What is Product Liability?
Product liability cases arise when a product reaches a consumer and causes injury or damage to that consumer as a result of a defect in the product. Manufacturers, both of component parts, as well as the assembling manufacturer, as well as wholesalers and retailers can all be held liable for defective products. The defects may arise in one of three broad areas: a design defect, a manufacturing defect or a marketing defect.
A design defect is a problem inherent to the product even before it is actually made, and this means that even when the manufacturer makes the product in exactly the way they were intended to, it is still defective. Imagine a toy manufacturer making a toy hairdryer that was really just a fan and that the fan easily snagged children's hair, causing frequent injuries to the children who put it next to their heads. This would be a design defect because the toy was designed in a way that made it unsafe when it was used as it was intended to be used.
A manufacturing defect is a problem with a product that resulted from a flaw that occurred in the course of the manufacturing process. An example of this could be a type of medication being manufactured at the wrong dose. In this case, the medication as designed might work perfectly well, but as the result of it being twice as potent, it caused damage to individuals who took it.
Defects resulting from marketing include a failure to properly warn individuals of the risks of the product, or inadequate directions about how to use the product. An example of a warning defect would include a cleaning product that cannot be disposed of down a drain because it can damage or clog plumbing. In this scenario, the product might have a very useful ingredient that did what it was meant to do, and it might have been designed properly, but by failing to let consumers know that the product should not be poured down a drain, the company has failed to warn its customers of the issue.
Product liability laws vary from state to state. Oftentimes, these cases are based on strict liability, where the defendant who made the product will be liable for the damage caused, even if they were not negligent.
Defendants in product liability cases often argue that the injured individual did not use the product in a way it was intended to be used, and that the way the injured individual used the product was unforeseeable to the defendant. For instance, if someone was injured using a thin silk glove as a pot holder, the manufacturer would likely be able to say that the product was used incorrectly and in a way they would not have anticipated. On the other hand, if stickers that were sold with a popular children's character on them caused severe skin irritation if they were stuck to skin, then the manufacturer would have a difficult time arguing that it was unforeseeable that the stickers would be used on skin, even if they were intended to be applied to paper.
While many defective products involve minor injuries, other cases involve products such as cars or tainted medications where the damage that results from the defects can be devastating. If you have suffered an injury as the result of a product that was defective, you should speak with an attorney at Montlick & Associates for a free consultation as to your legal rights as well as what steps are necessary to protect those rights.
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