1.Products Liability FAQ
Under products liability law, the manufacturer or seller (whether wholesaler or retailer) or other provider of goods or products has the responsibility to compensate users of the goods or products for injuries caused by defective or dangerous products that it places “into the stream of commerce” by selling them to the public or others. Almost anything can be a defective product: air bags, seat belts, tires, car seats, faulty wiring, defective medical devices, food, snow blowers, lawn mowers, power tools, grills, stoves, propane appliances, space heaters, ladders, etc. If you believe you were injured by a defective product or goods,contact us.
“Strict liability” for products means that a manufacturer or distributor (including anyone in the “line of distribution”) of a product is responsible for injuries caused by defects in that product. By “defect”, it is meant that the product is unreasonably dangerous. It doesn’t matter whether the manufacturer or distributor knew it was dangerous when they manufactured or distributed it. All that is required to hold them liable is that the product is defective, i.e., unreasonably dangerous. It doesn’t even matter whether the manufacturer and distributors were negligent, careful or not when they manufactured or sold it. For example, a pharmaceutical company might carefully test a new drug and find that it is safe. But after distribution, it turns out that this “product” caused health problems or risks that outweighed any potential benefits. If a jury determines that the drug (the “product”) was unreasonable dangerous, i.e., that it was “defective”, then the manufacturers and distributors of that drug are liable to all those who suffered harm from the product, regardless of whether they were careful before putting the drug on the market.
There are essentially three types of product “defects”:
(1) Design defect. When the design of the product is defective, it means its design causes it to be unreasonably dangerous. For example, a manufacturer might design a new type of ladder that is very lightweight, and therefore very easy to carry, but which tends to bend and collapse when a heavy person stands on it. If a heavy person gets injured when the ladder collapses, his lawyer will argue, among other things, that this design was unreasonably dangerous, i.e., defective.
(2) Manufacturing defect. Even if the product’s design is safe, some of the products that come off the assembly line might suffer defects that cause them to be unreasonably dangerous. For example, a ladder might be designed safely, but some of the ladders that come off the assembly line might suffer from cracks or abrasions in the metal that cause them to fail, buckle, or collapse. If your lawyer can prove that the defect occurred during the manufacturing process, or before it left the hands of the manufacturer or distributor, then he or she has proven a “manufacturing defect”.
(3) Defect in warnings or instructions. Manufacturers and distributors of products have a duty to warn potential users of their products of any dangers, and to instruct them in how to properly use the product so as to avoid unnecessary risks. If they do not properly do so, they can be held liable. For example, step ladders tend to tip over if a person climbs to high up on them, or the ladder is not placed on a flat surface. This presents a danger that can be eliminated through proper instruction and warning. Therefore, ladder manufacturers and distributors place warnings on step ladders instructing the users of those dangers, and how to avoid them. If they fail to do so, or fail to do so in a manner that is readily comprehensible to most consumers, they can be held liable for a warning defect. Contact us for a free consultation regarding your defective product claim.
Besides bringing “strict liability” claims, a person injured by a defective product can bring claims based on simple negligence against the manufacturers and distributors of the product. To prove “negligence”, you must prove that the manufacturer or distributor acted unreasonably, was not careful, or made a mistake, either in the way it designed, manufactured or distributed the product. For instance, if a step ladder is manufactured with substandard aluminum, and the manufacturer knew or should have known that it was substandard and increased unecessarily the risk of injury, then the manufacturer was “negligent”. Claims of design defect, however, require balancing the risks associated with the design against its usefulness to the consumer.. For example, a knife that is designed to be very sharp creates the risk of easily causing a consumer to cut him or herself, but the usefulness to the consumer of having a very sharp knife outweighs the risk. Similarly, the instructions and warnings required must be reasonable under the circumstances. Contact us for a free consultation regarding your negligence claim.
Certain “warranties” are implied in the sale of a product, including an implied “warranty of fitness for a particular purpose”. Essentially this means that the manufacturer and distributors are deemed to have promised that the product they put on the market is not unreasonably dangerous given its purpose and usefulness. Some sellers also include express warranties with the products they sell. The New York Court of Appeals (the State’s highest Court) has held that even if a product is not “defective” and even if the manufacturer and distributer were not “negligent” in making and selling it, they may be held liable for “breach of warranty” under certain circumstances. Contact us for a free consultation about your breach of warranty claim.
The statute of limitations for product defects and negligence is generally 3 years from the date of the injury, but a breach of warranty claim runs 4 years from the date of sale. However, some “tolls” might apply to make these statutes run longer. For example, a child’s statute of limitations is “tolled” until he or she is 18. For example, a 10-year old who is injured by a defective product will generally have until his 21st birthday to sue a manufacturer or distributor for a product defect. But it is always better to bring the claim sooner, while the evidence is still “hot”, rather than later, when it is stale. It is also essential that the defective product be preserved and analyzed promptly after the accident. In fact, your failure to do so can, in certain circumstances called “spoliation”, result in the dismissal of your case. So don’t delay if you believe you have a product liability claim; contact a reputable personal injury attorney.
That’s impossible. A reputable personal injury attorney will not charge you for an initial consultation and if your case is accepted, your attorney will be paid on a contingency fee basis, which is usually 1/3 of the recovery, whether from a settlement or from a jury. Since the initial consultation and case evaluation is free, why wait to see an attorney?
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