Defective Consumer Products
There are many examples in our consumer-driven society of manufacturers selling defective products that injure or kill consumers. Examples include:
Despite the fact that manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their products, defective products cause injuries and deaths every year. When disaster occurs because of manufacturer’s or retailer’s negligence, victims deserve to be compensated. If you or someone you love was injured or killed because of a defective product, call us at 1-888-480-1123. We may be able to help.
Product Liability and Defective Products
Product liability is the process of holding a manufacturer or seller liable for placing a defective product into a consumer’s hands, or for doing so without providing adequate warnings about the risks associated with that product. The applicable law is state law-either statutory or common law. Typically manufacturers are held strictly liable for defects that existed in their products when they were sold.
While all products are different, in general, products are expected to meet the ordinary expectations of the consumer, in terms of safety and efficacy. If it’s discovered after the product is on the market that it creates an unexpected danger, or has an unexpected defect that can lead to injury, the manufacturer has failed to meet its responsibilities under state law.
Before selling a product, a manufacturer is required to properly design, test, and inspect it, for as long as is necessary to eliminate the safety hazards and make sure the products is fit for its intended purpose. If a manufacturer discovers defects during testing, it is expected to design them out of the product, safeguard against them or if that is not possible, warn against the hazards before putting the product on the market.
Even after the product has been released, if post-sale testing reveals the product has a previously unknown defect or hazard, it is typically the manufacturer’s responsibility to either recall the product, fix the problem, or at the very least, display visible warnings so that consumers are aware of the previously unknown risk or hazard.
If a company fails to do the above and a consumer is injured or killed, the company may be held liable for damages.
Types of Product Defects
There are three basic product liability claim types that victims can bring against a defective product manufacturer:
- Defective design
- Defective manufacture
- Failure to adequately warn or instruct about the product use or any potential use risks
If a product is defectively designed, it means something is wrong or unsafe about the product itself. In other words, even if it’s made correctly and with the best quality materials, it’s still going to remain defective and potentially dangerous because of its design.
In the case of defective GM ignition switches, for example, the switches were defectively designed to turn to the “off” position in response to any slight jiggle or bump, robbing the car of air bags, steering, and power brakes, and potentially resulting in serious injuries or death.
Another example could be a ladder that was not designed to support the weight it was intended to support, a treadmill that has no automatic shut-off mechanism should the runner accidentally fall, or a hoverboard that gets too hot while at rest, and explodes.
If a product was safe as designed, but then in the course of manufacturing it, something went wrong to make it unsafe, there may be a defective manufacturing claim. This is all about the process of assembling or making the product, the materials used, how the product is put together, the plant where the product is made (and its cleanliness, for example), and any issues during shipping or transportation.
Unlike a design defect claim, a manufacturing defect typically involves only a limited number of the products produced, often from one single plant or other manufacturing location.
Some examples of defective manufacturing may include product contamination during manufacturing (such as a food item that becomes contaminated with bacteria or another harmful substance), a home oxygen tank that leaks, a bicycle with a crack in the frame that later buckles under a consumer’s weight, a swing set with a broken chain, or a car tire that can burst while driving.
Failure to Warn
If the manufacturer fails to provide adequate warnings about safe product use, and a consumer is injured as a result, they may be able to bring a failure to warn claim. The manufacturer is responsible for making sure that the consumer fully understands how to use the product safely, and any risks associated with its use. They are also required to warn against foreseeable misuses of the product.
An example of a potential failure to warn claim is one where a household chemical manufacturer that fails to warn of potential burns if the household cleaner touches or remains on skin. Other examples include over-the-counter drugs that fail to provide maximum dosage warnings; prescription drugs that fail to warn of additional risks they may cause to certain populations, such as those who already have kidney problems or heart disease; and a cigarette package that fails to warn that the product may cause mouth disease in addition to lung cancer.
In a failure-to-warn case, the plaintiff must show that the danger wasn’t obvious. In other words, a case against a match manufacturer claiming they failed to warn that the product was flammable would likely be dismissed. But certainly, customers don’t expect their hoverboards to explode while charging—the manufacturer of such a hoverboard could be held liable for failure to warn (and potentially defective design as well).
The plaintiff must also show that he or she was using the product in a necessary foreseeable way. In other words, someone who takes double the drug prescription and ends up injured may not have a viable case, but someone who takes the drug as expected and suffers a heart attack as a result could potentially file a product liability lawsuit if, for example, clinical trials indicated a risk, but the manufacturer failed to provide a warning about it.
Finally, the warning must be visible and clearly worded to be considered adequate. If it is buried at the end of a stack of paperwork and is in small print, for example, it may be legally inadequate.
Who is Liable in a Defective Product Lawsuit?
Typically it is the manufacturer who is liable for any of these issues, but there can be exceptions, or other potential parties that may share in liability:
- Retailer: The store where you bought the product may share in liability.
- Wholesaler or Distributor: Other parties along the supply or sale chain may also share in the responsibility for the accident or injury. Wholesalers, distributors, suppliers, and others, depending on if they were involved in developing and/or delivering the product, may be named as defendants in a product liability lawsuit.
- Simple Ingredient Supplies: These companies typically are not liable but a detailed evaluation of their actions must be undertaken.
An example may include the car dealership where the victim bought the defective vehicle and the vehicle manufacturer, or the pharmacy that sold the victim the prescription and the drug manufacturer.
How a Defective Product Lawyer Can Help
If you or a loved one suffered an injury or wrongful death because of a defective product, contact the product liability lawyers at Chaffin Luhana at 1-888-480-1123 for help. We have years of experience in these types of cases, and we fiercely advocate for plaintiffs who have been injured. We will fully investigate the case and pursue all potential avenues of compensation for you and your family.