Product liability refers to an area of law that protects the rights of consumers by holding manufacturers, retailers, and/or wholesalers liable for the safety of their products. Most products sold in the United States, be it a cup of coffee or home appliance, are subject to some form of regulation or warranty implying their safety for consumer use.
Have you or a loved one become injured after using a defective product? You may be eligible for compensation on the basis of product liability.
If you’ve suffered injury through the use of a defective or poorly marked product, the attorneys of Florin|Roebig can provide you with a free case evaluation to discuss your legal options and help you file a winning product liability claim.
Common Types Of Product Defects
Product liability issues can come into play in any case where the short- or long-term use of a defective product has led to harmful consequences, such as injury or illness. One recent and prominent example of this is the talcum powder lawsuits against the company, Johnson & Johnson, exposing the cancerous effects of their widely used talcum powder product.
However, not every product liability case is quite so substantial. The types of defects seen in product liability claims, as well as the types of products that may be subject to defects, can vary.
The basic categories of product defects seen in product liability claims are those concerning a product’s marketing, design, or an unsafe manufacturing process.
One issue of product liability that can result in a claim or lawsuit is the failure of a company to provide an adequate warning label for their products.
This is referred to as a marketing defect since the company has failed to adequately describe the proper use of their product or to fully inform the broader consumer base of foreseeable dangers when used as intended.
In recent years, products that have come under fire for usage and warning defects include various pharmaceutical products, medical devices, and other electrical products.
A product defect can also be identified by way of a product’s design. A defective design claim is distinct from a manufacturing issue in that it identifies a defective element of an entire product line rather than an issue in the manufacturing of a single product.
Examples of design defects:
- flammability of a product that is not known or meant to be flammable
- vehicular design defects
- chair design with uneven legs
- children’s toy that contains a choking hazard
- protective sunglasses that fail to protect consumers from ultraviolet (UV) rays
A plaintiff who names a design defect as the cause of an injury must be able to prove:
- that the manufacturer created the product as intended
- that it was within the realm of possibility to manufacture a safer product
- that the safer product would have been capable of performing in the same manner as intended
- that creating a safer alternative would not have required significant expense on the part of the manufacturer
Manufacturing defects are another form of defect reported in product liability lawsuits. This type of defect doesn’t mean that the design of the product is necessarily unsafe, but that there was some sort of error within the manufacturing process that rendered the product unsafe. This is the most common type of defect in product liability cases.
Examples of manufacturing defects:
- a tea or coffee kettle that is cracked during the manufacturing process
- a bike chain that is installed improperly
- installation of outdated components within a product
- food or beverage product that was tainted during the manufacturing process
Causes Of Product Liability Claims
Product liability claims may be filed due to a variety of circumstances, depending on the product, the types of damages suffered, and the target audience of the product.
Common causes of product liability claims are described in greater detail below:
Failure To Warn Of Defect
One of the most important elements of a liability claim against a product manufacturer or retailer is the failure of the defendant to warn consumers about either a product’s proper use or the presence of a defect.
An example may be a pharmaceutical company that knowingly neglects to inform doctors or patients of a product’s addictive potential in the event that it is used in any way other than strictly directed. This could be considered a failure to warn of individuals of proper use and potential effects.
Another example may be a manufacturer’s failure to warn consumers of an electrical product’s safety hazards. Even if the product instructions contain some semblance of a warning, if the warning is not clear enough to protect the health and safety of the consumer in a clear manner, a manufacturer may be held liable for failure to warn of its proper use.
In these instances, the defendant must be proven to have been aware of potential defects in the product’s design and yet nonetheless chose not to share this information with consumers.
Product recalls are common for a variety of goods—from vehicle air-bags to romaine lettuce—but they can also damage the credibility of manufacturers and retailers, potentially leading to a loss of brand credibility and reduced profit.
Even products that are considered unregulated in the U.S. are required to be reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) within 24 hours of obtaining information supporting that:
- the product does not comply with a safety rule issued under the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA)
- the product poses a substantial risk of injury to the public
- the product poses an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death with its intended use
Lack Of Warning Labels
An even more obvious issue of liability with a product could be the lack of any sort of warning label, should it be proven to pose any unreasonable danger or risk of injury to the public.
While something like an apple might not require any sort of warning for proper use, products that involve the use of electrical outlets, heavy machinery, sharp objects, or potential choking hazards are likely to make for a strong personal injury lawsuit if they were not accompanied by a warning or safety label.
In contrast with a lawsuit featuring a product with an inadequate label, the explicit dangers of a product without any sort of warning label may be easier to prove with the expert guidance of a product liability attorney.
Food poisoning is one of the most common causes of product liability claims involving food products. Most people are taught how to properly store and use common types of foods, or may otherwise learn proper use through personal trial and error.
