Parents have a lot to worry about. From the basics of trying to provide good nutrition, quality education, and emotional support to their children, parents also have a lot to consider in keeping their children safe. Among these concerns is protecting their children from dangerous products.
But, not all products look outwardly dangerous. Some products are unfortunately defective and can cause serious injury to a child-or worse.
Common items that have been found defective include cribs, walkers, car seats, playpens, highchairs, strollers, baby formula, clothing, pacifier clips, cribs, toys (particularly with lead paint), and other typical children’s products.
Parents want to know that the items they rely on for their children are safe. But, what if they’re not?
What are Defective Children’s Products?
There are three general ways in which a children’s product may be considered defective:
- Dangerous design;
- Negligent construction; and
- Inadequate warning label.
A product with a dangerous design is one that is defective right from the start, because no amount of proper assembly nor adequate warning would make up for the fact that the product is designed poorly.
An example of a defective design might include a product like a toy oven that fails to include a temperature control mechanism or an emergency off-switch. As a result, no matter how well someone builds the product or how well a manufacturer warns consumers of the risks of the product, the product itself fails to include basic safety features and is therefore effectively designed.
Another possible scenario in children’s product liability is where the design is safe, but the product manufacturer or assembler puts together the product negligently.
For example, a child’s toy oven that is designed to have a temperature control device so that the oven never gets dangerously hot is designed safely. But, if the manufacturer fails to include this part of the device, then the product may have been negligently constructed.
Lastly, a product may be defective if it fails to warn the consumer of known risks of using the product.
In the same example of the toy oven, if the oven was properly designed and assembled but did not warn consumers that the product may be warm when in use, it is only recommended for children mature enough to handle the toy safely, and children should not be unsupervised when playing with the toy, then there may be liability for a child’s injury resulting from use of the toy.
One aspect of children’s product liability that is different from other product liability is that children may not recognize the risk of harm in a product as an adult would. This makes children especially vulnerable and a key reason why children’s product liability is its own category of liability.
Furthermore, there are more risks posed to children by products, because of a child’s fragile state. For example, children are more prone to choking, drowning, or falling hazards.
Children use products to assist them in the tub, which can lead to drowning if they’re using a defective or dangerous product. Children use products to eat, which can lead to choking. And, there are products that help children walk, which can pose falling hazards.
Strict liability may be imputed to a manufacturer or retailer of a children’s product that caused serious injury or death. This means that even if the retailer or manufacturer had nothing to do with the defect itself, by nature of being a manufacturer or a retailer, those parties may be held liable.
Who is Liable for Defective Children’s Products?
The product designer, manufacturer, assembler, or seller may be liable for the defective product depending upon the type of product liability that caused the child’s injury (defective design, negligent manufacturing, or inadequate warning).
Determining which party is liable also depends sometimes on what kind of injury was sustained. Was it a foreseeable injury, one that a designer, manufacturer, or retailer could foresee would happen with normal use of the product? Or, was it an injury that occurred due to abnormal use of the product?
If a parent chooses to use a product in a way that is dangerous but that the product was in no way designed to be used, then it would be far more difficult to prove liability.
What Can You Do If Your Child Has Been Injured by a Defective Product?
Injuries to children or deaths of children resulting from defective products are among the most emotionally charged cases. Parents are grieving and angry, and it is difficult to think about liability sometimes at such a challenging time.
However, if you know of a child who has been injured or who has died from a defective product, contact a consumer lawyer as soon as possible. Time matters in these cases, and the sooner you consult with an attorney, the better you can get a handle on your rights.