Understanding Defective Products and Product Liability Cases

When a person buys a product, the purchaser expects it to perform in a manner that does not cause injury. If the product is defective, the product will fail and the user may be seriously injured or even killed. If a person buys a product and suffers an injury in the course of its proper use, that person may be entitled to money damages for the injuries suffered by filing a claim for product liability against the manufacturer and other parties along the chain of commerce. A product is said to be faulty or defective if it causes some injury or damage to a person as a result of a defect in the product, or its labeling, or the way the product was used. The manufacturer, the distributor, the supplier, the retailer and others involved in the selling the product are often liable for injuries caused and the resulting damages.

Examples of product liability cases could include:

  • -airbags
  • -seat belts
  • -brakes
  • -cribs
  • -flammable products
  • -child products
  • -drugs
  • -power tools and equipment

In certain instances these cases can also form the basis of a class action lawsuit.

There are three types of product defects: design defect; manufacturing defect; and/or marketing defect. A design defect occurs when the product is not safe for its intended use. In other words, the manufacturer fails to design a product safe for its intended use. The manufacturer could have anticipated the possible risk and the product could have been designed differently to avoid the risk. A manufacturing defect is a defect which happens during the manufacturing process. It is different from a design problem. The product can fail or malfunction if there is a manufacturing defect despite being safely designed. A manufacturing defect happens if the manufacturer uses materials of an inferior quality or uses the wrong materials. The failure of a manufacturer to exercise proper quality control can also result in a manufacturing defect. Manufacturing defects are defects that were not intended. The third reason for a product malfunction is an marketing defect. A marketing defect is the failure of the manufacturer to warn the user of a danger or provide proper instructions for use of the product. Marketing defects result from the manner in which a product is sold. The manufacturer has the obligation to warn users of any potential danger from the use of the product and also provide proper instructions. The common element in nearly all faulty or defective products cases is negligence on the part of the manufacturer. However, in certain instances, the manufacturer of an unreasonably dangerous product might be held strictly liable for any damage caused by use of that product without the need to show the manufacturer was negligent.

Generally, all states have laws that allow compensation to persons injured by defective products. The defect may be obvious or not-so obvious. These compensable damages could include: past and future medical; surgical and hospital bills; past and future lost wages; pain and suffering; permanent disabilities; out of pocket expenditures; loss of consortium for a spouse and in certain cases, punitive damages.

A faulty product can also result in death. Death due to a faulty product can give rise to a claim for wrongful death. If the product fails or malfunctions and the user dies as a result of the failure or malfunction, the survivors of the user can file a suit for wrongful death against the manufacturer of the product. In addition to a claim for wrongful death, the manufacturer will also be liable under the product liability laws. An injured party who institutes a wrongful death case might also recover money damages for: past and future doctor, hospital, therapy and medical bills; past and future lost wages; out of pocket expenditures; pain and suffering; loss of life’s enjoyment; and a loss of consortium claim for a spouse. Additionally, an economist might have to be hired to determine the extent of any future lost wage or loss of opportunity claim.