What Consumers Should Know About Product Liability Laws

Posted in: Product Liability | Jun 02,2023

Defective or dangerous consumer products can cause severe harm and inflict injuries on a wide scale. From vehicle components, household appliances, and power tools to children’s toys, workout equipment, medical supplies, or food and beverage products, one seemingly minor design flaw or mistake during any manufacturing or marketing process may lead to disastrous unintended consequences. This blog post examines how product liability laws cover defects across various types of product liability claims.

What law is product liability based on?

Product liability is based on tort law, which is a branch of civil law that deals with civil wrongs and the resulting legal liability. Within tort law, product liability specifically focuses on the legal responsibility of manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and retailers for injuries or damages caused by their defective or unsafe products. It provides a legal framework for consumers to seek compensation for harm suffered due to product defects or failures. The specific laws and regulations governing product liability can vary by jurisdiction, as they are established by statutes, regulations, and court decisions specific to each region or country.

Product liability law differs from medical malpractice or other areas due to the principle of strict liability. Strict liability does what its name implies, holding manufacturers strictly liable for any injuries caused by their defective products regardless of their level of care and intent. Manufacturers can be held responsible and legally liable if a product is defective and causes harm, even if they never intentionally acted negligently. 

What are the three types of product liability claims?

  1. Design Defect Liability. Design defects are inherent, potentially dangerous flaws in a product’s design. Legally determining if a product’s design is defective involves weighing its utility or usefulness against the risks associated with the design. Whether or not a design meets a reasonable consumer’s expectations for safety is another metric by which defectiveness is measured.

    Design defect liability lawsuits often involve industry experts who can testify on the plaintiff’s behalf to provide specialized knowledge and analysis on a product’s design, safety standards, and underlying causes of the dangerous defects.

    Through expert testimony or other means, plaintiffs and their legal representatives must demonstrate that a reasonable and feasible alternative design would have made the product safer while maintaining its useability and practicality for the manufacturer. A design defect’s foreseeability is another essential element that must be proven in a product liability claim. Successful product liability lawsuits will show that the manufacturer or designer, assumed to be trustworthy experts in their chosen field, should have reasonably anticipated the potential risks associated with their design.

    If there is evidence to confirm the manufacturer knew about the design defect—often established through internal testing or prior incidents and customer complaints—it can significantly strengthen a victim’s case. In one case involving the rollover of a 1986 Ford Bronco, Ford Motor Company was successfully held liable thanks partly to expert testimony and evidence from Ford’s own records proving the company could have easily improved the vehicle’s safety with minimal costs.

  2. Manufacturing Defect Liability. Manufacturing defects occur when a product’s design is sound, but a crucial error or flaw during manufacturing leads to a defect that inflicts injury during its prescribed use.

    Unlike design defects imparted onto every unit, manufacturing defects typically affect only a limited number of products or a specific batch subject to a unique, damaging variable. In addition to establishing the direct link between a product’s defect and the victim’s sustained injuries, plaintiffs must prove the defect existed before leaving the manufacturer’s control and that the product would have been safe if manufactured correctly.

    Expert testimony, analysis, and examination of the product in question are crucial in demonstrating how its defect caused personal harm. A manufacturing defect must clearly depart from the product’s intended use specifications or standards. It may include errors during assembly or faults due to low-quality materials, compromised components, improper calibration, or other production mistakes. One case saw a man develop amnesia after an accident with a defective bench press in his home gym. Critical supportive welding was skipped over during the production of the product and completely absent before the product reached the consumer.

  3. Failure-to-Warn Liability. Also referred to as marketing defects, failure-to-warn liability can occur when a manufacturer insufficiently warns consumers of potential hazards encountered through a product’s regular, intended use.

    Manufacturers are legally obligated to warn consumers about any known risks associated with their products. Reasonable and adequate warnings must alert users to any potential hazards, overview the proper use and applications of the product, and disclose any known risks or side effects. Marketing defect cases often involve claims related to misleading, inadequate, and inaccurate labeling or false advertising. Applicable industry standards are often a factor when weighing failure-to-warn claims. When manufacturers deviate from established practices, the defendant’s case is stronger.

    To establish a marketing defect sufficiently, a plaintiff’s lawyers must demonstrate that the manufacturer should have reasonably foreseen potential risks or dangers through internal testing, research, or prior incidents.

Montross Miller Protects Consumers

Montross Miller’s experienced product liability lawyers and legal experts are well-versed in the complexities of consumer product cases. Our talented team will conduct the research and thoroughly evaluate the product in question, finding and interviewing the proper industry experts to show how and why the product in question failed to cause direct harm and undue suffering. 

Contact our team today if a defective product has injured you or your loved ones. In a free and confidential case evaluation, Montross Miller experts will evaluate your circumstances and answer any questions you may have about the legal liability process ahead.