As a personal injury lawyer, I am occasionally contacted regarding potential product defects that might result in a viable product liability lawsuit. Depending on your state’s laws, a product liability lawsuit might arise from 2 different scenarios. First, a defective product might include a product that is designed or manufactured in a defective way such that it fails or malfunctions thereby resulting in severe personal injury or wrongful death. Second, when dangers associated with the product’s use cannot be removed through proper design or use of appropriate materials that do not fail when used as intended, the product might be deemed defective for failing to have a warning about foreseeable hazards associated with the use of the product. Some states also allow for a product liability claim when the dangers associated with a product outweigh its benefits.
Product liability claims involve strict liability, which means that once the elements of a product defect are proven, liability attaches. The plaintiff need not prove negligence. This may sound easy, but it is not. The personal injury lawyer will need to hire experts in human factors, product design, materials engineering and the like to prove the existence of a product defect. Evaluation of design defects or material defects can be highly technical and very costly. Often, when a product fails, testing is required to prove the inadequacy of the materials used in the product’s manufacture. Such testing can be very expensive. In addition, product testing is often subject to a court’s protective order since testing may result in destruction of some or all of the defective product.
Another important aspect of product liability lawsuits arises out of the fact that many modern products are manufactured in stages by a variety of different manufacturers, including foreign manufacturers. These various parts are then assembled by the “manufacturer,” which affixes its trademark label to the product and sells it as its own. Fortunately, most state laws recognize that it can be impossible for an injured American citizen to chase down all of the manufacturers, foreign and domestic, who were involved in the manufacture of a particular product. So, the law recognizes that the injured plaintiff can sue the end manufacturer, which often acts merely as an assembler of parts manufactured by other companies. In addition, many state laws allow the injured plaintiff to sue any supplier involved in the chain of distribution of the defective product. These laws, again, protect American citizens from defective products that were manufactured by foreign entities that may not be subject to liability in American courts.
According to one expert, “[I]njury-causing defects can be wide-ranging – – and water heaters, coolant canisters, propane tanks, furniture, deer stands, dolly carts, infant slings, children’s toys and more.” Medications and medical devices are also frequently subject to recalls as well due to product defects that because patient injuries. These defective products can result in electrocution, explosions, carbon monoxide poisoning, loss of an eye, amputation in other severe injuries or wrongful death.
The statute of limitations for product liability claims varies by state. If you have been injured by a defective product, you should contact a personal injury attorney, like Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co., L.P.A.,a personal injury attorney, for advice.