Designers, manufacturers and marketers/sellers of goods have a duty to take reasonable measures to ensure that their products don’t pose a risk of harm to anyone using or exposed to them. Liability for the malfunction or harmful effects of a dangerous or defective product extends to anyone in the chain of distribution, including wholesalers and retailers.
Under state and federal laws, companies and individuals who market products in the United States have duties to buyers, users, and bystanders for injury or loss sustained because of defects in design, manufacturing, or marketing of the goods. Generally, any party within the chain of development, production, and distribution may be liable for damages, including wholesalers and retailers.
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The Types of Product Defects
The law identifies three ways in which an injured person can pursue a financial claim for injuries related to a dangerous or defective product:
- Negligent design. A designer must take reasonable steps to ensure that the form or design of the product is not inherently dangerous.
- Negligent manufacturing. A manufacturing defect may be a flaw that affects a small number of the goods, or it may be a mistake in the manufacturing process that renders all products dangerous. For example, the use of substandard components may be considered a manufacturing defect.
- Negligent marketing. Negligent marketing refers specifically to the instructions for use of the product or to the presence, or absence, of appropriate warnings.
Ways that You Can Sue for Product Liability Injuries
Depending on the state in which you live, you may be able to pursue financial recovery under a strict liability claim, a claim of negligence, or a lawsuit based on breach of warranty.
Strict liability. A strict liability claim allows you to recover damages without having to demonstrate that the defendant did anything wrong. Strict liability is established by statute, and customarily allows you to obtain compensation simply by showing that your losses were caused by a dangerous or defective product sold or manufactured by the defendant. Most product liability claims are based on a theory of strict liability.
Negligence. In a product liability lawsuit alleging negligence, you must show that the defendant owed you, and any potential user of the product, a certain standard of care, that the manufacturer did not use that minimum standard of care, and that you suffered injury as a result. Product liability claims based on negligence often prove very difficult to win.
Breach of warranty. A warranty is a promise or assertion made with respect to goods or merchandise. A breach of warranty claim may be based on an express or an implied warranty.
An express warranty is a statement that the manufacturer or seller of the product specifically makes, either in writing or verbally, regarding the use, quality, or suitability of the product. Express warranties may be found in packaging, instructions, or advertising/marketing. An example of an express warranty would be a statement in packaging or advertising that a certain type of glue is suitable for bonding plastic. If you use it to bond a plastic bumper on your car, and it fails, causing injury, you have a claim based on a breach of express warranty of merchantability.
The implied warranties that apply to consumer products include a warranty of merchantability, and a warranty of fitness for the purpose. The implied warranty of merchantability guarantees that a product can be used for the purpose for which it is purchased without posing unreasonable risk of harm. The implied warranty of fitness for a purpose goes a step further, finding a seller liable if they knew that a buyer was planning on using a product for a specific purpose, even if there are express warranties precluding that type of use. For example, if you purchase an epoxy that specifically states that it is not suited for plastic, but you tell the seller that is what you intend to use it for, and it does not work, you have a claim for breach of implied warranty of fitness for the particular purpose for any injuries sustained.
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