Product Liability Laws and Your Family

Product liability involves holding a manufacturer or seller liable because a defective product was sold to a consumer. Sellers are responsible for a defective product because they distribute the item, and others who may be involved include the manufacturer, the distributor and the retailer selling the defective product.

What you should know

Generally speaking, the law states that any product should meet the consumer’s reasonable expectations of safety, and when a product has a hidden defect, it falls below that standard. Under the law, any party that is part of the distribution chain could be held liable for a defective product, along with whoever installs or assembles it.

In a product liability lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that a product caused an injury because it was defective to such an extent that it was “’unreasonably dangerous.” These defects fall into three categories:

● design defects that make the product inherently unsafe,

● manufacturing defects that occur during the product’s production or assembly, and

● marketing defects due to inadequate safety warnings, incomplete instructions and incorrect labeling.

For their part, consumers must follow a product’s instructions carefully, heed the safety warnings, and read the fine print as well.

Protecting children

In the United States, many families are adversely affected by injuries that are the result of using a defective product every year, and children are often harmed because a manufacturer failed to take the necessary safety precautions. For example, the most common defective children’s products include playpens, cribs, high chairs, strollers, walkers, car seats, toys and carriers.

Establishing who is liable

With product liability cases, the defense often maintains that the plaintiff has failed in identifying the supplier of the item that is alleged to be the cause of the injury. Consequently, the plaintiff must provide a direct link between the product and those who were involved in producing or supplying it. Note that an exception to the rule may be applied in a case involving a defective medication. If a plaintiff is unable to identify which pharmaceutical company supplied the drug he or she consumed, all manufactures will be held liable, based on the amount of sales for the medication in the plaintiff’s locale.

As part of their defense, a manufacturer or distributor may claim that the plaintiff significantly altered the item after purchasing it, and that taking this step was the sole cause of the injury. It may also be argued that the article was used in an “unforeseeable way” as opposed to its intended purpose, and that this error is the source of the plaintiff’s injury.

Getting the help you need

Product liability cases can be very complicated, and proving liability may require the advice and testimony of experts in the field. There are several legal precedents under which a plaintiff’s attorney could file a claim, and several legal arguments that could cause them to be unsuccessful as well. In addition, each state has its own set of specific statutes and laws that have a direct bearing on product liability lawsuits. Because of this, it is essential to consult with an experienced product liability attorney if you feel that you or some one close to you has been injured by a defective product.

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