Whether purchasing a fun, new item for ourselves, like a power tool or a car, or buying a mundane product like cough medicine, we expect that the product will do what it claims and won’t cause us harm if we use it correctly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The product may have a design flaw, or the assembler may have put it together incorrectly. Whatever the reason, if the defect caused you injury, you may have a valid product liability case.
What is Product Liability?
When a product is put into the hands of consumers, it should not be defective or dangerous. If a product causes harm to a buyer or user of a product or any nearby individuals, those who have been injured can file a product liability suit against the manufacturers or sellers of the product. Anyone in the distribution chain could be held liable for the injuries, including the manufacturer of the product, manufacturers of parts within the product, assemblers or installers, wholesalers, and retail stores.
To prove your case, you must show that the product was not only defective but that the defect directly caused your injuries. A table that arrives broken but causes no harm is not eligible for a product liability case. However, a table with an improperly attached leg that causes it to collapse and break your foot could be the subject of a product liability case.
What Are the Three Categories of Product Liability?
There are many specific ways that a product could be defective, but nearly all product liability cases fall into one of three categories:
- Defective design: This type of defect will typically be found in every example of the product because they were all originally designed in a way that is inherently dangerous to the user, even when they are manufactured correctly. An article of clothing that is excessively flammable or a top-heavy cabinet that can easily fall over are both examples of defective designs.
- Defective manufacturing: These defects usually only affect a few items. The issues occur when the product is being made or assembled. For example, if a part on your product was not welded properly, causing it to break and cause injury, that is a manufacturing defect.
- Marketing defects: If an item is dangerous to a user in a non-obvious way, the manufacturers and sellers must provide proper warning and instructions on how to use it safely. They could also be liable if they make false claims about the product or if they advertise people using the product in an unsafe way. For this reason, car ads almost always have the disclaimer that the drivers in the ad are professionals on a closed course.
What Are Some Common Items Involved in Product Liability Cases?
While any product can theoretically be the subject of a product liability case if it has caused harm to someone, some items are seen in these cases more often than others. These products include:
- Medical devices: Because these items are implanted into a person’s body and play a vital role in their health, any defects can be incredibly harmful. These products are held to high standards, and defects trigger massive recalls and difficulties for patients.
- Automotive parts: Defective car parts can cause serious consequences. For example, some vehicles’ gas tanks have been found to be faulty, leading to explosions during crashes.
- Kids toys: Everyone wants their children to be safe while playing. Toys made with hazardous materials or toys that pose a choking hazard that are not adequately labeled are examples of products that could be held liable for injuries.
- Tools: Most types of machinery come with some hazards for the user, but if the buyer is not sufficiently warned or instructed, the manufacturer or seller could be held responsible for damages.