According to the Cornell Law Forum, defective product liability refers to the liability of any or all parties in the chain of manufacture that caused damage from that product. Some of the parties may consist of the manufacturer of parts, an assembling manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retail store owner.
Any products with inherent defects that harm a consumer can be subjected to product liability suits. Keep in mind that products include both tangible and intangible things. Product liability encompasses a wide range of things and mainly derives from tort law. For the case to be viable certain terms must be present that include the following:
- An injury must have occurred to the plaintiff;
- The defendant sold a product that the plaintiff used;
- The defendant is the commercial seller of such a product;
- When the defendant sold the item, the item was defective; and
- The defect was an actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
What Are the Different Types of Products Liability Claims?
Depending on each state, there are various product liability claims available. The claims can be based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness. Although there is no federal product liability law, the United States Department of Commerce published the Model Uniform Products Liability Act (MUPLA), which has tried to encourage uniform procedures for the product liability tort.
Three types of product defects incur liability in manufacturers and suppliers:
- Design Defects: Design defects are inherent and are there before the product is manufactured. The product may be successful and serve the purpose, but it can be unreasonably dangerous to use due to a design flaw.
- Manufacturing Defects: This generally happens during the construction or production of the product. Some may be defective, among others.
- Defects in Marketing: This relates to improper instructions and fails to warn consumers of the product’s potential dangers.
Furthermore, plaintiffs can make product liability claims as a result of various other issues with products that cause damages. Below is a summary of some of those issues that are of concern. The Breach of Warranty, every product has some sort of express or implied warranty. For instance, explicit warranties are written warranties that provide specific guarantees. These are directly from the manufacturer regarding the product.
However, implied warranties are not clearly stated in an agreement between the consumer and merchants or distributions. But, they are implied by law or circumstance, which also encompasses the warranty of merchantability. Warranty of merchantability is a legal rule that guarantees that the product is suitable for the intended use.
Additionally, states have regulations that impose certain products must have a warranty. If the manufacturer forgot to put this warranty in writing, the regulation would ensure that there was still an implied warranty for the product.
Moreover, failure to sufficiently warn the consumers about the product is a red flag. However, there can be unforeseen consequences that may occur as a result of the product. In general, manufacturers are held to a certain standard. They have a legal obligation or duty to disclose inherent side effects or risks associated with using a particular product if there are potential safety issues. Failure to do this can result in exposure to liability.
Therefore to prevent this, a thorough inspection and investigation must be conducted for all products sent into the market for consumption.
According to Harvard Business Review, there are some defenses in place in case a manufacturer or another distributor is placed in this situation. However, there are a few defenses that hold up in court. Most states have mandated that manufacturers are strictly liable for product defects, meaning regardless of fault, they will still be held liable for their actions.
Although, there are many moving parts to this. It must discuss the time frame for the suit to be brought, what the plaintiff has to prove, and if any defenses are available to the manufacturers.
All states have specific regulations regarding this matter and how the suit will play out in court. The laws are constantly changing and being updated to meet the needs of consumers while gatekeeping the manufacturers. There is a balancing act that courts are trying to do to ensure that the unjust are held accountable for their actions. However, there are defenses available for manufacturers.
For instance, if a customer is aware of your product and its dangers, you may be absolved of liability, but only if you can demonstrate that the injured person knew of the specific risks, which can be difficult to prove and showcase in court. If you need further assistance in your case, you can reach out to a local attorney in this field of law.
Below are some examples of what a product liability case looks like:
- Drug manufacturers that fail to warn about the harmful side effects that could occur as a result of the medication they are selling;
- Manufacturers in the motor vehicle industry that consists of faulty ignition switches or defective airbags in their vehicles;
- Any medical device manufacturers who have defective devices that cause injuries to the consumer.
Above are some samples of what you can find in a product liability case. There is exposure of liability under the product liability laws for the scenarios mentioned earlier. As a manufacturer, you need to understand the importance of implementing routine checks on all your products. It helps to prevent unnecessary errors later in the future that can cost you more.
Who Can Sue Under Product Liability Laws?
Before, the claims for product liability cases needed to arise from the privity of the contract. Meaning, only the parties directly involved in the transaction had rights and obligations. However, this is no longer the case, and most states do not recognize this legal doctrine of privity for the claims.
Now, anyone who could foreseeably have been damaged by a defective product can pursue a claim against those responsible for the manufacturer or sale of the product. As long as the item was sold, this implies that anyone can take legal action if harm occurs because of it. It is a broader range of liability and covers any damage that may have occurred due to the product defect.
Who Can Be Sued in a Product Liability Case?
According to Forbes, any person or entity in the chain of distribution that causes harm to anyone resulting from the defective product can potentially be held liable under product liability laws. It can include the following parties for the suit:
- The person or entity that installs the product;
- The person or entity that builds or assembles the product;
- The manufacturer of the product;
- The manufacturer of parts that encompass the product;
- The individual or company that installs the product;
- Merchants who sell products to consumers.
For the legal doctrine of strict liability to apply, the manufacturer must have sold the product as part of their regular consumer operations. Therefore, this regulation aims to protect casual, non-commercial sellers from being swept up in product liability claims.
When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?
Suppose you believe that you were wronged due to a defect in a product. Do not wait to reach out to a defective product lawyer to discuss your issue regarding the case. Since product liability cases can become complicated quickly, it is important to seek the appropriate advice earlier in the process to determine how to proceed further.