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 What Is Product Liability?

Product liability is the set of laws that hold a manufacturer, wholesaler, or seller of a product accountable for placing a defective product into the stream of commerce. Under the laws of product liability, any party that is responsible for any part of the manufacture or sale of a defective product may be held liable for any injuries that result from that defective product’s use.

For example, when creating a motor vehicle there are often numerous different parties that are involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of the vehicle. For example, one manufacturer may create the engine, another may create the vehicle chassis, while another manufacturer creates the tires.

All of the individually manufactured pieces are then brought together and assembled to make the final product. After the final product is complete, one party will then be in charge of distributing the vehicle to a vehicle seller, who will then sell the vehicle to a consumer.

If the completed is defective, then any of the following parties involved may be held liable for any resulting injuries:

  • The manufacturer that assembled the vehicle together;
  • The wholesaler that sold the vehicle to the distributor;
  • The dealer that sold the vehicle to the consumer; and/or
  • The manufacturer of the specific part of the completed product that was found to be defective.

Once again, product liability law is a distinct category of law. This means that product liability law differs from ordinary personal injury suits. Product liability laws are designed to protect and compensate consumers for their injuries while also serving as a deterrent to manufacturers by punishing those who make or sell defective goods.

In essence, product liability laws determine that the manufacturer and seller owe a duty to the consumer to prevent dangerous products from entering the stream of commerce. This heightened standard of duty often makes recovering damages easier for an injured consumer, when compared to other civil lawsuits.

What Are The Different Types Of Product Liability Claims?

As there is no federal law governing products liability cases, product liability lawsuits are filed in state courts in accordance with that state’s specific product liability laws. However, in order to help encourage as much uniformity within the law as possible, the federal United States Department of Commerce (“USDC”) published the Model Uniform Products Liability Act in 1979 to act as a guide for state laws.

Product liability claims are generally based on either the legal theory of negligence, breach of warranty, or strict liability. Strict liability is the most commonly used legal theory in defective products cases. The following is a breakdown of the three legal theories that product liability claims are based in:

  • Negligence: In a negligence claim the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care to prevent unreasonable risks of harm and injuries when using their product. As such, if that duty of care is violated by the defendant and results in an injury to a user of their product, the defendant may be held liable for the resulting damages;
  • Strict Liability: In a strict liability claim the plaintiff (i.e. the party that was injured) does not need to prove the negligent or reckless behavior of the manufacturer, seller, or wholesaler. Instead, if the product was defective and caused an injury, then liability against the defendant automatically exists; and
  • Breach of Warranty: In legal terms, a warranty is a type of guarantee that is made by a seller of goods regarding said goods. A warranty may either be an express warranty or an implied warranty.
    • An express warranty is created by an overt statement or action by the seller of the goods. For example, if a seller makes an oral or written promise about how a product functions, the product must conform to that specific function;
    • An implied warranty is a warranty that is created by law. Implied warranties apply to products regardless of whether or not the seller makes any sort of statements or promises. The two most common implied warranties are the implied warranty of merchantability, and the implied warranty of fitness for particular use.

What Are The Legal Elements Of a Product Liability Claim?

In order for a plaintiff that was harmed by a defective product to be successful in their civil lawsuit against the defendant that harmed them, they must typically prove the following:

  • That a product was sold to them in the stream of commerce;
  • That the seller or manufacturer was under an obligation to sell or manufacture the product in such a way to meet the ordinary expectation of average consumers;
  • That at the time of sale the product was defective by design or due to a manufacturing defect;
  • That the defect in the product is what ultimately caused the product to be unreasonably dangerous;
  • That the defect was foreseeable, i.e. predictable, and that an average consumer could be injured by the defect; and
  • That injury caused the plaintiff to sustain quantifiable damages.

A design defect is a defect in the way a product is designed to work. As such, the defect renders the product as inherently unsafe to the consumers that the product is being sold to. Design defects exist when the designer was planning the item, but before the product is actually manufactured.

