The U.S. marketplace is brimming with a multitude of products. Some products flow from pharmaceutical companies complete with promises of better health. Other products assure farmers their product will give them a better crop yield or better pest control. Still other manufacturers produce toys, cars, and products for the home and garden. The one common characteristic that applies to all products is the consumer’s trust that the product will perform as promised and that the products are safe. When products fail to conform to the consumers’ reliance on the company’s assurances, their trust is misplaced under either of these suppositions. When that happens, the consumers may decide to hire lawyers to bring product liability lawsuits, either individually or as class action claims.
Now, you may wonder who is the responsible party in a product liability lawsuit? The following paragraphs provide a brief description of the types of product liability claims and who may qualify as a defendant in such a case.
Factor #1: Types of Product Liability Claims
When lawyers consider whether to bring product liability claims, they analyze the facts of the injury with regard to three basic claim types:
- Manufacturer mistake or defective product,
- Dangerous design, and
- Failure to warn consumers of the product’s dangerous nature or to give adequate instructions on how to properly use a product.
In order to prevail in a product liability case, the plaintiff must prove that one of the defendant’s products fits into one of the above liability types, and must prove that the product’s failure or the failure to warn was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
Factor #2: Manufacturer Mistake or Defective Product
When a company makes a mistake in the manufacturing process or when the product is defective for its intended use, we mean a product that comes out at the end of the manufacturing process in a different form than was intended. As with other product liability claims, manufacturer mistakes or defects in the product must cause the plaintiff’s injury in order for the plaintiff to prevail in a product liability case.
Manufacturer mistake or defective products may result in the following scenarios:
- A tool may have a broken part which causes it not to function properly, causing bodily injury,
- A drug may have toxic components that accidentally fell into the mixture during processing, causing illness, or
- A tool may leave the assembly line without the appropriate safety shields in place that prevent a bodily injury.
So, if a table saw housing flies off because screws were missing and the saw blade causes injuries to the consumer using it, the manufacturer may face liability for a defective product.
Factor #3: Defective Design
Defect design is different from a product made defective due to a flaw in the process. The defectively designed product is not the result of a mistake in the manufacturing process.
In this type of product liability, the basic design of the product is intrinsically dangerous or defective. To qualify in this category, the entire product line is dangerous to consumers due to the design flaw. Suppose, for example, that a car door flies open during transit because the automatic door locks fail due to a design flaw. Suppose further that the car passenger screams in fright when the car’s door locks disengage in mid-transit causing the door to fly open. As a result, the startled driver takes eyes off the road to see what happened to the doors and, as a result, veers into oncoming traffic. Consequently, the door lock defect causes injuries to both the driver and passenger. The driver and passenger may prevail in a product liability lawsuit based on the car’s door lock failure.
To prevail, the claimant’s must prove that the design flaw makes the injuries more probable.
Factor #4: Failure to Warn
If a manufacturer knows that its product is dangerous and safety mandates that the consumer follow specific directions when using the product, then the manufacturer must provide specific instructions to the consumer. If the manufacturer fails to warn the consumer about the danger and/or provide special instructions, the manufacturer may face a product liability claim for failure to warn.
An example of a failure to warn is the product liability claims against Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) talc powder. The plaintiffs claim that the manufacturer knew about the intrinsic danger of having asbestos as a component in the talc powder. They further claim that J&J failed to warn the public about the health danger. The failure to warn resulted in thousands of consumers contracting cancer.
Who Are the Defendants in a Product Liability Lawsuit?
Personal injuries call for recompense. The injured party wants to include everyone in the lawsuit who is responsible for the product liability damage. Suitable entities for the role of defendant may include the:
- Retailer who sold the product;
- Product’s wholesale distributor;
- Original manufacturer;
- Product designer;
- Marketers who pressured product sale.
Figuring out who to sue and how to proceed with the litigation requires the guidance of a lawyer with experience in bringing plaintiff product liability claims to a successful conclusion. Depending on the facts of a particular case, several of the above actors may appear too far removed from the cause of the injury. The experienced lawyer will assess all the facts and help make the best decision about whom the defendants are in a given case.
An experienced lawyer can also help if the defendants make an offer to settle the case out of court. Only 5% of personal injury cases go to trial. That means that 95% of personal injury cases settle out before trial. And some experts say that 90% of plaintiffs that decide to go to trial, end up losing their cases.
Taking the Next Step
To talk more about product liability, or anything else, please contact us today. Schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury/product liability lawyers. We want to help you get the compensation you deserve. We will be happy to serve as your resource for all your legal questions.
To read about courts holding Amazon liable for defective products sold by third-party sellers on its website, you may enjoy the August 2020 article from washingtonpost.com entitled “Burning laptops and flood homes: Courts hold Amazon liable for faulty products.”