasonably careful in making or distributing the product and this carelessness caused the consumer’s injury.
How Do I Win a Defective Product Injury Suit?
Courts generally hold a defective product injury to strict liability. Under this concept, it does not matter what the intentions of the producer were or how careful they were. Even if the defect was a latent defect, the producer is liable for injuries caused by the product if the product was used correctly by the consumer.
The consumer has to prove the following elements to win a defective product injury case:
- The defect existed when the producer last had control over the product;
- The consumer used the product properly;
- The product’s defect cause the injury; and
- The injury is severe enough to warrant a recovery.
It is important to note that strict liability does not prevent claims of carelessness in design or creation from being brought. A lawsuit may also include a claim that the product failed to work as promised.
What Defenses Might a Manufacturer Raise against Me?
There are a number of defenses to defective product liability a manufacturer may raise in a lawsuit. These include:
- The product was not used properly by the consumer;
- The product did not cause the injury;
- The product did not have a defect when the manufacturer released it into the market;
- The consumer used the product knowing that use of the product might be dangerous; and
- The consumer engaged in behavior which contributed to the injury.
Sellers and manufacturers have a defense as well when the user of the product used the product for a time after purchase and became aware of the defect but continued to use the product anyway. If it is apparent that the condition of the defect or the way the product was used made it obvious that the defect was present and the consumer disregarded it, the consumer may have assumed the risk and given up the right to claim injury damages.
What If the Defective Product Was Part of a Larger Product?
In some cases, the defective product is part of a larger product. For example, the tires on an automobile may be defective. In these cases, the individual who is injured as a result of the defective tires may be able to sue the car manufacturer and the tire manufacturer.
Should I Contact a Defective Products Lawyer?
Yes, if you or a loved one have been injured by a defective product, you should seek assistance from a class action lawyer as soon as possible. It is also important to preserve the defective product or as much of the product as possible as evidence.
A lawyer can review your case, assist in preserving evidence, file a lawsuit, and represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary. A lawyer can also help negotiate a settlement for the defective product injuries.