Defective Products & Product Liability

Every year, people in the U.S. are injured by defective or dangerous products. Nearly any type of merchandise or products bought by consumers come into play: from cars to computers to sporting goods. These types of cases can involve toys, medical devices, consumer electronics, the list goes on and on.

Product liability laws vary from state to state and have their own set of rules and procedures. These laws provide the victims of dangerous products with legal recourse for injuries. As a general rule, a product is typically required to meet the ordinary expectations of a consumer. When a product has an unexpected defect or danger, the product failed to meet those expectations. Depending on the type of defect, many different parties may be found liable for the injuries sustained by a defective product.

Liability for Defective Products

Several parties responsible for placing a defective product on the market could be held responsible in a products liability case. They may include:

  • The manufacturer of the product
  • The manufacturer of a defective component of a product
  • Those who installed or assembled the product
  • The product's wholesaler
  • The retailer that sold the product

A personal injury attorney will help determine which potential defendants to seek damages from.

Defect Types

Regardless of the theory under which a defective products lawsuit proceeds, the plaintiff will be required to prove that the product was defective under one of the following three main types of defects:

  • Manufacturing defects that occurred during the installation of a part, the assembly of a product or the construction of it
  • Design defects, which are defects that existed from the beginning, making the product inherently unsafe
  • Marketing defects, such as labeling errors or the provision of inadequate warnings

Unavoidably Unsafe Products

By nature, some products are unavoidably unsafe because if they were made safer, they would not be useful. The responsibility of manufacturers for these types of products is to provide explicit warnings about their unsafe nature, the risks and the proper use of them. These types of warnings are meant to help consumers make sound decisions regarding whether or not to buy them in the first place.

Breach of Warranty of Fitness

Some plaintiffs proceed under a theory called breach of warranty of fitness. This theory comes from Chapter 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code, which governs the sale of goods. Warranties may be expressed or implied. While a manufacturer may attempt to limit its potential liability by including a limitation in an express warranty, UCC § 2-719 (3) says that limitations of damages are unconscionable in cases where consumer goods caused an injury to the consumer plaintiff.

Commonly Asserted Defenses

There are several common defenses that are asserted in products liability lawsuits. One defense that may be asserted is that the plaintiff modified the product in a way that made it unsafe. Defendants might also claim that the plaintiff used the product in an unreasonable manner that the defendant could not have foreseen. They might also argue that the plaintiff has not sufficiently identified the party that supplied the product.

An attorney who practices product liability law may sometimes use experts for help with cases. These cases may be highly complex and involve significant litigation. Each state has its own laws governing products liability cases, and such matters as the applicable statute of limitations will be governed by the jurisdiction in which a lawsuit is filed.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

Additional Product Liability Articles

Search LawInfo's Product Liability Resources

Related Topics In This Section