What is a product liability Lawsuit?
A product liability lawsuit is a claim against product manufacturer, distributor, or seller for injuries caused by a defective product. Product manufacturers are obligated to design products which are safe and free from defect.
The typical product liability case will involve a claim for damages against the manufacturer or seller of a product by a person injured by a product. The injured party, or plaintiff, will seek to prove that the injury was caused by some deficiency in the way that the product was made or marketed.
Who are the Parties to a Product Liability Lawsuit?
In general, there are three categories of persons who may serve as plaintiffs in product liability actions. These are injured product purchasers, non-purchasing users and bystanders.
Manufacturers are the most common defendants in product liability actions. Other defendants may include:
- Product designers
- Component manufacturers
- Suppliers of materials
- Distributors & wholesalers
- Used product sellers.
The scope of the liability for these parties will vary depending upon the legal theory under which the lawsuit is brought.
WHAT DO I NEED TO PROVE?
To win a product liability lawsuit, you must prove that the product was defective at the time it left the manufacturer or seller’s possession, and that it caused injury or damage.
Different types of defects depend on what part of the product failed.
There are generally three types of defects that can be claimed:
- Design Defect: Showing that the product’s design was inherently flawed and unreasonably dangerous.
- Manufacturing Defect: Demonstrating that the defect occurred during the manufacturing or production process, making the product dangerous.
- Failure to Warn: Establishing a failure to provide adequate warnings, instructions, or labels regarding the potential risks associated with the product’s use.
The burden of proof in products liability
The plaintiff has the burden of proving that the product is defective. The plaintiff must provide evidence of the dangerous or defective product flaw. For design defect claims in most states, you must prove a” feasible alternative design “ that the manufacturer should have used to make its product safe. Often, a manufacturer will consider a safer design, but not use it because of cost.
Warning labels that fail to adequately describe the dangers of a product adequately are a typical “failure to warn” claim. Warnings must describe all the dangers of a product, and must warn against hazards of both ordinary use and foreseeable misuse.
Breach of Warranty Claims and Defective Products
Breach of warranty refers to the failure of a product seller to fulfill the terms of a promise, claim, or representation made concerning the quality or type of product. Product liability claims for breach of warranty are based upon the product manufacturer or seller’s failure to honor its promise. Warranty claims may be based upon state or federal law.
An express warranty is a claim or a promise made about the quality, performance, construction, or durability of a product that induces a buyer to purchase it. This warranty may be created in writing, orally, or through the provision of physical representations, such as product samples.
Implied warranties arise by operation of law. The two types of warranties that are important to product liability are the implied warrant of merchantability and the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. An implied warranty of merchantability is a promise that the product sold is in proper condition and is reasonably suited for the purpose to which it was manufactured. An implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is a special warranty that applies when the consumer relies on the seller’s advice that a particular product can be used for a particular purpose.
How Long Do I have to File My Product Liability Lawsuit?
The amount of time you have to file your lawsuit varies by state. In most jurisdictions, you have two years from the date of injury.
The most common types of a product liability claims include:
Auto defect cases:
These lawsuits focus on defects in the design, manufacturing, or marketing of an automobile. They can involve various issues such as faulty brakes, airbags, steering systems, seatbelts or other components that may cause accidents, injuries, or property damage.
Crashworthiness claims concern the vehicle’s ability to protect occupants during an accident. “Crashworthiness” cases include lawsuits regarding vehicle design, and inadequate, or poorly designed, safety systems. This can involve issues like inadequate safety features, weak roofs, insufficient airbag deployment, or faulty seat belts. Crashworthiness lawsuits examine the safety systems of a vehicle to determine if those systems reduced or minimized injuries as intended.
Tire Defect Claims:
A tire tread separation occurs when the outer layer of a tire, known as the tread, separates or peels away from the underlying structure of the tire. The underlying structure is made up of a bead bundle (to secure the tire to the rim), the inner liner (designed to retain air pressure) and the body ply. On top of the plies are tire belts.
When the tread breaks away from the rest of the tire, the driver can lose control of the vehicle, causing a crash. This separation can be caused by various factors, including manufacturing defects and design defects in the tire.
In many cases, tire tread separation can be attributed to flaws or defects that occur during the manufacturing process. These defects may include improper bonding of the tread to the tire carcass or inadequate adhesion between the layers of the tire. Over time, these weak points can lead to the separation of the tread from the rest of the tire.
Key warning signs that a tire may separate are vibrations while driving, noises (including a thumping sound) just prior to separation, or a bulge on the sidewall of the tire.
Failure to Equip with Crash Avoidance Technology (CAT)
Crash avoidance technology (CAT) plays a pivotal role in preventing accidents by assisting drivers in evading potential collisions. Today, every automotive manufacturer worldwide possesses the opportunity to enhance consumer safety through the integration of crash avoidance technology into their vehicles. Crash avoidance technologies currently available to manufacturers include:
- Forward Collision Warning Systems: These systems employ visual, auditory, or tactile alerts to caution drivers of imminent collisions with vehicles or objects directly in their path.
