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What Is Product Liability Law?

Jul 07, 2022

When you buy a product, you expect the product to provide some value to you. But, what happens when, because of a defect, the product harms you or any other person? This is where product liability law comes in.

What Is Product Liability Law?

Product liability law gives consumers the right to obtain compensation for any damage caused by a defective product.

Product Liability Law: What It Encompasses

Product liability law creates an obligation on manufacturers, distributors, and every other person involved in the chain of manufacture to ensure that the products they deliver to consumers are free from defects. When products are defective, then those responsible for the defect will bear the liability for any damage a person suffers because of that defect. 

Because of product liability law, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers always need to think of the end-users of the products they manufacture or sell or risk being sued for damages. When products cause injury or the death of a loved one, consumers have recourse for compensation for damages from those responsible.

What Type of Defects Constitute a Product Liability Lawsuit?

You can bring a product liability lawsuit because a defect in a product has caused harm. A product can be defective in three ways:

Design Defects

Defective design affects the product before it is manufactured. A product has a defective design when inherent flaws in its design make it harmful to consumers. When a product has a defective design, the flaw affects the entire product line and not just a unit or a batch. Such flaws or defects can prevent products from functioning safely as advertised, which can lead to injuries even when you use them the right way.

Some examples of design flaw include:

  • An electric blanket that electrocutes when turned to a high degree
  • A line of sunglasses that don't in provide adequate protection for the eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays
  • Electrical appliances that have faulty wiring or parts that heat too much or melt easily
  • Product containers of harmful substances that fail to keep the products safe

Marketing Defects

This is also called failure to warn. In this type of product liability, products can cause harm because there is a failure to provide clear guidelines on how to use the product or warning on the risk of harm associated with using the product. Most products that require warning are products which have hazards that are not obvious or require users to have their guards up while using them.

Examples of marketing defects include:

  • Failing to indicate the presence of ingredients that consumers are allergic to
  • Failing to indicate the corrosive nature of a cleaning substance and how to use it
  • Failing to include the side effects of a medication or how to take it

Defects in the Manufacturing Process

A product has a manufacturing defect when there is a deviation from the product’s design during the manufacturing process. Such errors may make the product harmful to consumers because the product will not function as the product manufacturer intended. Most manufacturing defects affect product batches or individual products.

Some instances of manufacturing defect include:

  • A product manufactured with substandard materials
  • An error in product assembly or installation
  • When harmful substances are used in producing drugs or food items
  • A product missing vital body parts, e.g. a scooter without a brake pad

How Do You Prove Liability?

There are many ways you can prove liability in a defective product lawsuit. They include:

Strict Liability

Most product liability cases are brought under strict liability. To prove liability under the doctrine of strict liability, you need to prove the following elements:

  • The product was defective
  • You suffered actual damages while using the product
  • You used the product the right way
  • The product’s defect caused you harm

Negligence

You can also bring your product liability claim under negligence. To succeed, you’ll need to prove the following:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care, i.e. to exercise reasonable care to make or sell defect-free products.
  • The defendant breached that duty by making or selling a defective product.
  • You suffered damages because of that defect.

Breach of Warranty

You can bring a product liability claim if the defect breached any product warranties—whether express or implied warranties. You’ll need to prove:

  • The defendant made an express or implied warranty
  • The product did not meet the warranty

Fraud

Product liability can be based on fraud if the defendant made a false claim about the product. This may not be easy to prove because you’ll need to show:

  • The defendant made the claim knowing it to be false with the intention that it will influence you to buy the product.
  • It was reasonable for you to rely on the false claim.
  • Relying on the defendant’s falsely marketing harmed you in some way.

What Does It All Boil Down To in a Lawsuit?

The essence of a product liability claim is to allow those injured by a defective product to claim damages from those responsible. You can claim the following damages in a product liability lawsuit:

Monetary Damages

Monetary damages simply means money paid to compensate you for both economic and non-economic loss you suffered because of the defective product. This will often include compensation for:

  • Lost earnings
  • Reduced earning capacity
  • Personal property damage
  • Medical bills
  • Disability costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium

Exemplary Damages

This is also known as punitive damages. The aim is to punish the defendant where their conduct is atrocious and outrageous to deter such actions in the future. In 2020, a New Jersey jury awarded $750 million in punitive damages (later reduced to $186.5 million) against Johnson & Johnson to four plaintiffs who claimed that the company’s talcum powder caused their rare cancer. 

Hire an Attorney for Strict Product Liability Cases

A product liability case is often a complex case and requires expertise and experience to have a successful outcome. Businesses and insurance companies are not on your side and will try to deny you the compensation you rightly deserve.

Contact the experienced product liability attorneys at The Spence Law Firm to see how we can help you. We’re ready to take on your product liability claim and fight to help you get the best possible outcome for your case.

Schedule a free consultation with The Spence Law Firm, LLC

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If you are struggling with a serious injury, or are fighting against seemingly impossible odds against big corporations, insurance companies or the government, call us to speak with our team of trial lawyers who will fight for you. We take no fee unless we earn it by winning your case.