What Must Be Proven in a Product Liability Lawsuit?

Posted in: Product Liability | Nov 15,2023

Consumer product injuries requiring emergency department treatment have increased in recent years. According to the National Safety Council, consumer products caused more than 11.7 million such injuries in 2021 and more than 12.6 million in 2022, with young children and adults aged 65 and above most at risk. However, only a fraction of these injuries can be attributed to defects worthy of a product liability lawsuit.

Forbes’ Product Liability Lawsuit Guide claims 6,000 injuries or illnesses and 23 reported deaths linked to product defects in 2021. Across cases involving design, manufacturing, or marketing defects, this guide examines what must be proven for victims and plaintiffs to win and receive damages from a product liability lawsuit.


Product Liability Negligence vs. Strict Liability

Under the Indiana Product Liability Act, two distinct legal theories exist under which injured victims—or their surviving family in cases involving a wrongful death—can bring forward a product liability case: negligence or strict liability.

In the context of a defective product liability claim, negligence refers to reckless or careless actions taken by a product’s designer, manufacturer, or retailer who owed the victim a duty of care. While the scope of defendants is limited under strict liability, it holds defendants strictly liable if the product causes harm because of a defect.

Let’s take a closer look at what must be proven by a plaintiff’s product liability lawyers under each type of claim.


Proving Negligence

Product liability claims based on negligence require the victim and their legal team to prove that the defendant acted negligently. Defendants may include a defective product’s designers, manufacturers, distributors, or sellers. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant acted negligently in failing to exercise reasonable care in the product’s design, manufacturing, or distribution, with said failure directly resulting in harm to the victim.

Negligence is established by proving that the defendant breached a duty of care owed to the plaintiff. A product’s manufacturer generally owes a duty of care to any of its potential customers and users. In most cases, sellers can also be held liable for negligence; however, “casual sellers” can not be sued for product defects. Casual sellers, by definition, are individuals not regularly in the business of selling particular products. For example, parents selling clothes or toys their child has outgrown would be considered casual sellers. If a product purchased at a family garage sale went on to cause an injury due to a product defect, the secondhand seller cannot be held liable.


Proving Strict Liability

In Indiana, strict liability claims are limited to manufacturing defect claims. In other words, sellers cannot be held liable unless they are also the product’s manufacturer. Strict liability does not require that the plaintiff prove the defendant’s fault or negligence but requires proof that the product is defective and caused harm.

The plaintiff in a product liability case based on strict liability must prove that the product was sold in an unreasonably dangerous condition. Rather than the manufacturer’s or seller’s negligence or role in the defect, strict liability cases focus on the product itself, its defect, and whether it led to the victim’s injuries. Plaintiffs must prove that the product’s unreasonably dangerous condition was present when the product initially left the defendant’s control.

Defendants in product liability lawsuits have a lot to lose. In addition to paying damages related to the case, companies could face mounting lost revenue from having to remove inventory from store shelves, issuing widespread recalls, or making costly adjustments to all future versions of the product. Additionally, reputational damage is hard to undo with consumers who could grow weary or skeptical of the company’s abilities or commitment to safety. As a result, defendants tend to hire high-priced lawyers to fight product liability lawsuits vigorously.

Injured victims of dangerous product defects need experienced product liability attorneys. Montross Miller’s lawyers and legal experts are well-versed in consumer product cases’ complexities. We’ll conduct the necessary research, thoroughly evaluate the product and manufacturer in question, and help victims secure life-rebuilding settlements. Contact our team today to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation if a defective product has injured you or a loved one. We’ll listen to your story, answer any questions, and help you navigate the legal process ahead.