Product Liability Law is a body of law that provides recourse for individuals injured by defective products. Most plaintiffs in these cases will seek recovery under the theory of strict liability, which is sometimes called product-liability law.
Unlike negligence, breach of warranty, and fraudulent misrepresentation theories, strict liability does not require that a product's manufacturer or distributor has a duty to the plaintiff. Instead, a plaintiff must only establish that the product had a defectand that the fault was the direct cause of the plaintiff's injuries. The plaintiff is entitled to damages if the plaintiff can prove both of these elements. The plaintiff may also recover from the individuals and entities in the distribution chain, but only if the defendant's conduct was a substantial factor in the plaintiff's harm.
Product liability cases arise in many fields, including manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, transportation, medical devices, heavy machinery, food, vehicles, and more.
The fault is never an issue when it comes to strict liability. If you can establish a product defect, then there is no need to prove wrongdoing by a defendant. Instead, the burden shifts to the defendant to show that they should not be held responsible, for example, by demonstrating that the defect was not their fault.
Potential Claimants and Liable Entities
The common thread in cases that give rise to strict liability is causation. Under this legal theory, an unforeseeable plaintiff can't succeed in a strict liability claim. Essentially, if you put a defective product on the market, anyone who hurts yourself from that productor someone to whom your product might cause harmcan bring a strict liability claim.
To bring a claim for strict liability, the plaintiff must have used the product in an 'anticipated use.' An 'anticipated use' is a broad concept and can include activities beyond the manufacturer's stated intended use of the item. For example, it could be a car manufacturer or corporation that negligently designs or constructs a vehicle that allows the accelerator to stick, causing injury if the accelerator is depressed. The same is true with a car manufacturer or corporation who negligently designs or constructs the vehicle so that the brake covers do not function properly, causing injury if the brakes are pressed. Another example could be a case where someone was using a ladder - to be used for climbing - but the ladder malfunctioned, causing injury if used to mount.
Defenses in product liability cases include:
- The defect did not exist when the product left the defendant's control.
- The plaintiff misused or altered the outcome.
- An express warranty covered the product's fault.
Establishing that a Product is Defective
A product liability case cannot succeed unless the injured party can demonstrate that the allegedly dangerous product had a physical defect that rendered it difficult. If the product was made following design specifications approved by the manufacturer, it could be said that it has a "design defect," even if its condition was normal.
Sometimes, that one product is so poorly made that it ends up dangerous or defective. This may seem like a rare event, but it happens more often than you'd think and is what we call a manufacturing defect.
Even if a company manufactures and distributes a product as safely as possible, it could still be inherently dangerous. Dangerous products are sold, but the manufacturer is required to warn their customers about those dangers adequately. If they fail to do so, it may be considered a defect in the marketing or packaging of the product.
The theories above only provide a brief overview of theories of liability in car accident cases. Additional possible causes of collisions include speeding, running red lights, and running a stop sign.
In addition to strict liability, consumers of defective products may rely on other theories to pursue compensation for their injuries. For example, they can seek compensation by adding entities in the distribution chain as defendants to the claim.
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