A products liability case is a personal injury case in which a person is injured by a defective product. For example, a person may be injured when a sensor in the airbag of their car is defective, which causes it to deploy unexpectedly. Or a person could be injured by eating food which contains foreign substances, such as a piece of metal, causing injuries to their mouth. A person may also be injured by a product that is more dangerous than anyone thought, like an SUV that rolls over too easily, or building material that contains hazardous chemicals.
When a person is injured by a defective product, they have three possible claims: Strict products liability, general negligence or breach of contract/warranty.
Strict Products Liability – This applies with a product is defective in some way, and that defect causes harm. In this situation, the manufacturer, distributor, retailer and anyone else in the distribution chain can be held strictly liable for the damages, meaning that there is no requirement of showing fault on their part. The only requirement is to show that the product was in some way defective. There are three possible ways to show that a product is defective
- Manufacturing Defect: This occurs when a product differs in design or specification from what the product should. As with the example of the tainted food above, the product differed from its intended design, therefore it has a manufacturing defect.
- Design Defect: This occurs when the product, even when it is made to the exact design as specifications, the product either 1) did not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect it to, or 2) the risks of harm outweighs the benefits of the products design. These types of defects can frequently be found in cases against car manufacturers who, trying to make the most profit, design and develop vehicles that are unsafe.
- Warning defect: A warning defect case arises when the maker of a product knows (or should have known) that the product has a potential risk or side effect that poses a substantial danger to an unwary user, and the producer failed to adequately warn and give notice to the consumers of the danger. These cases often involve pharmaceutical products, or items used on a construction site which contain harmful chemicals.
Negligence: In addition to a strict products liability claim, a person who is injured by a defective product could also sue on general negligence principles. If the manufacturer was negligent in the design, manufacturing, supplying, installing, inspecting or repairing a product, they could be held liable for damages caused by their failure to do their job properly.
Breach of Warranty: Finally, a person who is injured by a product may be able to sue based on a breach of contract or breach of warrant. Some products come with an express warranty which is a guarantee by the maker or seller that the product will perform up to a certain standard. If the product fails to live up to the warranty, and it causes injury to the consumer, the maker or seller could be sued based on contract principles.
Even when there is no written warranty, certain implied warranties are imposed by law which offer additional protection to a person who is injured by a defective product.
The entire spectrum of products liability cases is wide and covers nearly every consumer product out there. Some cases, such as a defective hamburger case, can be relatively simple. Other cases can be extremely technical and complex, such as when a defective part causes an airliner to crash. But in any case, it is important to discuss the matter with an attorney so you can be fully informed of all your possible remedies and options going forward.
At the Law Office of Randy K. Bell, we will do our best to ensure that you know and understand all your rights. Give our office a call to schedule a free consultation to discuss your products liability case.