Defective products and product parts cause thousands of injuries to Americans every year. The group of legal rules dictating who is responsible for these injuries is known as products liability law. This is a distinct category as compared to ordinary personal injury suits. Such laws are designed to protect consumers, compensate them for their injuries, and serve as a deterrent to others by punishing those who make or sell unsafe goods.
Product liability laws indicate that manufacturers and sellers are held to a higher standard than the average defendant in a civil lawsuit, and can make damage recovery easier for the injured person.
Who is Responsible For My Injuries? Who Should I Sue?
In the past, the law required the plaintiff to prove that they purchased the product in order to bring suit, a relationship known as “privity of contract.” This is no longer the case, and a potential plaintiff does not need to prove privity of contract to collect damages.
As for liability, every link in the product’s supply chain can be held responsible for damages: the manufacturer, any party that contributes components to the product, assemblers, installers, wholesalers, and retailers. For certain products liability claims to apply, the consumer must have purchased the good during the regular course of the manufacturer/retailer’s business, meaning that someone selling items at a garage or yard sale are not liable.
What are the Types of Products Liability Lawsuits?
There are no federal laws governing products liability cases, and most lawsuits are filed in state courts according to that state’s laws. To help encourage as much uniformity as possible through the various jurisdictions, the Department of Commerce published the Model Uniform Products Liability Act in 1979.
Product liability claims can be based on the legal theories of negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability, with the third being the most commonly used.
- Negligence: The elements of a negligence claim remain the same for a products liability suit. The defendant (manufacturer, seller, etc.) owes the plaintiff (consumer) a duty of care to prevent unreasonable risk of harm and injury. If that duty of care is violated and causes someone to be harmed as a result, they can be held liable for damages.
- Breach of Warranty: A warranty is a guarantee made by the seller about the good or product. There are two types: express and implied.
- Express Warranties: These are created by an overt statement or action by the seller. The obvious example is an oral/written promise about a product, but also includes descriptions of a product or a model of the product.
- Implied Warranties: These are created by law and apply to products whether or not the seller makes any statement. The two most common implied warranties are implied warranty of merchantability and implied warranty of fitness for particular use.
- The former guarantees that the product is fit for use in the way it is supposed to be used. The latter is created when the buyer tells the seller how they wish to use the product, and the seller confirms that the product can be used in that manner.
- Strict Liability: This is the most commonly-used legal theory for products liability lawsuits. It eliminates any intent element, the plaintiff does not need to prove negligent or reckless behavior. If the product is defective and causes injury, then liability exists.
- The defect can be created by faulty design, manufacture, or transport; as long as the harm occurred during intended use with no substantial change to the product, the injured consumer can seek financial compensation.
Are There Alternative Claims For Product Liability?
In addition to the above claims, there are some alternative causes of action an injured party can seek in the event that one of the more common suits is not feasible. When a breach of warranty claim is not possible, a plaintiff may file a fraud/deceit claim if the seller makes an untrue statement that they know is untrue with the aim of deceiving the buyer.
Another option is negligent misrepresentation, which is when the manufacturer or seller makes a false statement, misstatement, or purposeful omission to sell a product. Finally, in some (but not all) jurisdictions, the consumer might be able to file a nuisance claim.
Do I Need An Attorney For My Products Liability Injury?
If you or a loved one is injured due to a defective product, you may be able to seek financial compensation for your injuries. Products liability cases are complex, and knowing which legal claim to pursue can get confusing and overwhelming. This is why seeking the help of an experienced consumer lawyer is important.
They can advise you of the best legal options by assessing the law in your jurisdiction and the specific facts in your case. They will be your advocate and ally every step of the way and get you on the road to recovery as soon as possible.