Frequently Asked Questions

  • Overview

    Thousands of people are injured every year by dangerous and defective products. The laws governing responsibility for product defects are different from ordinary liability law. These laws are based upon a principle that if a manufacturer and/or designer of a product create a product which is defective and the defect renders it unreasonably dangerous; these entities will be responsible for the damages caused by their dangerous products.
    Product liability means that a manufacturer or retailer can be held liable for producing or selling a defective product. Responsibility for a product defect lies with all sellers or distributors of a product, including the manufacturer and component manufacturers, wholesalers, and retail stores. Some state laws provide that wholesalers and retailers cannot be held liable unless the product was manufactured to specifications provided by the seller, or unless the seller modified the product.

    There is no federal product liability law and states have different product liability statutes. Generally, these statutes are modeled on the Uniform Commercial Code and require products to meet the consumer’s expectations. These expectations obviously include the expectation that a product not be defective or dangerous.

    There are three theories of product liability:

    Negligence. A manufacturer can be shown to be negligent if the design or manufacture of their product is clearly unsafe, or if it can be shown that the manufacturer or seller did not take adequate and reasonable precaution to prevent injury caused by their product.
    Strict liability. This theory does not require proof of negligence, but rather proof that the product was defective and that the defective nature of the product rendered it unreasonably dangerous to a foreseeable user.
    Breach of warranty. A product’s manufacturer or seller can be held liable for breach of warranty if the product is unsafe or not fit to be used as intended. This can occur if the product was incorrectly designed, assembled, or if the components do not perform properly.

  • Product Defects

    A plaintiff in a product liability case is required to show that the product which caused injury was defective, and that this defect rendered the product unreasonably dangerous. For example, while a chainsaw can be dangerous, its intended purpose is to function as a chainsaw. It would not be considered to be defective simply because it’s a chainsaw. However, if the state-of-the-art of chainsaw design required that the chainsaw have a safety chainsaw brake installed to stop the chain from rotating and the chainsaw break failed to work as designed, the chainsaw may be considered defective. Since chainsaws by their very nature are dangerous, manufacturers are generally required to provide instructions to users on how to properly use the product and warnings to users on how to avoid misusing the product and the dangers associated with the foreseeable misuse of the product.

    There are three types of product defects that may create product liability: design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects.
    <ul>
    <li><strong>Design Defects</strong> A design defect is a flaw in a product’s design that makes it hazardous. For example: an unstable piece of furniture may tip over easily and therefore be considered defectively designed. A liability claim for a design defect often requires proof of negligence. However, if the plaintiff can show that an alternative design would have not resulted in injury and was cost-effective, strict liability may be shown.</li>
    <li><strong>Manufacturing Defects</strong> These occur when a product is not produced according to the design specifications. These cases may have a stronger evidentiary basis for proving the defect, since the manufacturer’s own standards and designs can be used to show that the product was not manufactured in accordance with the specifications which rendered the product defective. However, this proof requires some presence or involvement in the manufacturing process.</li>
    <li><strong>Marketing Defects</strong> Marketing defects can include improper or insufficient labeling, instructions, or warnings. They can also include a negligent or intentional misrepresentation of a product in advertising or product documentation.</li>
    </ul>

  • Common Defenses in Product Liability Claims

    Manufacturers and sellers have a variety of defenses against product liability claims. Arguments in these cases can be very complex, requiring knowledge of engineering, science and manufacturing techniques. As a result, you should retain an experienced Product Liability lawyer to make sure that all of your legal rights are protected.
    <ul>
    <li>Plaintiffs in a personal injury case must act within a time limit, or “limitation period”. Some states also have “statutes of repose”, which prevent any legal action against the product after products reach a certain age, no matter when the plaintiff was injured.</li>
    <li>You must be able to connect the product which caused injury with the party or parties responsible for its manufacture or sale. Locating a manufacturer of a certain product may be difficult or the product may have been manufactured in another country.</li>
    <li>Manufacturers can argue that the plaintiff or a seller altered the product after it was out of the manufacturer’s control and that this alteration caused the injury. They can also argue that the product was misused and that the injury therefore arose from misuse of a reasonably safe product.</li>
    </ul>
    State law varies on which defenses apply. Many other defenses may also be made. You should discuss your case with an attorney with experience in product liability law to determine whether these defenses apply to your case.
    <h2>Protecting Your Legal Rights</h2>
    If you are injured by a defective product, the most important step is to consult an attorney with experience in product liability law as quickly as possible. These cases are often very complex and require technical evidence. As a result, an attorney’s expertise is vital from the earliest steps to ensure all evidence is examined and your legal rights are protected. Contacting an attorney should be your first priority after the obtaining of medical care.

