Product liability is a type of personal injury lawsuit that is brought against a designer or manufacturer, and in some cases the seller, of a dangerous or defective product that causes injury to the user. Product liability lawsuits differ from other types of personal injury claims, and those differences are important.
Unlike most personal injury claims, which are based on negligence, most product liability cases are based on strict liability. Strict liability applies when a person is injured during the use of a product that has a defective or dangerous design. In this case, there is no burden to show proof of negligence, but only to prove that the product in question caused the injuries. There are three different categories that may be used in this type of lawsuit:
• Design Defects – These are flaws that are introduced during the initial design of the product. A defect can also be introduced during modification of the original design.
• Manufacturing Defects – This type of defect occurs when the design of the product has no noticeable flaws, yet something occurs during the manufacturing process or assembly that renders it dangerous.
• Marketing Defects – This occurs when a product does not have any flaws or defects, but is labeled in a way that does not provide needed information for safe use, or misrepresents the product’s real benefits.
There are some products that, by design, present danger to the user, yet would be ineffective or useless if this were not the case. For example, a lighter must create a flame in order to be useful. Since it is common knowledge that a flame is dangerous, and must be used with caution, as long as the label clearly states the dangers and proper usage, it cannot be considered in a product liability case. However, if the user was following all usage directions properly, and the lighter exploded, he or she may have a liability claim.
Strict Product Liability Defenses
As with any personal injury case, the “at fault” party will have a chance to defend themselves against your claim. The most common defenses are:
• The product was without defect in design, manufacturing, and marketing.
• The injured person knew that there was a defect that caused danger, yet still chose to use it.
• The injured person was using the product improperly, or abusing it during its use.
• The injured person either did not read the labels, or chose to ignore them.
If the manufacturer is able to show that any of these factors played a role in your injury, it will then be up to you to prove that those defenses are incorrect.
When trying to prove that a defect exists in a strict liability case, you will need to be able to identify the exact cause. As this process can be lengthy and expensive, it is best that you have a lawyer working on the case with you. He or she will be able to subpoena important documents, and assist with independent testing that may need to be done.