- Automatic Emergency Braking Systems: By discerning impending collisions, these systems autonomously activate the brakes, slowing down the vehicle before impact or bringing it to a complete stop to prevent collisions.
- Intelligent Cruise Control: This technology automatically measures the distance from the preceding vehicle and adjusts the vehicle’s speed to maintain a predefined safe following distance.
- Lane Departure Warning: This system promptly notifies drivers if their vehicle veers out of its designated lane, thus facilitating real-time detection of blind spots.
- Pedestrian Detection Systems: By utilizing sensors, these systems identify human movement on roadways, including cyclists, and provide drivers with timely alerts to avoid collisions with vulnerable, mobile entities.
Negligence in Failing to Equip Vehicles with Crash Protection Features
Crash protection features are designed to safeguard both drivers and passengers against severe injuries in the event of a crash. The following are key crash protection features:
-Active Head Restraints: In rear collisions, these restraints dynamically move up and forward, cradling the head and absorbing impact energy to mitigate whiplash injuries.
– Roof Strength: Adequate roof strength is crucial in rollover accidents to prevent roof crush and ensure the preservation of occupants’ safety.
-Side Impact Design: Airbags integrated into the vehicle’s side structure provide vital protection during side impact and rollover accidents.
-Seat Design: Seats constructed with sufficient strength can withstand rear impact crashes, preventing seat failure (or “yielding rearward”) and enhancing occupant safety.
Just about any product you can purchase (other than cars, trucks, motorcycles, or pharmaceuticals) qualifies as a “consumer product,” from plastic gasoline containers to appliances. Often, the design of a consumer product takes a back seat to the marketability of the product; consumer product manufacturers often design products for function, not safety. Consumer product warnings are frequently inadequate or non-existent. This leads to serious product liability claims.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates the safety of consumer products. It does this by developing voluntary standards with industry, issuing and enforcing mandatory standards, and forcing product recalls. The CPSC conducts “surveillance” and monitors claims and complaints to safeguard the public. CPSC is actively pursuing product safety initiatives to eliminate the hazards of dangerous products reaching store shelves. Due to chronic underfunding, however, the CPSC cannot keep pace with the volume of consumer products imported or sold in the United States, and defective consumer products frequently end up on retailer shelves.
Drug and Device Lawsuits
Pharmaceutical and medical device companies are required by law to deliver safe products for consumers and provide adequate warnings to consumers and physicians about the risks of their products. Dangerous, defective drugs and medical devices kill thousands annually.
The pharmaceutical and medical device industries have been growing at a substantial rate in recent years. Spending on prescription drugs has surged, and medical devices such as hip implants and transvaginal mesh products are becoming widely recommended, growing into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Every year, medical device sales generate a combined total of over $200 billion in revenue worldwide, making medical device manufacturing extraordinarily profitable. These profits are why medical device manufacturers are constantly trying to invent the next “groundbreaking” device, or mass produce profitable products. In some cases, the rush to the market—and rush to generate profits—-comes at the expense of public safety. Device manufacturers have been sued for failing to adequately test their products or failing to recall or re-design their products after patient injuries are reported. These device makers may also “cover up” information regarding adverse events or design flaws, in order to continue to sell a product.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency tasked with keeping Americans safe from health hazards posed by defective medical devices. Unfortunately, due to chronic underfunding, the FDA cannot “police” the medical device industry, and relies on the honesty of the medical device industry when making approval determinations. As a result, many have endured pain and suffering because of the use of defective devices, as the FDA’s enforcement ability is limited.
Defective Cranes and Aerial Lifts
Aerial lifts are versatile mobile devices designed to elevate workers using a bucket or platform equipped with rails. Aerial lifts can also be called man lifts, scissor lifts, and bucket trucks. These devices find application in a range of settings, from warehouses and stores where smaller lifts assist in reaching items stored on high shelves, to larger lifts capable of elevating workers 40+ feet above the ground.
Aerial lifts, often used by electrical lineman, can be a source of electrocution when the operator is unaware of an overhead power line. If the operator or person in charge of the vehicle is not aware of overhead power lines or someone attempts to move the lift while the boom is raised, contact with the energized phase (and electric shock) can occur.
How Do Aerial Lift/Boom Lift Accidents Happen?
Boom lift accidents can be very severe. Construction workers and innocent bystanders can easily suffer a significant injury, permanent disability or death when a boom lift malfunctions.
Aerial lifts can exhibit defects in various ways, including but not limited to:
- Mechanical Malfunctions: Defects in the mechanical components of an aerial lift can render it unsafe for operation. These malfunctions may include issues with the lift controls, hydraulic systems, boom extension mechanisms, or stabilization mechanisms.
- Electrical Failures: Electrical defects can pose significant hazards. Faulty wiring, malfunctioning control panels, or electrical system failures can lead to unpredictable behavior of the aerial lift, increasing the risk of accidents.