    Immediately secure the product in order to guarantee that it is available for investigation and to guarantee that its condition does not change from the condition that caused injury.

  • Common Defenses in Product Liability Claims

    Manufacturers and sellers have a variety of defenses against product liability claims. Arguments in these cases can be very complex, requiring knowledge of engineering, science and manufacturing techniques. As a result, you should retain an experienced Product Liability lawyer to make sure that all of your legal rights are protected.
    <ul>
    <li>Plaintiffs in a personal injury case must act within a time limit, or “limitation period”. Some states also have “statutes of repose”, which prevent any legal action against the product after products reach a certain age, no matter when the plaintiff was injured.</li>
    <li>You must be able to connect the product which caused injury with the party or parties responsible for its manufacture or sale. Locating a manufacturer of a certain product may be difficult or the product may have been manufactured in another country.</li>
    <li>Manufacturers can argue that the plaintiff or a seller altered the product after it was out of the manufacturer’s control and that this alteration caused the injury. They can also argue that the product was misused and that the injury therefore arose from misuse of a reasonably safe product.</li>
    </ul>
    State law varies on which defenses apply. Many other defenses may also be made. You should discuss your case with an attorney with experience in product liability law to determine whether these defenses apply to your case.
    <h2>Protecting Your Legal Rights</h2>
    If you are injured by a defective product, the most important step is to consult an attorney with experience in product liability law as quickly as possible. These cases are often very complex and require technical evidence. As a result, an attorney’s expertise is vital from the earliest steps to ensure all evidence is examined and your legal rights are protected. Contacting an attorney should be your first priority after the obtaining of medical care.

    Immediately secure the product in order to guarantee that it is available for investigation and to guarantee that its condition does not change from the condition that caused injury.

  • Consumer Protection Law and Agencies

    Product liability is governed by a large number of federal and state regulations, statutes, and orders. Plaintiffs can develop a stronger case by showing that a manufacturer or seller violated one or more of these statutes. The Consumer Products Safety Act also allows consumers to recover damages through a civil lawsuit. In addition, products such as airplanes, automobiles, medical devices, appliances, packaging, chemicals, and many others must meet specific guidelines and requirements. Your product liability attorney will likely contact one or more of the following agencies for more information about regulations and government services:

    Federal:
    <ul>
    <li>The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publish numerous regulations on workplace safety and health standards.</li>
    <li>The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) develops safety standards for vehicles and enforces the notification of defects to owners.</li>
    <li>The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission’s (CPSC) mission is to reduce consumer injuries. The Commission issues alerts when a product is found unsafe and can provide valuable information.</li>
    <li>The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a number of publications regarding pollution and chemical safety standards.
    ” The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) is concerned with highway safety and conducts research on bus and truck safety and the safety of roads.</li>
    <li>The U.S. Coast Guard sets standards and investigates consumer complaints of defective boats or ships. They issue notifications to boat or ship owners when defects are discovered.</li>
    <li>The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publish standards for foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices. The FDA has information on product ingredients and manufacturing methods.</li>
    </ul>
    State:
    <ul>
    <li>State police or highway patrols can provide information about regulations on the use and equipment of vehicles.</li>
    <li>Many state fire marshals issue regulations and standards for safe building design and construction.</li>
    <li>State departments of transportation (DOT) establish standards and regulations for contractors to follow during construction of roads.</li>
    </ul>

  • What does product liability mean?

    Product liability means that a manufacturer or retailer can be held responsible for producing or selling a defective product which is unreasonably dangerous. Responsibility for a product defect lies with all sellers or distributors of a product, including the designer, manufacturer, wholesalers and retail stores.