The inconceivable happens: the toy you bought for your four-old explodes. Not so very long ago, this would not sound far-fetched, but lawyers pursuing claims for injury and death from dangerous products have indeed made our are children’s lives safer. Regulation by the government is slow and lags behind the beneficial changes prompted by product liability law. So what is “product liability.”
Most States recognize a right of a private citizen to sue a manufacturer when a product fails and causes injury. There are several types of claims that an injured person might assert if injured by a product. The most common legal theories are negligence, strict products liability and failure to warn. A products liability case may be based upon the faulty design of a product or the faulty assembly or manufacture of a product.
Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care. In the context of a products liability claim, it is an assertion that the manufacturer did not reasonably design or manufacture the product. The injured person establishes that the manufacturer owes a duty to act reasonably in the design and manufacture of the product, that the manufacturer breached that duty or failed to meet that duty, that the failure to reasonably design or assemble the product resulted in injury to the person bringing the claim.
Strict products liability is different than negligence. Some refer to it as negligence without fault. That is not truly accurate. Most States use certain criteria to define strict products liability. Some common criteria used are: whether the risks of using the product as designed or manufactured outweigh the benefits of the product and whether the product performed as a reasonable consumer would expect when the product is used in a manner reasonably anticipated by the product manufacturer.
Failure to warn is the other common theory of liability against products manufacturers. The basis for the theory is that consumers will make purchasing decisions and utilize the product in accordance with the information that is provided about the product. Reasonable warnings might outline the risks of using the product in an unintended or unsafe manner; reasonable warnings might describe the consequences of overuse or misuse of the product. Warnings can take many forms and cover many topics. Generally, though, the warnings theory is used when a consumer is able to demonstrate that a reasonable person would not have purchased the product or used it in the manner used had adequate information been provided by the manufacturer.
Products claims frequently involve seatbelts, car seats, other automobile characteristics, household products, lawn products and children’s toys and products.
Many believe that our civil justice system promotes good design and manufacturing practices and compels improvements in product safety.