What Are the Three Types of Claims for Product Liability Cases?

Posted in: Product Liability | Dec 05,2023

Consumers have a reasonable expectation that the products they purchase from manufacturers and retailers will function as advertised and work as intended without defects causing damage or harm to users. However, companies can be far from perfect—many may cut corners to save on production costs or pay no heed to known risks without alerting consumers. From automobiles to prescription drugs to children’s toys and kitchen appliances, defective products have the potential to cause widespread harm and inflict significant or lethal injuries. This blog post examines the three major types of claims in product liability cases, each stemming from defects during different production phases.


Design Defects

Product liability lawsuits claiming defective design involve a product that is inherently unsafe or contains a fundamental flaw that can cause harm. Defectively designed products fail to perform their intended duties as safely as a reasonable user would expect when used as intended.

Some common and notable design defects include:

  • Children’s toys defects. Baby toys with sharp edges that could cut a child or include small parts that present a choking hazard contain preventable and potentially harmful design defects.
  • Automobile defects. Mechanical defects built into automobiles are a common instance of design defects. In a 2008 class-action case against General Motors, the automaker agreed to pay up to $150 million over faulty engine coolants affecting more than 20 million customers.
  • Asbestos-related defects. Due to a major design defect, Owens Corning was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2000 following hundreds of thousands of asbestos-related claims and billions in payouts to victims.

To succeed in arguing a defective design product liability case, victims and plaintiffs must demonstrate that the manufacturer could have reasonably adopted similar yet safer and economically feasible alternative design elements.


Manufacturing Defects

In contrast to design defects, which affect every final product, manufacturing defects usually only occur to some individual items or specific batches due to a flaw during the manufacturing process. Flaws during manufacturing lead to products that deviate from their original design, becoming dangerous to consumers.

Manufacturing defects can result from a production malfunction, a skipped critical step in assembly, or other human error. Each defect is unique to its product and manufacturing process, but common issues include:

  • Incomplete or missing components
  • Improperly machined parts
  • Errors in assembly or installation
  • Issues with substandard raw materials

Critical supportive welding of a product was bypassed during production in a case involving a consumer injury from faulty weightlifting equipment. The product wasn’t defective due to its design, which called for welding the metal supports, but instead because of an error during the bench press’s production.

Medications tainted by more dangerous drugs through accidental contamination during the manufacturing process, a child’s swing with a cracked chain, and furniture assembled with the wrong size bolts and screws are other examples of manufacturer defects that have led to severe injuries.

Successful product liability suits alleging manufacturing defects must show that the product in question would have been safe if made according to initial specifications but did not follow the manufacturer’s design. Plaintiffs must prove that the defect directly caused the victim’s injury and originated before leaving the manufacturer’s control.


Marketing Defects

Product liability marketing defects are also often known as “failure to warn” or “warning defect” cases, as they typically involve unreasonably dangerous products due to inadequate warnings or instructions from the manufacturer. Even if a product is well-designed and correctly made, manufacturers may be required to provide clear warnings or instructions if it poses risks that are not obvious to the user.

Manufacturers or sellers could be culpable in product liability lawsuits if their warning labels are poorly placed, don’t use layman’s terms that are easy to understand, or use small text that is difficult to read.

Perhaps the most infamous example of an inadequate warning and marketing defect in product liability history is “the McDonald’s coffee case.” After a grandmother in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was severely burned by her beverage, the consequent lawsuit revealed that previous similar complaints proved McDonald’s should have known about the dangers associated with the hot coffee. As a result, the fast food giant admitted it had not placed sufficient warning information on its cups.

To prove marketing defects exist, plaintiffs must establish that the manufacturer knew or should have known its product carried potential risks that could present a danger to consumers when used as intended. It must be clear that consumers would be unlikely to discover these dangers on their own and that the company failed to provide any adequate warning before an injury was caused due to the lack of warning.


Protecting Consumers From Defective Products

The product liability lawyers at Montross Miller have handled complex cases involving unsafe consumer products of all kinds, from children’s toys to automobile parts, electronic appliances, and more. Our experts are well-versed in the required research and legal complexities of product liability cases and can answer your tough questions to provide guidance and advice through each step of the process. If a defective product has injured you or a loved one, contact our team today to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation.