Sometimes, flawed or imperfect products are released to the public. One of the ways these products can be flawed is through what is called a design defect. A design defect means that the product was manufactured correctly, but that there is something in the way the product is designed that makes it dangerous to consumers. 

Since the design defect is a flaw in how the product is designed, the defect generally affects the entire product line, rather just one particular item. For example, a design defect may mean that a car is top-heavy, making it prone to flipping over when turning sharp corners — all of the cars in this model will be affected by the design defect, not just one singular car.

Design defects often serve as the basis for a products liability or defective product lawsuit especially if someone is injured as a result of the defective design.

What are Some Examples of Design Defects?

Some common examples of design defects may include:

  • Structurally unstable products, such as a table designed to have unequal leg lengths, causing the table to be unstable or unsafe;
  • Products that are unduly flammable or prone to melting (especially if heat is an essential part of its purpose or function, like an electric blanket that catches fire);
  • Poorly designed mechanisms for containing toxic or dangerous substances and liquids;
  • Products that are dangerous for children while being intended for use by children (such as toys that include choking hazards);
  • Mechanical defects, which are common in cars and other motor vehicles.

Some design defects may be remedied by warning labels, which warn the public about the potential hazards of using the product. However, some products can still cause injury even with proper warning labels. Additionally, some design defects may not be dangerous, but still interfere with the consumer’s usage or enjoyment of the product. For example, a poorly designed window that obscures visibility may still be the subject of a product liability claim.

What are Some Other Types of Defects?

Design defects are not the only types of defects that can result in defective product or product liability claims. Claims regarding defective products can also involve:

Defective Manufacturing: A claim of defective manufacturing involves a product that is properly designed. However, something happens during the manufacturing process to cause a flaw in an individual product or a set of individual products. As a result, the product becomes dangerous and unsafe for the intended use. For example, a bottle of cough syrup contaminated by metal shavings from factory machinery, or a moped built without brake pads would be considered cases of defective manufacturing.

Warning Label Defects and Insufficient Warnings: All products must come with clear and complete warnings about possible risks or dangers associated with using the product that may not be immediately apparent. Warning labels usually must be included in products that can cause injury if they are used improperly or if the product is dangerous to use (such as products that have high electricity, sharp edges, heated surfaces, or toxic chemicals). For example, chainsaws and space heaters include warning labels to warn the public about the possibility of injury if they are used improperly.

Design defects can be expensive for manufacturers to fix in order to avoid future liability, especially since a problem in the design of the product means that the entire run or batch of the product is defective. In many cases, the best way (or only way) to fix the problem is to go back and redesign the product from scratch. However, manufacturing and warning label defects tend to involve isolated incidents that can easily and quickly be corrected.

What Do I Need to Prove for a Design Defect Claim?

A plaintiff may be able to recover damages if a design defect in a product causes them injury or financial loss. However, there are certain things that a defendant must prove in order to prevail in a design defect claim. If the plaintiff wants to prove their defect design claim in court, they must show:

  • The manufacturer designed the product as intended;
  • The product’s design is dangerous for its intended use;
  • There was an alternative design that would have made the product much safer for consumers;
  • The alternative design or design modification would allow the product to perform just as well or in the same manner for which it was intended;
  • The cost of making the safer design was not cost-prohibitive (it didn’t cost too much for the manufacturer to produce);
  • The plaintiff was using the product as it was intended;
  • The plaintiff was injured or suffered some kind of loss when using the product as it was intended.

When it comes to the cause of the injury in a defective design case, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the injury caused by the product was specifically caused by the defect in the product. It is not enough to claim that the plaintiff happened to be injured while using the product.

Not only does the injury need to be tied to the defect in the product, but the plaintiff must have used the product as it was intended. This does not necessarily mean that the plaintiff must have used the product in the exact way the manufacturer specified. If the manufacturer could reasonably expect or predict that a person would use the product in the same way the plaintiff used it, then the manufacturer can still be liable for the plaintiff’s injury. 

For example, if the plaintiff bought a pair of gardening shears and was injured by the shears while using them to cut rope, the manufacturer can still be held liable since the manufacturer can reasonably expect that consumers might use the gardening shears to cut things other than plants.

Should I Hire an Attorney to Help With a Design Defect Lawsuit?

If you have been injured by a consumer product and you believe your injury was caused by a design flaw, it is in your best interest to contact a licensed personal injury lawyer. Design defect lawsuits can become very complicated, and having a qualified lawyer on your side can help you navigate the legal system successfully. 

The right lawyer can advise you on the best way to proceed, file the necessary paperwork, represent you in court, and help you work to get the best possible outcome for your case.