Product Liability

Lia Kopin-Green
June 1, 2023

What is Product Liability?

Product liability refers to the legal responsibility of manufacturers, distributors and suppliers for injuries or damages caused by defective or dangerous products. It holds these parties accountable when their products cause harm to consumers as a result of design defects, manufacturing defects, insufficient warnings or instructions, or a failure to meet recognized safety standards. In some cases, product liability may fall under negligence, although it is often associated with strict liability. This means that defendants may be held liable for damages regardless of their intent or knowledge. 

Key Takeaways

  • Product liability is the legal responsibility of manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and retailers for injury or damage caused by defective or dangerous products.
  • There are many different types of product liability cases, such as failure to warn, design defects, and manufacturing defects.
  • Statute of limitations for product liability cases depends on the specific jurisdiction.

Types of Product Liability Legal Claims

When pursuing a product liability claim for injuries caused by a defective consumer item, various legal theories can be utilized.  Strict liability is the most common approach, although negligence may be applicable depending on the state. According to strict liability, the injured party does not have to prove the defendant's negligence or intentional wrongdoing. For negligence cases, the plaintiff is required to show that the manufacturer or another party acted negligently. Regardless of the chosen theory, it is generally required to prove the presence of one or more types of defects. Here is a brief overview of the types of product liability defects:

  • Manufacturing Defects: If an error occurs during the manufacturing process of a product that leads to a defect, a manufacturing defect claim may arise. The defect may render the product dangerous or significantly deviate from the intended design. In most cases, manufacturing defects follow strict liability. In other words, it does not matter how careful the manufacturer was when creating products if an injury was caused while it was used for its intended purpose. An example of a manufacturing defect is when a car's brake system fails to function properly due to an error during the manufacturing process, leading to accidents and injuries.
  • Design Defects: Design defects refer to inherent flaws in the design of a product that make it dangerous or unsafe for its intended use. In these situations, the product’s design itself posts a risk to consumers. The manufacturer typically bears responsibility for injuries or damages caused by design defects. In some states, the plaintiff may be required to prove that the risk could have been avoided by the adoption of an alternative design. A common example of a design defect is a toy intended for young children with detachable parts, which is a choking hazard.
  • Failure to Warn: If the manufacturer or seller of a product fails to provide adequate warnings or instructions regarding the potential risks of a product, a product liability claim may be filed. These cases generally arise when a product lacks sufficient warnings or instructions and leads to foreseeable harm. For instance, prescription medications must include warnings about potential side effects, risks or adverse reactions, and failure to do so may result in a failure to warn product liability lawsuits.

Bottom Line

Product liability law ensures that manufacturers, distributors and retailers are held accountable for damage caused by their products. For personalized assistance with filing a product liability tort claim, speak to one of our specialized tort lawyers today at Attorney At Law.

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