Product Liability Lawyer, Salem MA
If you or a loved one were injured, maimed, or killed while using a consumer product, you may be entitled to compensation through a product liability claim. Manufacturers and sellers are responsible for providing their customers with relatively safe products, and when they don’t meet that expectation, they may be liable for any damages incurred. Here’s a look at the essentials of product liability claims.
Types of Product Liability Claims
Product liability claims fall into three distinct categories based on the type of defect:
- Design Defects — These defects are in the design of the product, and typically, they affect every single consumer item that was produced in that line. For instance, if a chair is designed with uneven legs and it presents a falling hazard, that is a design defect. Similarly, if a toy for babies is small enough to swallow or is made of lead, that also constitutes a design defect.
- Manufacturing Defects — Manufacturing defects occur when the design is sound, but an issue occurs in the manufacturing process. To explain, imagine a factory uses the wrong components when building a car and the car becomes prone to rollover when turning or a pharmaceutical company puts the wrong ingredients in cough syrup causing it to become dangerous.
- Marketing Defects — This category relates to safety labels, instructions, and marketing for the product. For instance, if a medication manufacturer doesn’t warn users that the medication can be fatal if mixed with alcohol, this may be considered failure to warn. Similarly, if a company advertises that their products can be used in one way but that type of use leads to injuries, that constitutes a marketing defect.
Liability for Product Safety
In product liability claims, the liable party can vary based on the situation. Liability may lie with the manufacturer, the manufacturer of component parts, the assembly or installation crew, the wholesaler, or even the retail store that sold the product. Generally, for the seller to be liable, the sale needs to happen during the regular course of business. For instance, if someone sells a dangerous and defective toy to another person at a garage sale, they are most likely not liable for any injuries caused by that product.
In most personal injury lawsuits, you need to prove that the other party was negligent and that their negligence caused your injuries. In contrast, with most product liability cases, you don’t have to establish negligence. Instead, these cases rely on the concept of res ipsa loquitur. That Latin phrase translates to “the thing speaks for itself”. In other words, the fact that there is a defect establishes that negligence occurred. The plaintiff doesn’t have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. Instead, the burden of proof shifts to the manufacturer, who then has to prove that they weren’t negligent.
In other cases, product liability claims fall into the strict liability category. In strict liability cases, the manufacturer or other party is automatically liable for injuries that occur.
Defenses in Product Liability Cases
One of the only defenses that most companies can use in these cases is that they were not the supplier of the product. However, in cases where the supplier truly cannot be found, the plaintiff may be able to get compensation through market share liability. This rule tends to apply in relation to defective medication. If the supplier can’t be identified, the pharmaceutical companies are held liable based on their share of sales in the area where the injury occurred.
Additionally, if the product was altered or misused in a way that lead to the injury, the defendant may use that as a defense. To explain, say that someone gave their toddler a knife to use as a toy. In that situation, the manufacturer is not liable for the injuries because the product was grossly misused. Similarly, if someone strips the insulation off an electrical cord and gets electrocuted, that alteration caused the injury, and again, the manufacturer is not liable.
With all personal injury claims, the plaintiff must have suffered damages or there cannot be a claim. For instance, if you buy a defective product, the manufacturer recalls it, and you return the product, you typically can’t bring a product liability claim forward because you did not suffer any damages. However, if you were hurt by the product before it was recalled, you may have damages. The manufacturer may have to compensate you for medical bills, lost time at work, pain and suffering, and any other damages that were sustained.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 38 million people are injured by consumer products every year, and approximately 35,000 people die due to these injuries. Note that these statistics include all injuries and deaths related to consumer products, even if they are not caused by the product. If you are one of the millions of people affected by these injuries, you may be entitled to compensation.
To learn more, contact us for a free case evaluation. We can help you decide if you should make a product liability claim. At Tinti, Quinn, Grover & Frey, P.C., we have been representing people in product liability claims, personal injury lawsuits, and a variety of other legal matters since 1982. We are ready to help you get the justice you deserve.