We Force Them To Be Accountable
Product liability claims are one way that the designers, manufacturers, marketers, distributors, and sellers of a product can be held accountable when that product causes injury, illness, or death. In other words, any party that shares responsibility for putting a defective product into the hands of consumers can be held liable for the resulting damages.
Under California’s “strict” product liability law, the injured party (the plaintiff) must prove the designer, manufacturer, marketer, distributor, or seller of a product (the defendant) did something, or failed to do something, with negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, or the intent to cause harm. However, under certain circumstances, a defendant can be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries, even if that defendant did nothing wrong.
Elements of A Product Liability Claim
In a product liability claim, four things need to be established on behalf of the plaintiff:
- That the defendant designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, or sold the product.
- That the product was defective when it left the defendant’s possession.
- That the product was used by the plaintiff in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
- That the plaintiff suffered harm as a result of the product’s defect.
What Is Meant By “Reasonably Foreseeable”?
Law requires that designers and manufacturers anticipate how an average consumer would use, or even misuse, their product. If a consumer uses or misuses a product in a manner that is reasonably foreseeable and is injured, the defendant/s can still be held liable. There is no hard and fast definition of reasonably foreseeable, but it can be gauged by what an average consumer of ordinary intelligence might consider using a product for. Think of all the things duct tape can be used for that weren’t what it was specifically designed to be used for. It can be used in lieu of a lint roller, to remove a splinter, and catch insects. Just do an Internet search and you’ll find hundreds of clever uses for duct tape. The same goes for multiple household items, like tennis balls, clothes pins, paperclips, and so on. Another example might be a Frisbee. It’s not meant to be used as a plate, but if you were camping and realized you’d forgotten to pack anything to eat off of, a clean Frisbee could certainly suffice. However, no adult of ordinary intelligence would try to use a Frisbee as a frying pan.
We Help Assess The Danger
A manufacturer or designer isn’t obligated to completely eliminate any possible danger of a product, as many useful, everyday products can be inherently dangerous when misused or even when properly used. Designers and manufacturers often try to protect themselves by putting warnings on their products that may seem ridiculous. For instance, no reasonable adult would attempt to use a charcoal grill inside a house, but many such items come with warnings advising consumers not to use them in an enclosed area.
In most cases, it will be up to a judge or jury to determine if the defendant took reasonable precautions and if the plaintiff’s use was reasonably foreseeable.
Common Product Liability Claims
Defective motor vehicles and their parts, such as tires, brakes, etc.
- Defective/or inadequately tested medical devices, such as IVC filters, textured breast implants, hernia mesh, etc.
- Dangerous or inadequately tested medications, such as Zantac, Truvada, Elmiron, various anticoagulants, etc.
- Tainted medications
- Tainted foods/food poisoning
Medications that don’t include adequate warnings about side effects and drug interactions
- Other contaminated products, like talcum powder contaminated with asbestos
- Dangerous or inadequately tested products like Bayer/Monsanto’s Roundup
- Toys and other child items that break easily, contain toxins, or parts that are small enough to be choked on, etc.
- Clothes and fabrics that are highly flammable or are dangerous in other ways
The list is endless. In general, any product can be the subject of a product liability claim if it is more dangerous than it should be, does not come with adequate warnings, and was used in a reasonably foreseeable fashion.
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