What is Product Liability and Why Does it Matter?
Defective products are responsible for thousands of injuries to people every year. In the United States, there are laws regarding product liability that exist specifically to protect consumers. Those laws dictate who is responsible for a defective, or dangerous product, and that the manufacturer and seller have a legal obligation to make public the risks of purchasing / using such product. If victims wanted to seek justice for the defective product, these laws help entitle them to these rights.
Definition of the Product Liability Law
This particular law defines a chain of responsibility regarding a dangerous or defective product. If a product is known to cause injury, or even suspected to be injury-causing, this means the product does not meet the utmost standard expectations of a consumer. Many manufacturers pull their products from the market when they have been shown to lead to numerous injuries. One notable example is Samsung with its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone that was released in August of 2016. The device was known to explode and catch fire because of a flaw in its battery. After multiple incidents, the company stopped the sale of the smartphone and even went a step further when owners were still using their handsets. Samsung issued updates that would essentially disrupt the phone so that those users had no choice but to return their devices to exchange them for safe, working smartphones.
Is there Federal Law on Product Liability?
There are no federal laws surrounding product liability. Usually, if claims are brought about due to defective products, they are based on state laws and the issues of negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty are involved in the claims.
Who Are the Responsible Parties?
A product liability issue is usually brought attention to if the product has been sold in the marketplace. Liability comes into play when certain parties could have foreseen that the product could cause injury to a person who bought it. As a result, there are certain parties who are responsible, or liable, when a product with a defect is sold. The chain of distribution that includes responsible parties may be as follows:
- • Product manufacturer
- • Manufacturer of component parts
- • Assembler or installer of product
- • Wholesaler
- • Retail store selling the product
Strict liability can apply when the product is sold regularly at stores. Although, this does not apply to a person who sells the product at a garage sale.
Types of Product Defects
There are many diverse types of defects a product can contain. In a liability case, it must be proven that a product was defective and led to the plaintiffs’ injuries because using the product was dangerous. Generally, there are three types of defects that can cause injury and lead to the manufacturer or supplier being liable. They include the following:
- Design Defects: These types of defects are present in a product at the start, even prior to its manufacture, usually in the design of the product and makes it hazardous.
- Manufacturing Defects: These defects occur while the product is being manufactured or assembled.
- Marketing Defects: These defects include flaws in the manner in which a product is marketed and can include inadequate instructions, safety warnings or labeling.
Types of Product Liability Lawsuits
Anyone who is planning on filing a product liability lawsuit should retain an experienced product liability attorney. There are three types of liability lawsuits a person can file after sustaining an injury caused by a defective product. These reasons include the following:
- Negligence: In this type of case, the plaintiff must prove that the design of the product was made in a careless manner and led to their injuries. Additionally, the individual must demonstrate that the defendant, whether the seller, manufacturer or assembler, had a duty to present a safe product and knowingly offered a product that was defective and potentially dangerous.
- Strict Liability: Product liability cases often fall under the theory of strict liability, which means the plaintiff only has to prove that there was a defect present in the product and that defect caused them injury. If a defect is present, the manufacturer can be held strictly liable. Strict liability only applies if the product was purchased in the chain of distribution and not second hand.
- Breach of Warranty: There are two warranties when a product is sold, the express and implied warranties. Warranties exist to protect the buyer because they are essentially guarantees made by the retailer or manufacturer.