When you purchase a product, you certainly don’t expect to be injured by it—but, unfortunately, it happens more often than you’d like to think. If you or a loved one become injured because of a defective product, compensation can be available under the umbrella of product liability laws.
If you believe that you’ve been a product liability victim and would like to discuss the specifics of your situation with an experienced attorney, then please contact us online or call us toll-free at 800.251.1111. We will provide you with a free, no-obligation consultation.
The law surrounding product liability is complex. Generally, it is based on a duty of care, which requires that someone acts towards the public (and individual people within the public) with the appropriate amount of caution. So, what is the “appropriate” amount of prudence required? It would be at the level that a reasonable person would use in a particular circumstance. If a person’s (or organization’s) actions don’t meet the appropriate levels of duty of care, then the actions could be considered to be negligent.
Looking more specifically at manufacturers, each manufacturer has the duty to design a reasonably safe product. Moreover, when a distributor places an inherently dangerous product (such as anything explosive or prescription medicines) into the channels of commerce, it has a duty to adequately warn of the danger and the duty to instruct as to its proper use.
A clear example of a hidden defect would be when the world’s largest manufacturer of toys, Mattel, recalled ones made in China. In this situation, the danger of the lead paint used on the toys was concealed from the buyer. Liability for any injuries would fall on the manufacturer (in China, hard to sue); the distributor (also Chinese); and the seller, Mattel. Mattel is a U.S. company that sold a defective product that can cause serious brain damage in children who naturally chew on toys. As such, it could be held solely liable for all such damages as a consequence of its failure to inspect and test unsafe toys.
You can find more examples of product liability situations on our site, and here is a list of 2019 recalls on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) site. We also provide a list of medicines and defective medical products that were either not fully tested or the doctors and the public were not given reasonable notice of the dangers of their use.
Sometimes a product is properly manufactured, but the design is faulty because it fails to provide guards or other safety devices to protect against even an obvious danger, if the danger is great. Examples we have litigated are poorly designed guards on dangerous machinery or equipment such as chain saws, power saws, printing presses, and lawnmowers.
When someone becomes injured because of a defective product and makes a product liability claim, what happens next may vary by state. Product liability laws aren’t federal in nature; instead, each state has its own, and variations can exist because of:
As the world of manufacturing becomes increasingly more complex, so can product liability law. This in true, at least in part, because the distribution chain can become more complicated. At a high level, a distribution chain can be defined as the entities involved in manufacturing, transporting, warehousing, and selling products to customers.
Then, if we take a look at just one of those aspects—manufacturing—then that can be further broken down. For example, the actual creation of product components could be handled by multiple companies, with an assembly plant putting it together. This means perhaps the manufacturing itself was appropriately addressed, but the assembly plant may have put parts together in an unsafe way. Or, manufacturers may have created parts in accordance to specs, with the assembly plant doing its job well—but a flaw in the design of one or more parts may have led to injuries.
How serious are the injuries suffered, either by you or a loved one? Was the death of a loved one the ultimate result? If injuries are severe or fatal, you’ve likely have a highly complex case and will need experienced attorneys on your side. Be sure to ask the law firm you contact to provide information about how many cases like yours they’ve handled, as well as how much trial experience they have.
Ask friends and family for references, and avoid simply choosing the firm with the most or flashiest advertising. Research the firms online, read their websites, testimonials, and so forth. How long has the law firm been in existence? What practice areas are their specialties? What you want and need are experts who specialize in cases like yours.
Julie Harrell provides an overview of product liability law in the following video, including how proper instructions must be included with products. This includes instructions on how to use a particular product safely, along with descriptions of its hidden dangers. For example, if you purchase an oil burner that could cause a fire if certain kinds of oils are used, then a duty exists in regards to warning consumers of this hidden danger.
Embedded within the concept of product liability law is the duty to warn, with consequences existing if a person or entity fails to do so. In other words, liability can exist when a buyer wasn’t appropriate warned of possible risks. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) states that warning labels must be highly visible and color-coded as they inform the buyer of existing hazards, the severity of risk, effects of the hazard, and how to avoid the hazard.
Product liability law can become quite complex in its real-world applications, and differs in some ways from more general personal injury law. That’s why this area of the law requires a great deal of experience and specialized knowledge on the part of even the most outstanding attorney.
At a high-level, product liability claims are based upon three general concepts:
This concept, in general, means that carelessness of a person or entity helped to cause an injury. The negligence could take place during the product’s design stage, or during manufacturing, as just two examples. Negligence could take place during testing (or there could be a lack of testing) and so forth. This means that pinpointing the exact time in the process where negligence occurred may take an in-depth investigation.
Strict liability occurs when there is a failure to warn of potential dangers that a user would not have recognized but the manufacturer knew or should have known that the product presented a danger even if used properly. Examples we have handled are toxic and damaging fumes from household products that were odorless when the public received no warning they existed. Under the concept of strict liability, the injured party doesn’t need to prove exactly when duty of care wasn’t properly exercised; its focus is on whether or not the product causing the injury was defective and unreasonably dangerous.
When a purchased product does not meet the standards described in its warranty, this can lead to a claim of breach of contract. Because there are limitations in the application of breach of contract within product liability law, it’s less likely to be the basis of claims. But, it deserves mentioning.
Here’s something else to consider. The range of harm done by a defective product can be quite wide. In some cases, the injury may be minor, relatively speaking. Other times, though, it can be devastating. And, there are numerous reasons why this range exists. In some cases, it’s because the defect simply was (or wasn’t) severe. In other cases, a person’s allergies can mean that he or she will suffer significant harm, to a degree that a person without allergies wouldn’t experience. What might be at least reasonably safe for an adult might not be for a child; what’s reasonably safe for an older child might not be for toddlers.
If you or a loved one have been injured because of a defective product, don’t settle for less than what you deserve! Defendants in your case may try to claim that you altered the product to put the burden of the injury on you. Or they could claim that you misused it or you don’t have enough evidence to prove your claim. As we’ve mentioned, product liability law is complex, so it’s important to have the right legal team on your side.
We invite you to read what other clients have to say about how we handled their cases and review the profiles on our highly experienced team of lawyers. The product liability lawyers at Harrell & Harrell, P.A., have significant experience and knowledge of this area of law, are we’re here to discuss specifics of your case.
If you’d like to talk about the specifics of your personal injury claim, please contact us online or call us at 800.251.1111. We’ll provide you with a free, no-obligation consultation.
Searching online for a personal injury lawyer to represent your airbag accident claim? Due to recent reports out of Washington D.C., Harrell & Harrell has assigned an attorney to work with accident victims related to the Takata airbag explosions that may impact car accidents and truck accidents where the statutes of limitations had originally expired. Click the makes & models link to check for affected vehicles. As in all our cases, there is no fee for such a consultation.
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