What is Products Liability?
Companies that make products available to people in the community are responsible for the injuries caused by their products. Injuries that are caused by a manufacturing defect, a product design defect, or a failure to warn all fall under an area of the law known as products liability. Products liability may include either a wrongful death or a serious, life-changing injury.
Examples of Products Liability Lawsuits
- Medical Devices that fail (hip and knee devices, breast implants)
- Dangerous Medications (cough medication)
- Toxic substances or chemicals in a product (asbestos, tobacco)
- Machine or equipment malfunctions (pool pumps, small appliances)
- Automobile defects (airbags, brakes, ignition switches, gas tanks)
Do You Have a Product Liability Case?
There are different ways a person may prove that a product was unsafe.
- Negligence: To be successful, you must prove that the manufacturer did not show “reasonable care” when they made the product for its normal, intended uses or when they inspected or tested the product.
- Strict Products Liability: You may be successful if you can show a defective design, manufacturing flaw, or inadequate warnings about use of the product. You must also show that the product directly caused the injury (that is, it was a proximate cause).
- Breach of Warranty: To be successful you must show that a product was not safe for the intended use. For an example, a tent sold by a tent maker must be safe for a family to sleep in during a camping trip and not have dangers that make it unfit for use as a tent.
Types of Product Defect Lawsuits
Typically a product defect will be classified as a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or a failure to warn.
- To show a design defect, you must show:
- the product was not reasonably safe due to the likelihood of harm,
- it was possible to design the product in a safer way, and
- the defect caused the injury.
- To prove a manufacturing defect, you must show that the product caused your injury because it did not perform as intended, and you show how another product of identical design did not fail.
- For a failure to warn claim, you need to show that the manufacturer did not adequately warn the user of one or more dangers associated with the product.
Examples of Product Defects
- Defective products: vehicles with defective gas tanks that explode
- Manufacturing defects: failure of metal hip replacement due to bacteria being allowed onto the metal during the manufacturing process; or medication that is contaminated with chemicals that were intended to be used to clean the machines between bottling different batches of medicine.
- Failure to warn: camping lanterns that are unsafe to be used in homes (but perfectly safe to be used out of doors) because of the amount of oxygen they use or carbon monoxide they emit.
9 Things to Do If You Have Been Hurt by a Product
If you have a product liability case, you will want to work with a personal injury attorney who has expertise with this area of law. You should know that you will only have a certain amount of time to bring your case. The company will do everything possible to try to avoid or minimize their liability. If you have been injured by a product you (and your attorney) will want to do the following:
- Get medical attention immediately
- Complete any accident/incident reports and keep a copy
- Keep the product and store it safely
- Determine who owns the product
- Determine the product history (from purchase until the accident)
- Locate the product manuals, instructions, directions, and all product literature
- Photograph the product
- Photograph the scene of the injury with the product
- Make a list of any witnesses