For example, a child car seat that does not properly secure a child to the seat, due to a flaw in the product design, would be considered a design defect. Another example is a product that is designed to utilize electricity not being able to withhold the amount of the electricity that flows into the unit.

A manufacturing defect is a defect that results from how a product is put together or assembled. In manufacturing defects, there is nothing actually defective about the product prior to the point of assembly. However, during the assembly process, the product becomes defective either due to some manufacturing mistake or incorrect assembly. This mistake then renders the product unsafe, especially with respect to the product’s potential to cause harm or injury.

What Are Garbage Disposal Injuries?

Garbage disposals are kitchen appliances that are connected into a kitchen sink unit. Garbage disposals contain sharp blades which spin and grind food waste for disposal through the kitchen sink’s pipe system. As garbage disposals are devices intended to grind products, there are various dangers and risks associated with disposal units, including:

  • Electrical Shock: One of the most common garbage disposal injuries is electric shock. Garbage disposals commonly run on electricity and are consistently in contact with running water. As such, a defective or damaged unit may result in electrical shock;
  • Lacerations: As garbage disposals contain sharp blades, laceration injuries often occur. For example, an individual’s hand may be in the garbage disposal to clean out a jam, and the garbage disposal could suddenly engage due to a defect;
  • Buildup Issues: Injuries related to bacteria or septic buildup in the garbage disposal may also lead to injuries; and/or
  • Other Injuries: There are various other forms of garbage disposal injuries including the risk of electrical fire or explosion.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Garbage Disposal Injuries?

As noted above, there are numerous parties that may be held liable for garbage disposal injuries. Typically, the manufacturer of a garbage disposal product can be held responsible for any injuries caused to users or consumers of a defective product.

For example, if there is a defect with the product’s safety switch design that causes it to turn on on its own, the manufacturer may be held liable for injuries if the unit suddenly turns on and injures a consumer when it was supposed to remain off. Additionally, the manufacturer of the engine for the unit may be held responsible if that was the particular piece that caused the unit to be defective. Further, if a wholesaler or seller of the product is made aware of the defective unit, they may also be held responsible for any damages related to future sale of the product, or not notifying past purchasers.

However, if the unit suddenly turns on as a result of faulty electrical wiring, then the electrician or electric company responsible may be held liable instead. This is especially true if the electrician knew or should have known that the product was installed improperly. In an electrical shock case, the installer may be held liable under a negligence theory of law.

Lastly, a person who is responsible for the safety of the premises may also be held liable if they fail to repair a garbage disposal unit that they know or should have known was dangerous. For example, if an individual is renting a unit, and the renter informs the landlord that there are issues with the garbage disposal, the landlord has a duty to take certain actions.

If the landlord fails to repair a faulty garbage disposal unit in a rental property, they may be held liable. Commercial venues such as hotels may also be held liable if they fail to post appropriate warning signs near defective garbage disposal units.

What Are the Legal Remedies for Garbage Disposal Injury Cases?

Garbage disposal injuries are often serious in nature and may require legal action. If an injured party is successful in their civil lawsuit, they may be entitled to a monetary damages award to compensate them for losses associated with their injury. The damages will typically cover hospital bills, medical treatment costs, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity.

In cases where a person has negligently contributed to their own injury, such as by not utilizing the garbage disposal unit in an ordinary fashion, their damages may be limited, reduced, or denied. Therefore, the facts of each specific case will be important in order to determine whether or not anyone may be held liable for injuries that resulted from a garbage disposal.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Garbage Disposal Injury?

Garbage disposal accidents and injuries may be very serious and can often result in long-term injuries to a consumer. As such, if you have been hurt by a garbage disposal unit that you believe to be defective, you should immediately consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

An experienced attorney will be able to help you determine if you can hold any other party liable for the damages you suffered. If liability exists, an attorney can also initiate a civil lawsuit against the party responsible for your injuries. Further, an attorney can also represent you in court, as necessary.

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