Aspects of Product Liability

Although product liability law can be a very complex topic, it’s worth understanding the basics so that you can be properly prepared in case you have a case involving it. Of course, the best way to be prepared for a product liability case is to contact Charleston product liability attorneys to take on your case for you. For everyone else though, here’s a breakdown of the basics of liability law involving products.

How Are Products Different From Other Injuries?

If you are already somewhat familiar with liability law, you might be wondering how liability law concerning products can be dangerous from other types of liability cases involving injuries. Although there is plenty of nuance that could be discussed on the differences between the two types of cases, it is perhaps best to say that product cases are typically easier to prove in court than other types of injury liability cases.

When a product is found to be dangerous, the liability case surrounding it will mainly be concerned with proving that the manufacturer or seller provided customers with access to it. Product cases revolve around the idea that a product must meet an established set of expectations for the consumer, and that any failure to do so, which then results in an accident or exposure to danger, could make the manufacturer or seller liable for the resulting damages.

Interestingly, there is no overarching federal law that concerns product cases. Instead, each state is free to design their own laws surrounding product laws. Typically, this means that states will tend to focus either on the negligence aspect of a product’s danger, any breach in the product’s warranty, or some other form of liability case. There are also additional statutes in each state that have been set up to outline any warranty rules that concern a product’s liability.

Determining Who’s At Fault

In order for a product’s liability to be proven, it is necessary the product as actually sold at some point before the accident involving it. This is because there must have been a type of purchasing contract that existed between the buyer and seller, which essentially implied that the product was safe for consumer use. Without this unspoken contract, the liability of the product essentially boils down to simply being the concern of the person who found it or otherwise got a hold of it.

Unlike other forms of liability, anyone who could have potentially been hurt by a defective product can be entitled to damages, as long as someone had purchased the product at some point. Once a product has been purchased and found to be dangerously defective, there are several different parties that can be found to be at fault. This list includes the manufacturer of the product, the manufacturer of a specific part or series of parts that then go into the product, a party responsible for the construction of the product, and any sellers that handle the product and then distribute it to consumers.

It’s worth noting that even though a variety of sellers can be held liable for a product’s defective nature, this does not apply to uncommon sellers, such as those who made a sale during the course of a flea market or garage sale. Instead, the seller must be a regular seller of the product, so as to justify any other potential consumers that might have suffered damages from being exposed to the dangerous product.

The Different Types of Product Defects

In a product defect case, there are actually a few different ways in which a plaintiff can prove that the product was deliberately mishandled. The first way is referred to as a design defect. Through a design defect, the plaintiff must prove that the issue is inherent to the product’s design and is capable of occurring regardless of any steps the manufacturer might have taken in its construction.

Unlike a design defect, a manufacturing defect places the blame squarely on the manufacturer for the way in which they built the specific product that had issues for the plaintiff. This can refer to issues that arose while the product was being built from the parts, or from the way in which the parts themselves were built. Regardless of what stage in the manufacturing caused the issue, any of these cases are referred to as manufacturing defect cases.

If a product was properly designed and built, but had issues related to improper labels or instructions, then it is said to have suffered a marketing defect. Marketing defects refer to anything that is a problem with the product that does not stem from the way it was built or designed. For instance, if a product doesn’t have a sufficient warning for a potentially hazardous use, then it could still be said to suffer from a marketing defect.

By determining what type of defect your product has, it will essentially determine the next steps you’ll take throughout the course of your case, and also provide you with information on what to keep an eye out for.

Determining Responsibility

Once you’ve determined what type of defect your product has, the next step is to figure out who’s responsible for the defect. Once again, this is an area where it helps to have knowledgeable Charleston product liability attorneys working for you. In fact, there is a rule in product defect cases that often comes up in favor of the plaintiff. Translated from Latin, the rule loosely means “the thing speaks for itself.” Put simply, this applies to situations where a product is so poorly designed that the burden shifts to the defendant to prove that they were somehow not negligent in its design or manufacturing.

In some states, strict liability can also apply to a product defect case. Under these circumstances, the plaintiff doesn’t even need to necessarily prove that the manufacturer or seller was acting negligent, only that the product in question was defective at the time of the accident. This can significantly improve a case’s chances of ending in favor of the plaintiff, since the burden of proof is lowered so substantially. In fact, this is often invoked in cases where the plaintiff might not otherwise have a case.

Exceptions to Unsafe Products

Although product defect cases tend to work in favor of the plaintiff, there are some situations where that’s not the case. If a product cannot be made sufficiently safe without also removing its usefulness, then a considerable portion of its responsibility is transferred to the consumer instead. This means that you can’t use a cutting tool and then claim manufacturer negligence when it accidentally cuts you. There are still some situations in which the manufacturer or seller can still be held at fault though. For instance, if an unsafe product doesn’t have sufficient warnings about the dangers surrounding it, then a case could potentially be made. Otherwise, it’s up to the consumer to act responsibly in these situations.

Taking Your Case

Since there are so many exceptions and nuances to product defect cases, it’s worth investing in a knowledgeable attorney that can take your case seriously. If you’ve suffered an accident as a result of a product, then it’s worth seeking a consultation with a lawyer to see if you have a potential case. Given the different types of liability cases that can come about as the result of a dangerous or malfunctioning product, it’s worth contacting a lawyer just in case you have something worth pursuing.

Contact the Law Office of Freeman & Chiartas today, for further questions and concerns on this matter.