However, if a person gets food poisoning due to the inadequate storage or manufacturing of a product prior to purchase, the defendant responsible for this error may be held liable.
Proving liability in food poisoning cases, however, can be challenging. Most people who experience food poisoning don’t realize their food has been tainted until they’ve already thrown away the product, or have otherwise put it out of their mind. It can also be difficult to prove the cause of the food poisoning, especially if the food product in question was one of several ingredients in a recipe or platter.
However, if you believe you’ve suffered food poisoning as a result of a retailer or manufacturer’s negligence, an attorney with experience in handling these cases can help you gather the evidence needed to support your claim.
List Of Product Liability Claims
Product liability claims can broadly be classified as belonging to one of three categories, based on different legal theories: negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability.
Negligence claims are based on the premise that a defendant is liable for a product liability-related injury due to their negligence in properly marketing, manufacturing, or designing the product.
In filing a negligence claim, the injured party must demonstrate:
- the defendant had a duty to sell a safe product that was free of dangerous or unknown risks
- this duty to the injured party was breached by way of negligence
- the defendant’s negligence was the primary cause of the plaintiff’s sustained injury
- the plaintiff did in fact suffer an injury
Breach Of Warranty Claims
Most consumer purchases in the United States are covered by warranties, which are meant to offer some level of protection for individuals making these purchases.
Breach of warranty claims are filed based on the premise that the defendant has breached at least one of two warranties that exist in the trade of goods and services:
- Express Warranty: An express warranty is a warranty that is explicitly stated either verbally or in writing. In product liability, this warranty refers to any representation of a product, including information about its safety and proper use.
- Implied Warranty: An implied warranty is an implied promise from a retailer or manufacturer that the product they are selling is safe for use and won’t cause consumers harm when used as intended.
Strict Liability Claims
The majority of product liability claims fall under the category of strict liability cases. These cases may be more straightforward, requiring only that a plaintiff is able to prove the product was defective and that the defectiveness then resulted in injury.
Thus, the retailer or manufacturer can then be held strictly liable for the product defect and its resulting consequence on the wellbeing of the plaintiff. In addition to the two requirements stated above, the plaintiff must also provide proof that they purchased the item through the chain of distribution—i.e. the product was not purchased or received as a second-hand item.
When To File A Product Liability Lawsuit
One of the main barriers faced by individuals who have suffered an injury due to a malfunctioning, defective, or otherwise unsafe product is simply a lack of knowledge about legal options.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a product liability issue, you may be entitled to compensation.
Depending on the type of product defect, you may choose to file a claim alone or join a class-action lawsuit. A class-action lawsuit may be appropriate in the event that it was not just a single product, but a line of defective products that caused harm to multiple consumers.
In a product liability lawsuit, a small group of people serves as representation for a larger population of individuals who sustained injury or illness as a result of the same defective product. Whether you file alone or within a class-action suit may affect the amount of compensation you’re able to receive, as well as legal fees.
If you are unsure of whether to file alone or jointly, consider contacting an experienced product liability attorney who can help you determine which path may best suit your needs.
Who To Pursue In A Product Liability Claim
The defendant in a product liability case can vary depending on the type of defect demonstrated by the product in question and how the plaintiff determines that the product came to be defective.
However, as an injured party in a product liability claim, you may also recognize that you’re entitled to pursue legal recourse against any entity involved in the defective product’s chain of distribution.
Which entities can you pursue in a product liability claim?
The manufacturer is the entity involved in actually creating a product—in this instance, the defective product.
Manufacturers in product liability claims can refer to a multinational corporation, a single individual behind the production of a product, or any other party involved in the marketing, design, or production process.
Depending on the type of product, there may be one or more manufacturers that may be held liable. For instance, if a product is composed of multiple parts and only one is defective, one or more manufacturers may still be liable for damages suffered as a result of that single defective part.
Another party that can be named in a product liability claim or lawsuit is the retailer from which the product came. Retailers may be held liable under the implication that the goods and services they’re selling are safe for their intended use.
To name a retailer as a defendant in a product liability claim, you do not have to prove that you purchased the defective product, that you were the individual who used the defective product, or that the product was new upon purchase.
Wholesalers are the middlemen involved in the transitional phase between the manufacturing of a product and its sale at a retailer. As an entity that is involved in the chain of distribution, wholesalers may be held liable for being involved in the eventual sale of a defective product.
Types Of Damages Awarded In A Product Liability Claim
One common question people have when considering taking legal action is the types of damages they can expect to be awarded in a fair product liability settlement.
Successful product liability settlements may involve the awarding of compensatory, general, and special damages—depending on the scope of the case, the types of losses suffered, and the severity of the injury.
The types of damages awarded in a product liability case are as follows:
- Special Damages: Special damages can be awarded to plaintiffs to cover costs associated with the defective product. This can include medical bills, lost wages, product replacement, and any other resulting financial losses.
