When a product is sold to consumers, the manufacturer or seller has a responsibility to ensure that the product is safe. That includes the way the product is designed, manufactured, and sold. Products are legally required to meet the ordinary expectations of the consumer. When a product has a defect that jeopardizes the consumer’s safety, it does not meet the consumer’s ordinary expectations. If a consumer is injured by a defective product, he or she may wish to file a products liability lawsuit against the liable party. A skilled attorney will review the details of the case, determine who is liable for the injuries, and fight for all entitled compensation that the consumer deserves.
Types of Products Liability Claims
Although there are a wide range of defective products cases, they generally fall into the following main categories:
- Defectively manufactured products: This is a product that was defective or flawed when manufactured. The defect affects a specific product within a product line. For example, an error on an assembly line may result in a set of defective brakes in one of the vehicles. Other examples of manufacturing defects include the following:
- A bicycle with a broken chain
- A batch of cold medication tainted with a poisonous substance
- A motor vehicle that is missing its brake pads
In order to pursue a products liability claim, the injured person must be able to prove that the defect caused the injury. For example, if a motorist was speeding and was injured in an accident after being unable to slow down when he approached a curve in the road, he must be able to prove that the missing brake pads caused the accident, and not the fact that he was speeding.
- Defectively designed products: In this category, a product’s design is defective and potentially dangerous. These defects are particularly concerning because they involve an entire product line, as opposed to a single defectively manufactured product. The individuals who worked on the product line may have followed the manufacturer’s specifications exactly, but if the design is defective, an entire line of potentially defective products can be sold to consumers. Examples of defectively designed products include the following:
- A line of sunglasses that do not protect the eyes from dangerous ultraviolet rays
- Airbags that do not provide adequate protection when they deploy
- Electric shavers that electrocute the user when the device is turned to the high position
As with defectively manufactured products, a person who is injured must be able to prove that the injury was caused by the defective design. For example, if an individual is electrocuted while using an electric shaver near water, he or she must be able to prove that the injury was caused by the defective product, and not by an electric device being used incorrectly.
- Failure to provide adequate warning or instructions: Some products come with inherent risks that can compromise consumers’ health and safety if the product does not come with clear instructions and warnings for potential safety risks. If a product’s risks are obvious, such as the fact that a sharp knife can be dangerous if not handled properly, or that a consumer can fall off of a ladder if he or she is not careful, the manufacturer is not liable for resulting injuries. However, if a product is dangerous in some way that is not obvious to the consumer, the manufacturer can be held liable for injuries suffered. Examples of failure to warn claims include the following:
- Over-the-counter medication that does not include a warning about dangerous side effects that can occur when taken in combination with another drug
- An electric tea kettle that does not include a warning about a steam valve that is oddly positioned, which can cause serious burns
- A corrosive paint-removing chemical that does not feature clear instruction on how to safely use and handle the product.
Again, an injury must be directly caused by a failure to warn, not simply by the product alone. For example, if a consumer suffers a burn injury from the electric tea kettle discussed above, that is not enough to file a products liability claim. He or she must prove that the burn was caused by the poorly positioned steam valve.
- Breach of warranty: Some products, such as automobiles, appliances, and electronics, come with warranties. A consumer may be able to file a products liability claim if the product comes with a written warranty but fails to live up to the terms. For example, if a consumer purchased a computer that has a 90-day warranty, and the computer crashed or stopped working within those 90 days, the consumer may be able to file a products liability claim if he or she is charged for any repairs to the computer.
Prescription drugs are often the subject of product liability lawsuits. Drug companies have a responsibility to follow all testing criteria required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, even if a drug is licensed by the FDA, it does not affect the manufacturer’s liability if a consumer is injured by a drug that proves to be defective. When it comes to determining liability for a drug-related injury, the doctor who prescribes a drug, a nurse who administers a drug, or a pharmacist who fills a prescription can all be considered at-fault. A skilled legal professional can determine who is liable and secure financial compensation for the resulting injuries.
Key Elements of a Products Liability Claim in California
For a consumer to have a successful products liability claim, he or she must prove the following:
- The seller or manufacturer designed, manufactured, distributed, or sold a defective product.
- The product was defected when it left the seller or manufacturer’s possession.
- The consumer used the product in a reasonable, foreseeable way.
- The consumer was injured as a result of the defective product.
If the claim meets these requirements, the consumer can proceed with a products liability lawsuit, which must be filed within two years from the time the injury is or should have been discovered. Missing this deadline could jeopardize the consumer’s right to recovery or result in the claim being denied.
Who is Responsible for a Product Defect?
For products liability to arise, the defective product had to be sold in the marketplace, and that product caused the consumer to become injured. There are several parties that make up a product’s chain of distribution. Depending on the nature of the defect, liability may rest with any of the following parties:
- The product manufacturer
- The manufacturer of the defective parts of a product
- The individual responsible for assembling or installing the product
- The wholesaler
- The retail store that sold the defective product to the consumer
What Defense Strategies Do Manufacturers Use in a Products Liability Case?
If a consumer is injured by a defective product, the seller, manufacturer, or other party who sold the defective product may use the following defense strategies to protect their interests and avoid being held liable for the consumer’s injuries:
- The product was not defective when the consumer purchased the product.
- The product was altered or repaired negligently by another party.
- The consumer used the product in a way that was not reasonably foreseeable.
- The consumer could not prove that there were injuries.
- Someone else was liable for the consumer’s injuries.
- The consumer’s own negligence caused his or her injuries.
What Damages can a Consumer Collect?
California uses the comparative negligence rule, which means that an injured consumer can collect damages even if he or she is 99 percent at-fault. However, the amount of damages that he or she will collect is limited by his or her degree of fault. For example, if a consumer purchased a product that exploded, resulting in $10,000 in damage to the consumer’s home, the consumer could recover $8,000 from the seller or manufacturer of the product even if he or she was 20 percent at-fault. The economic loss rule states that individuals cannot recover damages for pure economic losses, including lost profits.
In California, the economic loss rule generally prohibits individuals from recovering damages for purely economic losses, including lost profits. In this context, a purely “economic loss” occurs where the plaintiff has suffered no appreciable personal injuries or property damage, such as improper construction work that has not caused any out-of-pocket damage to the structure. Despite this rule, a pure economic loss can be recovered in a limited number of circumstances. For example, if the parties are in a special relationship where the plaintiff was an intended beneficiary of a particular transaction, but was harmed by the defendant’s negligence in carrying it out, the economic loss rule will not apply. The circumstances of the case will determine whether the parties are in a special relationship that the law will recognize.
LA Catastrophic Injury Lawyers at ACTS Law Assist Clients with Products Liability Claims
If you or a loved one was injured by a defective product, you are urged to contact the LA catastrophic injury lawyers at ACTS Law at your earliest convenience. We will thoroughly review your case and determine who is responsible for the defective product that caused your injuries. Our skilled legal team will work tirelessly to protect your rights. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW opens phone dialeror contact us online. From our offices in San Diego and Los Angeles, we serve clients throughout Southern California.