Product Liability deals with recoveries for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of a product. Product liability cases may involve dangerous toys, automobile design, seat belt failures, improperly designed household products, industrial machinery, products causing explosions or burns, aviation products, medical devices, prescription or over the counter drugs, among others. A lawsuit can be brought against anyone participating in the chain of manufacture for that product, from the manufacturer, to the designer to the retail store. When a company designs and manufactures a product, they have a responsibility to ensure that anyone exercising reasonable care within the expected parameters of usage expected for the product will not be injured. An action can be based on negligence, breach of implied or express warranty, or strict liability.
Under a negligence theory, the claimant must prove the elements of duty, breach of duty, damages, and proximate cause. As for the breach of warranty theory, a warranty is like a promise. An implied warranty exists whether or not you have a written "warranty". An implied warranty of merchantability means that the product sold conforms to the ordinary standards of care and are comparable to similar goods sold under similar circumstances. An implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose exists when the retailer, distributor, or manufacturer has reason to know the particular purpose for which the goods are required, and that the buyer is relying on the skill and judgment of the seller to select and furnish suitable goods. If the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose are breached, or the promise is broken, then the manufacturer, distributor, and/or seller of the product are liable or responsible for the consequences.
Under the newest theory of strict liability, you do not have to prove the manufacturer or designer was negligent. You must show that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous; the product was defective when it left the manufacturer; and the defect caused the injury. In general, a product is unreasonably dangerous or defective if it fails to perform in a manner reasonably to be expected in light of its nature and intended function. There are three basic types of defects. First, a product may contain a manufacturing flaw. A manufacturing defect occurs when a product is not assembled or built correctly. Second, the product may be defectively designed. Design defects are present when hazards posed by the product are so great as to outweigh the product’s usefulness. In most cases, it is necessary to establish that these hazards can be eliminated through the use of an alternative design. Third, the product may not have adequate warnings, directions, or instructions.
There may be no recovery of damages in a product liability action unless the damage occurs within fifteen years of the date of initial purchase. Be aware that there are other limits to product liability law such as when the consumer was careless in using the product, when the defective condition was obvious, or when the product was altered.