- Compensatory damages: Compensatory damages (also known as actual damages) are awarded with the purpose of restoring an injured plaintiff to the condition they were in previous to their use of the defective product. These damages can account for both economic and non-economic losses, and are awarded via a sum that is deemed equivalent to the losses suffered.
- General Damages: General damages are a form of compensatory damages that refer specifically to the non-economic losses that can result from a defective product, such as:
- mental anguish
- pain and suffering costs
- loss of consortium (negative impact on your relationship with a spouse or partner)
- projected expenses as a result of injury
These can be more difficult to calculate, but may nonetheless be considered when determining a fair settlement to cover or compensate for losses.
What It Takes To Win A Product Liability Claim
If you intend to file a product liability claim, it’s important to understand what proof or support you will need in order to receive awarded damages.
The following are essential elements you will need to have for putting together a strong product liability claim:
The Product Was Defective
First, you must be able to prove that the product named in your claim is in fact defective. Proving this requires being able to provide some form of evidence reinforcing either a defective design, defective manufacturing, or a warning label defect.
Defect Led To A Personal Injury
Having a defective product is not enough to make for a winning product liability claim. Many people may at one point find themselves in a situation where they’re almost injured by a defective product but are able to recognize the defect beforehand and avoid injury.
Therefore, the second element of a winning product liability claim is proof that the defective product did in fact cause injury to yourself or a loved one.
Defect Was The Direct Cause Of The Injury
Filing for product liability damages will require proof that your personal injury was directly caused by the product defect. That is, if you have a provable injury, you must also be able to prove that the injury was not caused by some other sort of accident. Notes from a medical professional who has treated your injury may be helpful to establish this causality.
Submitting this proof establishes the defendant’s liability, requiring they take responsibility for the damages suffered as a result of their misleading or defective product.
Product Was Being Used As Intended At The Time Of Injury
The final necessary element of a product liability claim is evidence that you were using the product as intended at the time you sustained your injury.
People who become injured as a result of using a product incorrectly by failing to follow directions or heed product warnings are not eligible for receiving compensation.
How can you prove that you used the product as intended? Your attorney can help you determine the best way to submit this evidence. One example might be a product demonstration, depending on whether a repeat demonstration is possible and if conducting a repeat demonstration is safe.
Product Liability Lawsuits In The U.S.
In the United States, product liability information is recorded by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), which keeps track of the latest news and statistics on product liability issues and lawsuits nationwide.
According to the Travelers Insurance 2015 Business Risk Index, legal liability was listed as the fourth-highest concern among U.S. business leaders, likely because of just how much defendants in these cases can stand to lose.
Defendants in product liability lawsuits have the potential to face thousands or even millions of dollars in expenses, should they be deemed liable for individual or class action lawsuit cases. Businesses may also face a loss in brand credibility and profit, should a lawsuit gain massive attention.
Data from Thomas Reuters shows that product liability lawsuits can result in some of the highest awarded damages among personal injury cases. In 2017, while the average award for U.S. personal injury cases was $1,847,438, the average award for product liability cases was $5.1 million.
Not every product liability case will reap such a hefty award, but if you’re interested in receiving an estimate on how much your product liability case may be worth, your best option is to consult an experienced product liability attorney.
List Of Product Liability Attorneys In The U.S.
The attorney offices of Florin|Roebig have provided unmatchable legal representation for individuals across the United States since 1985, winning cases within various areas of personal injury law, including product liability.
Serving individuals in Florida, Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado, our list of highly skilled Florin|Roebig product liability attorneys includes:
- Wil H. Florin, B.C.S.
- Tommy D. Roebig, B.C.S.
- Michael L. Walker, B.C.S.
- Chase P. Florin, B.C.S.
- Neil P. O’Brien, M.B.A.
- Shaun M. Cummings
- Luca G. Esposito
- Chad K. Florin, M.B.A., LL.M.
- Nicholas S. Costantino
- Josh T. Walker
- Jordan A. Kolinski
- Catherine J. Sams
- Parker Y. Florin, LL.M.
- Taylor D. Roebig
- Kavon P. Smith
- Matthew L. McMullen
- Francisco O. Garcia
- Michael A. Ossi, O.C.
- Lawrence J. Najem, O.C.
- Andrew M. Leone, O.C.
- Nollys R. Solarte, O.C.
- Brian R. Dettman, O.C.
Find Help With A Product Liability Claim Today
Having the right legal representation can make an enormous difference in your likelihood of recovering product liability damages.
At Florin|Roebig, our attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources to expertly handle product liability cases. By scheduling a free case evaluation, our attorneys can give you an overview of your legal options and our fees based on the details of your case.
Don’t wait to learn what your case may be worth. Call us today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our award-winning attorneys and get started on your claim.