When defective and dangerous consumer products cause injuries or even death, it is crucial to hold the responsible parties accountable. Despite consumer protection laws and advanced manufacturing techniques, thousands of people are harmed each year by dangerous products that make their way into the market. These injuries can range from amputation, traumatic brain injury, and carbon monoxide poisoning to choking, paralysis, and burns. Some companies fail to exercise the necessary care when bringing products to market. Products liability cases can be complex, often requiring testimony from medical professionals, engineers, and other experts to prove that the defective product directly caused the plaintiff’s injury.
Determining Liability for Compensation in Defective Product Cases
When a defective product causes an injury, multiple parties involved in the distribution chain can be held liable. This may include product manufacturers, manufacturers of component parts, designers, assemblers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. It is important to identify all potentially liable parties to ensure that the victim can recover the full compensation they deserve. Under the principle of joint and several liability, all defendants share the responsibility of paying compensation if it is determined that a product defect caused harm. If one defendant lacks the financial resources to pay, the others must make up the difference.
Identifying the responsible parties can be a complex process, as defects can occur at various stages of manufacturing. Manufacturers typically implement quality control processes to ensure proper production and assembly of products. Additionally, outside consultants may be involved, and their liability should be investigated. Retailers and distributors may also be held accountable, especially if they have sold or distributed products that were subject to recall by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
When Should I File a Products Liability Claim?
If you have suffered a serious injury clearly caused by a defective product, you should consider filing a products liability claim. In California, these claims are often filed as personal injury claims. To have a valid claim, it must be shown that the defect was a substantial factor in causing the injury. However, if a product was used in a manner for which it was not intended, resulting in harm, a valid claim may be difficult to establish. For instance, if someone falls while standing on the top step of a ladder despite warning labels, it may be challenging to prove that the ladder was defective. However, if a faulty bolt causes the ladder to collapse while being used correctly, a valid claim may exist.
A products liability claim must demonstrate that the product was legally defective due to manufacturing or design issues, or that the warning labels, signs, or instructions for safe use were inadequate. Several legal theories can be utilized in products liability cases, including strict liability, risk/benefits test, and consumer expectations.
Strict liability holds manufacturers responsible for placing products on the market that cause injury, without the need to prove intent or negligence. There are three types of defects under strict liability: manufacturing defects, design defects, and failure to warn.
The risk/benefits test is a more intricate approach that considers whether the benefits of a product’s design outweigh the risks. Juries assess the gravity of potential harm, the likelihood of harm occurring, and the feasibility, cost, and disadvantages of alternative safer designs. The burden of proof is on the victim to establish that a design feature was a proximate cause of their injuries, while the manufacturer must demonstrate that the benefits outweighed the design risks.
The consumer expectations test determines if a product is defective in design by evaluating whether it performs as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect. The victim must provide evidence that the product failed to meet ordinary consumer safety expectations. A design that was considered safe when the product was introduced may be deemed defective later due to changing consumer expectations or industry standards. In such cases, the manufacturer may be liable for failing to modify the product or provide adequate warnings.
Failure to warn claims arise when a well-designed and properly manufactured product lacks suitable warnings or instructions. Adequate warnings inform consumers of risks or side effects associated with the foreseeable use of the product, while instructions guide users on proper usage.
Comparative negligence may arise if the victim shares some responsibility for the injury caused by the defective product. However, the defect’s substantial factor in causing the injury must still be established, and damages are apportioned based on comparative fault.
Laws Governing Defective Products
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is responsible for protecting consumers from certain types of defective products in the United States. Established by the Consumer Product Safety Act, the CPSC has the authority to issue recalls and ban products. Its objectives include protecting the public against unreasonable risks of injury, facilitating consumer evaluation of product safety, establishing safety standards, and promoting research into preventing product-related deaths, illnesses, and injuries. While the CPSC maintains a database of recalled and banned products, it does not have authority over automobiles, boats, firearms, cosmetics, and medical devices.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for issuing safety standards for motor vehicles and ordering recalls if safety-related defects are discovered. The NHTSA has recalled millions of vehicles, car seats, tires, and other equipment over the years. Manufacturers are obliged to remedy defects at no cost to the consumer. If a defective motor vehicle or product causes an injury, legal action can be pursued following an NHTSA recall.
Skilled Representation for Victims of Defective Products
Products liability cases can be complex due to the various parties involved and the legal theories that need to be established. At ACTS Law, our experienced products liability lawyers handle these cases with dedication, preparing each claim as if it were going to trial. If you or a loved one has suffered a significant injury due to a defective product, contact us online or call 833-ACTS-LAW for a free consultation. Our skilled attorneys serve clients throughout Southern California from our offices in Los Angeles and San Diego.