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Product Liability

We all purchase and rely on the use of certain products to help us perform a variety of tasks in our daily lives. However, some of these products have been negligently designed or manufactured and their use can result in serious injury or death. In these instances, the maker and distributors of these products can and should be held liable for the injuries their products have caused.

Product liability is a particular subsection of personal injury or tort law. It refers to a defective product that does not work or perform as intended and injures the user. The product must have been used in the manner for which it was designed and the defect must have placed the user at an unreasonable risk of danger.

A company that manufactures or sells a consumer product is liable for that product and represents to the public that the product is reasonably safe if used as intended or advertised.

Types of Product Defects

  • Defective design–A company that designs a product promises that it is not unreasonably safe to use. A defect means that it is inherently flawed though correctly manufactured. Examples include products with unsafe levels of lead paint, tires made from inferior rubber, or something designed with substandard material. Manufacturers may have intentionally designed such products to save costs or failed to conduct any tests that would have detected such flaws rendering them liable.
  • Defect in manufacturing–In this case, the product may have been safely or well designed, but there was an error in its construction or manufacture that affected only one or a few products in the entire product line.
  • Marketing defect–A company has a duty to advertise a product so that the consumer uses it safely and as intended. Confusing instructions or an incorrect age recommendation may be the basis for a product defect claim based on a marketing defect. A manufacturer must also adequately warn consumers of potential and foreseeable risks and hazards and how to use and handle the product.

Causes of Action

A product liability action typically has several causes of action:

  • Negligence–Like other tort claims, the manufacturer, designer or seller has a duty to the consumer to produce a safe product or to warn of potential risks. In a product liability case, you must prove that the product was defectively made, designed or advertised as a result of the defendant’s failure to use reasonable care in its production or design, failed to follow certain industry standards, or neglected to use technology that was available that could have made the product safer. A company might also have used improper procedures in making the product.
  • Strict liability–Some products may be deemed unreasonably dangerous if you can show a defect in the design or manufacture that rendered it unsafe such as an inferior substance or inherent design flaw. Fault need not be proved and innocent bystanders or others with no direct relationship to the product who are injured may bring claims. Once strict liability is shown, you only have to prove your damages.
  • Breach of warranty–This cause of action requires that you show that the product was not fit for its intended use or purpose. An implied warranty is one created by law and requires that the product meet certain minimum standards of quality or that it is fit for an intended or particular purpose. An express warranty is one where the seller expressly advertises or states that the product is free of defects for a particular time. A breach of warranty can also occur when the seller misrepresents a claim about the quality or safety of a product and fails to fulfill its promise that it is safe. Once proved, you can recover the costs of replacing the product along with compensatory damages.

Reasonable Foreseeable Dangers

A product can be unsafe to use under certain situations, but the manufacturer has a duty to sufficiently warn consumers of the potential dangers if they are reasonably foreseeable.

For instance, if fireworks were used in a manner specifically warned against by the manufacturer, any harm that resulted would not be the manufacturer’s fault. However, if the firework unexpectedly exploded and the individual injured was using the product as intended, then the product might have been defectively manufactured or designed.

If a gas tank located in the rear of a vehicle explodes after a rear-end collision resulting in a fire that kills the driver, the vehicle was likely defectively designed. A rear-end collision is a foreseeable event, but an exploding gas tank situated in a vulnerable area and resulting in a fire that engulfs the vehicle is not. It also represented an unreasonable risk to the driver or to others who are injured or burned as a result.

Product liability or defect cases usually require expert testimony and the skills and experience of lawyers accustomed to the unique issues in this field of tort law. If you have been injured by a defective product, please contact the Law Offices of Duane O. King for a free consultation as our office will give your case the prompt attention that it deserves.

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