Determining Fault When You Are Injured by a Consumer Product
When someone buys a new microwave oven or washing machine, they do not normally worry about the safety of the product – they just assume the item is safe and will work as advertised if operated in accordance with the instruction manual. In fact, there is a federal agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which exists for the purpose of enforcing consumer safety product laws so the average person does not have to fear serious injury or death because he/she turns on the toaster oven. Unfortunately, there are instances of consumers being injured by products that manufacturers and sellers claimed to be safe, and as a result, they are commonly forced to file a product liability lawsuit to recover compensation for their pain and suffering. There are a number of entities that may be held liable in this situation – the manufacturer, distributor, retailer or other parties in the chain of commerce. In addition, there are several different bases an injured party can present in court as to why these parties in the chain of commerce should be responsible for his/her injuries – manufacturing defects, design defects or failure to warn. Product liability cases are highly complex and detailed, but are essential to ensuring dangerous products are kept off the market.
Product Defect Claims
As mentioned above, there are three general bases for bringing a product liability case – manufacturing defects, design defects or failure to warn. A manufacturing defect occurs when there is an error during assembly. This type of defect is relatively rare, and the plaintiff would need to show the product left the factory with the defect in order for the manufacturer to be liable for injury.
Design defects refer to a flaw in the design of the product itself that makes it unreasonably dangerous for potential users and would appear every time the product was assembled. The Florida Supreme Court recently weighed in on this area of law when it determined that the proper test for ascertaining whether a product was designed defectively is one built around the consumers’ expectations. Under this test, a defendant will be liable if the product failed to perform as an average consumer would expect when used as intended and/or reasonably foreseen.
The last type of claim is for a failure for to warn. This comes up if a proper warning or instruction could have prevented injury or if an instruction that was included created unreasonable risk of injury.
Types of Product Liability Cases
Florida law has three main legal theories used in product liability cases to establish fault – negligence, strict liability or breach of warranty. Negligence is the most difficult basis to prove a party in the chain of product development and/or placement is responsible for damages sustained by a consumer. The injured party must show the manufacturer had a duty to provide a safe product, and through its recklessness in the design or manufacture of the product, he/she was injured. Further, the manufacturer must have known or should have known about the defect and failed to fix the problem.
Strict liability is the standard theory used in these cases, and all that an injured party needs to prove is the product was defective, and he/she was injured as a result. Only products bought in the normal chain of distribution are subject to this legal theory, so secondhand purchases are excluded.
Finally, there is breach of a warranty. Each product comes with two warranties – one express and one implied. The express warranty relates to any representations about the product or its safety by the retailer or manufacturer. The implied warranty is the product will operate safely if used as intended.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Being the victim of any accident that results in injury can be life changing and victims should speak with an lawyer to see if there someone who can be held responsible for what happened and pay for what you lost. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber Del Prado has lawyers with extensive trial experience in personal injury cases, including product liability claims. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.