Imagine that you’re riding down a steep hill on a new bike when the equipment suddenly breaks or malfunctions, causing you to fall and be injured. Although nothing can reverse the harm that has been done, product liability law could allow you to receive recompense for your injuries. So what is product liability law? Every product that you purchase comes with an implicit guarantee: it is in good condition, it does not have defects, and it can safely be put to its intended use. When manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and retailers break this promise, they can be held responsible for any injuries the products cause.
What Is Product Liability Law?
Product liability is a field of law that allows for people who have suffered an injury due to a defective product to seek compensation for their injuries from the product manufacturer, the parts manufacturer, the assembler/installer, the wholesaler, or the seller. This “defective” product will contain one of the following faults:
- A design defect (i.e., a defect that is present in the design stage of the product that makes it inherently unsafe)
- A manufacturing defect (i.e., a defect that occurs in the product’s manufacture or assembly)
- A marketing defect (i.e., a defect in the way a product is marketed, such as inadequate safety warnings, improper labeling, or flawed instructions)
Product liability law includes a wide range of cases, including defective medical devices, pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, tools, and appliances. It is important to note that a claim can seek compensation for bodily injuries as well as property damage. For example, if a toaster malfunctions due to a design defect and causes a fire, the customer could seek compensation for the damage done to the house as well. In addition, there are two types of damages that an injured person can recover: compensatory (intended to compensate) and punitive (intended to punish).
PREPARING A CASE
Product liability law is complex and every case is unique, but there are a few basic factors to keep in mind as you get started. First, you will typically need to be able to identify the party responsible and connect them to the product. Second, to build a successful product liability claim, the prosecution must seek out experts for review and testimony. Acting as a witness, the expert can identify the defect and discuss alternative design/manufacturing processes that could have improved the product’s safety. Finally, the defective product and any surrounding evidence must be preserved and protected, as extensive testing and investigation will be required. Regardless of your strategy, these simple tips should come in handy.
Anticipating the defense’s tactic will help you create a stronger case. Common defenses include the following:
- The plaintiff altered the product after purchasing it.
- The plaintiff misused the product.
- The plaintiff voluntarily used a product with full knowledge of the potential danger.
- The product was “unavoidably unsafe,” which means that it could not be made safer without losing its usefulness.
- The lawsuit was not filed within a specified period of time (a statute of limitations).
- More than one factor contributed to the injury (contributory negligence).
- The plaintiff contributed to his or her own injuries by failing to act in a reasonable manner (failure to mitigate).
If you would like to pursue a product liability case, contact the attorneys at Replogle, Tyrrell, & Robertson. Our skilled and experienced personal injury lawyers will know which experts to consult, how to structure the case, and how to successfully prosecute your claim. To get started, please give us a call at 417-859-3979 (Marshfield office) or 417-893-5121 (Springfield office). We would be happy to help.