When a defective product injures or kills a consumer, it can make big news and garner a tremendous amount of public attention. Each year, approximately 34 million people are hurt or killed by defective products. These accidents cost more than $12 billion to address, treat, and remedy annually. Tens of thousands of product liability lawsuits are filed in the United States every year. But unfortunately, not all defective products are recalled or taken off the market in time to prevent other innocent consumers from being seriously hurt or killed.
If you’d like to know more about products liability law and lawsuits against the manufacturer or supplier of a product that’s defective, please read the following.
Frequently Asked Product Liability Questions
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Defective Product Liability Law
A products liability lawsuit is a type of civil lawsuit filed against the maker of a product. In a products liability lawsuit, the plaintiff claims that he or she (or a group of people) were injured or damaged by a product that was defective or not suitable for the use it was advertised for. These suits are often class action lawsuits, which means that a group of people who have the same claims against a particular defendant file a lawsuit jointly against that defendant.
The term “products liability” refers to the potential legal liability of any or all parties along the “chain of manufacture” of a product that causes harm to consumers. The “chain of manufacture” includes the manufacturer(s) of all component parts used in the product, an assembling manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the owner(s) of retail stores that sell the defective product.
When a product contains an inherent defect that causes harm to a consumer of the product, or to someone to whom the product was loaned or given, it may be the subject of a product liability lawsuit. Generally, “products” are considered to be tangible personal property. However, the body of product liability case law has expanded the definition of “product” to include intangible items such as gas and other items such as pets, houses and other real property, and writings (such as maps and navigational charts).
Sources of Product Liability Law
Depending on where a products liability lawsuit is filed, claims may be based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness. There is no federal products liability law, but many states have enacted comprehensive products liability statutes. California is one of these states. The United States Department of Commerce, in response to widely varied products liability laws from state to state, promulgated a Model Uniform Products Liability Act. It is not binding, and states may choose whether to incorporate the model rules into their laws governing products liability.
The Uniform Commercial Code is another source of products liability law. Article 2 of the UCC, which has been adopted by most states, deals with the sales of goods. Its most important products liability sections deal with implied and express warranties of merchantability in the sale of goods. See UCC §§ 2-314 and § 2-315.
Types of Product Liability Lawsuits
In order to recover for injuries caused by a product made available to consumers, one must prove that the product is defective. There are three different types of product defects that a manufacture or supplier may be liable for:
- A design defect is one that exists before a product is manufactured. If a product is unreasonably dangerous due to a design flaw, a manufacturer or supplier may be liable even if it serves its purpose well. For example, a company may design and manufacture a washing machine. The machine may wash clothes effectively, but a design flaw could cause a knob from the machine to loosen and fly off, injuring someone during the spin cycle.
- A manufacturing defect is one that occurs during the construction or production of a product. In a manufacturing defect case, only a few out of many products may be defective. For example, a manufacturer may produce 1,000 cell phones. However, only 10 of those cell phones may have a battery that overheats and burns the skin of those who use them.
- A defect in marketing or packaging can be the basis of a product liability lawsuit as well. When a manufacturer or supplier does not provide adequate instructions, gives improper instructions, or fails to warn consumers of latent dangers in the product, it may be liable to consumers who are injured as a result of their reliance on those instructions. For example, if a company sells a blender containing a motor that heats up certain product components to dangerously high temperatures, it may be liable to a consumer if the instructions for use of the blender do not warn consumers that parts of the product may become very hot.
Products liability is generally considered a strict liability offense. This means that the degree of carefulness by the defendant has no bearing on his or her liability. In terms of product liability, a defendant is liable when it is shown that the product is defective. Even if the manufacturer or supplier exercised great care in supplying the product to the public, he or she will be liable if there is a defect in the product that causes harm.
Consult a Riverside Defective Product Lawyer
If you or a loved one have been injured by a product that you believe was defective, you should contact an experienced Riverside personal injury attorney as quickly as possible after an accident. The reputable lawyers at Estey & Bomberger have years of experience successfully pursuing claims for Riverside victims of faulty product-related accidents and they can help you get the care you need, communicate directly with insurance company representatives, and pursue compensation from all sources. For a free consultation, you can reach their Riverside, CA office by calling (951) 543-9020.