Products liability cases present horrifying facts:
A power wrench explodes throwing metal pieces into an auto mechanics face, causing partial blindness.
The transformer block on a new telephone answering device short circuits, sparking a home fire.
A breast implant ruptures, leaking fluid into a woman’s body, causing cancer.
These actual product defects provide a few examples of what comes under products liability law.
Products Liability: How it Happens
Product failures are sometimes caused by a design defect. The design of the product is inherently dangerous. Other times, a manufacturing defect creates the danger. In such instances, a perfectly viable product may not be manufactured to specifications. Low grade or untested materials may have been used in manufacture, causing the product to fail.
Yet other product injuries occur when manufacturers fail to properly warn of defects or to instruct in the correct installation or use. A pool manufacturer fails to reasonably instruct on the proper attachment of a ladder, slide or other accessory, causing the item to give way, throwing a swimmer to the ground.
Several legal theories make up products liability law:
Manufacturers have a duty to make reasonably safe products. When they fail, their breach of duty presents a negligence claim. But proving what is reasonable in the design of, say, a child’s toy may not be so simple. Issues include establishing what is reasonable and how far the manufacturer fell below the reasonable standard.
Strict liability focuses not on the manufacturer but on the product. When a defective product is placed into the stream of commerce, the manufacturer is held strictly liable. This means there’s no requirement to prove negligence. Manufacturers and sellers of defective products, defined as unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer, face strict liability for physical harm caused to the ultimate user or consumer.
Breach of Warranty
Product manufacturers also face liability when a breach of a warranty causes an injury. There are express warranties, usually but not always in writing. More often in defective product cases, an implied warranty is involved. Implied warranties attach to the sale of all goods under the Uniform Commercial Code. One such warranty, the warranty of merchantability, guarantees that all products sold would pass without objection in the trade, and an unreasonably unsafe product breaches this warranty.
Products Liability Cases
Among products that have caused serious injuries and even death are toys, cribs, and other items for children and infants. Defective bicycles, various guns and dart games as well as choking hazards and other toys unfortunately cause injuries before recall.
Food poisoning also falls under product liability law. Sometimes food comes into contact with bacteria, virus, a parasite, or other dangerous contagion. Other times foreign objects get into food.
When prescription items harm to consumers, those injured may be able to pursue a product defect case. Various prescription drugs can cause devastating consequences either due to lack of adequate testing, failure to warn of side effects or inconsistencies with other drugs, and sometimes bad labelling.
Where multiple consumer injuries result from the same product defect, class action suits provide an option. In a class action all injured victims share the expense of experts required to establish the product defect. Other times cases are brought and won by individuals harmed by defective products.