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Understanding Different Kinds Of Product Liability Cases

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As a plaintiff’s lawyer, many of your clients will come to you with various injuries related to products. Here are the three basic kinds of products liability cases that you need to understand:

  • Defective Manufacture
  • Defective Design
  • Inadequate Warning or Instruction

Each of these has different dimensions that implicate how you try the action. In all situations, however, the product defect must have caused the plaintiff’s harm. Your case will fail if the accident was cause by some failure on behalf of the client. Here is a brief description of each type of case:

Defective Manufacture: Plaintiffs can bring products liability causes of action if the product that caused their injury was defectively manufactured. Ordinarily, this occurs when, due to some error in production, the plaintiff’s product is different from and substandard to the others produced. This is the typical lemon law problem. It happens when the item sold to the plaintiff deviated from the manufacturer’s intended design. Examples of this situation include cars sold without brakes, lawnmowers sold with broken motors, or food sold with hazardous material in it. Here is a short list of the allegations you must prove to win a defective manufacturing case:

  • The defendant sold the product.
  • The product contained a manufacturing defect.
  • The plaintiff sustained injuries.
  • The defect directly and proximately caused the injuries.

Defective Design: Plaintiffs also might have a viable claim if the product that injured them was defectively designed. In this situation, the item was manufactured as intended, unlike in defective manufacture cases. However, the contention here is that it should not have been designed that way in the first place because doing so made it unreasonable dangerous. Generally, a product is defectively designed and unreasonably safe if it fails to meet the expectations of an average consumer. This is important because many times in products liability cases you will not have any evidence-direct or circumstantial-of an actual defect. Therefore, asserting that it was defectively designed and failed to meet the average consumer’s expectations is an outlet to save your case. Also, if there exists a safer alternative to the product, you can use that evidence to infer an inherently defective design.

On the other hand, if the product at the center of the case necessarily involved a complicated technical understanding, the judge will probably not allow the consumer expectations test for your design defect cause of action. In this scenario, you will need to marshal in more evidence to buttress your claim. Again, like in manufacturing defect cases, any misuse or plaintiff’s negligence will detract from your products liability case.

Inadequate Warning or Instruction: The final products liability claim that plaintiffs might bring focuses on the warnings or instructions that came with their purchase. In certain cases, there might be dangers associated with certain uses of an item or there might be hidden dangers not easily apparent. In these instances, the manufacturer needs to give obvious and clear instruction on the safe use of the product sold. Examples of warning issues in cases include some of the following:

  • If an item were to catch fire if used above a certain temperature.
  • If seatbelts on a car did not work if the passenger was above a certain weight.
  • If an elevator was unsafe if the total weight of passengers exceeded a limit.

Typically, a manufacturer might face liability for warning or instruction issues if 1) the product is dangerous under certain conditions, 2) the manufacturer knows of these dangers, 3) the danger is not easily apparent to a reasonable consumer, and 4) the danger presents when used reasonably and as intended. If these conditions exists, the manufacturer must clearly and obviously warn consumers about 1)hidden dangers and 2)how to use the product safely.

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