Product liability law determines who is responsible for defective or dangerous products. For example, a manufacturer or seller can be held liable for placing a defective product into the stream of commerce. In fact, all parties who are in the distribution chain can be found guilty of product liability. According to the law, a product is expected to meet the ordinary expectations of consumers. If the product has an unexpected defect or danger, then the product does not meet the ordinary expectations of consumers.
State laws typically dictate product liability claims. Also, there are a set of commercial statutes in each state which are modeled on the Uniform Commercial Code. These statutes contain warranty rules which affect product liability.   

What are the Different Types of Product Defects?

The person who brings a product liability claim will have to prove that the product which caused their injury was defective. Moreover, the defect must have made the product unreasonably dangerous. These two elements are essential components of any theory of liability. The three legal theories for product liability claims are:

  • Design defects: This refers to the design of the product that is inherently unsafe even before it is manufactured.
  • Manufacturing defects: This refers to a product defect that occurs over the course of manufacturing or assembling that particular product.
  • Warning defects: This refers to flaws in terms of inadequate safety warnings to consumers.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for Product Defects?

Any party in the product’s chain of distribution can be held liable for a product defect. Before, there had to be some type of contractual relationship between the person injured by the product and the supplier of the product. However, that requirement no longer exists in most states. Today, any reasonably foreseeable person who could be injured by a defective product can recover for their injuries as long as the product was sold to someone. Among those that can be held liable are:

  • The product manufacturer;
  • The party that assembles or installs the product;
  • The manufacturer of the component parts;
  • The wholesaler; and
  • The retailer who sold the product to the consumer.

What Are the Main Theories of Product Liability?

There are three different ways you can bring a product liability claim. Namely, strict liability, negligence and warranty: 

  • Strict liability: Under this theory, the claimant does not have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. Rather, the claimant only needs to prove that the product was defective and that the defect in the product caused their injuries. Even the seller of the product can be held liable as long as they are in the business of regularly selling or renting out that particular product.
  • Negligence: Under this theory, the claimant needs to prove that the manufacturer owed a duty of care to a reasonably foreseeable consumer. Furthermore, the claimant must show that the manufacturer breached that duty. It is also necessary to prove that there was a causal connection between the manufacturer’s breach of duty and the person’s injuries.
  • Warranty: There are two types of warranty. Under express warranty, the manufacturer must have directly represented that the product is safe for its intended use. Under implied warranty, the manufacturer must have implied that the product is reasonably fit for its intended use. 

There is also the legal doctrine of “res ipsa loquitur” which in Latin means that “the thing speaks for itself”. Under this doctrine, it is assumed that the product defect would not exist unless someone was negligent. If the person is able to successfully use this legal principle, then they are not required to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. Instead, the manufacturer will be required to prove that it was not negligent. However, some products are considered to be unavoidably unsafe and that they cannot be made safer. In such cases, the manufacturers and suppliers of these products are required to give proper warnings of the dangers to the consumers.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Product liability claims can be quite complicated. Indeed, establishing liability for product defects can require a lot of legal expertise. In this context, you may want to consult an experienced defective products attorney before proceeding.