- Structural Weakness: Deficiencies in the structural integrity of an aerial lift can result in collapse or failure during operation. This can include defects in the boom arm, platform, guardrails, or other load-bearing components.
- Stability Issues: Aerial lifts must maintain stability during operation. Defects in the design or construction of the stabilization systems, such as outriggers or counterweights, can cause instability and tip-over accidents.
- Hydraulics and Pneumatics: Malfunctioning hydraulic or pneumatic systems can affect the proper functioning of the aerial lift, leading to unintended movements, jolts, or failures to extend or retract the boom.
- Brake or Control System Failure: Aerial lifts rely on brakes and control systems to ensure safe operation. Defective or improperly maintained brakes or control mechanisms can result in loss of control, sudden movements, or an inability to stop or slow down the lift when necessary.
- Manufacturing or Design Defects: Defects introduced during the manufacturing or design process can make the aerial lift inherently unsafe. These defects may include inadequate materials, substandard construction, or errors in the design that compromise the lift’s overall safety.
Types of Boom Lift Accidents
- Boom lift tip-overs
- Workers falling from platform or bucket.
- Electrocutions (contact with energized power lines)
- Collisions with vehicles or objects
- Boom Collapse
CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED PRODUCT LIABILITY LAWYER TODAY
Jonah Flynn has recovered millions for victims of defective products, all across the country. Flynn Law Firm takes pride in helping those who have suffered serious injuries due to defective products. For more information on your product liability claim, call 888-353-5995 for a free evaluation. We can determine if we can recover damages for you or a loved one.
The History of Production Liability Litigation
The concept of product liability can be traced back to ancient legal systems such as Roman law, where laws existed to hold craftsmen accountable for defective products. With the rise of mass production during the 18th and 19th centuries, product defects became more widespread. However, it was challenging for consumers to seek legal recourse due to limited legal frameworks and the difficulty of proving liability. In 1916, the New York court of appeals decided MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. which established a precedent for holding manufacturers liable for injuries caused by defective products. The court ruled that manufacturers owe a duty of care to consumers and that negligence in product design or manufacturing can result in liability.
In the mid-20th century, the concept of strict liability gained traction. This doctrine held manufacturers strictly liable for injuries caused by defective products, regardless of whether negligence could be proven. The Restatement (Second) of Torts, published in 1965, played a crucial role in shaping this legal principle.
PRODUCT LIABILITY LAWSUITS HOLD MANUFACTURERS ACCOUNTABLE AND MAKE PRODUCTS SAFER
Ford Pinto Explosion Lawsuits
Corporations, by and large, only pay attention to one thing: money. Product liability lawsuits, and the awards issued by juries in product defect cases, force product manufacturers to pay attention to the design of their product.
The most famous early product liability litigation related to the Ford Pinto. The Ford Pinto explosion lawsuits revolved around the safety issues associated with the Ford Pinto, a subcompact car produced by Ford Motor Company in the 1970s. The lawsuits primarily focused on the design flaw of the Pinto’s fuel system, which made it susceptible to fuel tank ruptures and fires in rear-end collisions.
In the late 1960s, Ford rushed the development of the Pinto to compete with other small car models entering the market. In an effort to keep costs down, Ford made design decisions that compromised safety. The Pinto’s fuel tank was located behind the rear axle, leaving it vulnerable to damage in rear-end collisions. Additionally, the fuel system lacked adequate shielding, and a faulty design in the fuel tank filler neck made it prone to breakage and leakage.
Reports began to surface regarding the danger of fuel tank explosions in the Pinto following rear impacts. One notable incident occurred in 1970 when a Pinto exploded after being struck from behind, resulting in the deaths of three teenage girls. It was discovered that the cost of implementing safety improvements would have been minimal, but Ford decided against making the changes, prioritizing cost savings over safety.
In the mid-1970s, a series of lawsuits were filed against Ford by victims of Pinto accidents and their families. The lawsuits alleged that Ford was aware of the safety issues but failed to take appropriate action. It was revealed through internal documents that Ford had conducted a cost-benefit analysis, estimating the cost of settling injury claims resulting from accidents versus the cost of implementing safety improvements. The analysis showed that it would be cheaper for Ford to pay potential lawsuits than to make the necessary safety modifications.
The lawsuits gained significant media attention, and public outrage grew as more details of Ford’s decision-making process came to light. In 1978, a landmark case, Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co., resulted in a jury awarding $125 million in damages to a teenager who suffered severe burns in a Pinto accident. The verdict was later reduced to $3.5 million by the judge. The Grimshaw case set a precedent and established the concept of punitive damages, punishing companies for prioritizing profits over safety.
The Ford Pinto explosion lawsuits played a significant role in exposing corporate negligence and highlighting the importance of automobile safety. They led to changes in product liability laws and increased government regulation to ensure the safety of vehicles. The Pinto case serves as a cautionary tale and a reminder of the ethical responsibilities of corporations in protecting consumer safety.