In a typical injury case, say a car accident, two of the issues the plaintiff must prove are that the defendant was negligent and that his or her negligence caused the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. The tort of negligence occurs when an individual’s conduct falls below the standard of care — the behavior that an individual in a certain position would ordinarily take. For example, if the plaintiff was hit head on when the defendant was driving on the opposite side the street, the defendant’s conduct was negligent—he or she was not driving in a manner that an ordinarily prudent person would take.
This matter gets complicated when an injury is sustained because of some sort of defect in an item or product. This is an area of law called product liability or strict liability.
Product Liability cases typically cover:
- Design defects
- Warning defects/marketing defects
- Manufacturing defects
Design defects occur when a product is designed negligently—that is in a manner that a product should not ordinarily be designed. For example, if a refrigerator is built on wheels so it can be moved around on hard-surfaced floors, but is designed with three wheels that causes the refrigerator to tip over, the refrigerator might be said to have a design defect. The defect was intentional in that it was specifically designed with three wheels. If the refrigerator falls over and injures a consumer, he or she may have a claim for product liability against the manufacturer.
Warning or Marketing Defects
Warning or marketing defects occur when an item comes with inadequate warning instructions. For example, if an outdoor chair is made with a chemical that easily catches fire when placed close a flame; a failure to warn of this danger might be considered a marketing defect. If a person chooses to sit in the chair and smoke a cigarette in this char that lacks such a warning, he or she will suffer extremely serious injuries if the chair catches fire. The manufacturer or individual in charge of marketing was negligent in providing an adequate warning.
Manufacturing defects is when there is a defect during the manufacturing stage of a product. These are rarer than design defects. Design defects will typically be intentional and all products within that category will have that defect. Manufacturing defects however will be unintentional and occur in a small number of products within a category.
For example: if a hinge that is loosely placed on a refrigerator door and door falls off as a result of the loose hinge causing injures to the buyer, the buyer may have a claim for a manufacturing defect. Not all refrigerators from this company will have this defect. It was a misstep at the manufacturing stage.
This is where the term strict liability comes in. Where the design defects and warning defects stem from negligence, this is not always the case for a manufacturing defect. The manufactures may have assembled the product with the utmost care and attention. Mistakes happen. But if that mistake causes injuries, the manufacturer is held liable—strictly liable regardless of intention. It’s liability without fault. Imposing strict liability is believed to encourage greater care and investment in product safety, increasing the quality of products on the consumer market.
Complexity of Product Liability Cases
While it seems easy to understand on its face, product liability cases are complex. There is more to the law. Additionally, companies are armed with attorneys who will fight the case every step of the way to make sure a plaintiff does not successfully sue the company for damages. In fact, businesses have begun to lobby Congress and state legislatures seeking product liability reform. They claim that this area of law makes them too susceptible to a lawsuit. They seek to make it harder to file a product liability claim and also seek to cap the amount of damages a plaintiff can receive.
If you have been injured by a product do not hesitate to contact a personal injury attorney experienced in product liability. He or she will know how to fight against a company that will do everything in its power to prevent you from filing a lawsuit and seeking damages. Do not let a company scare you.