Getting Compensation When Consumer Products Misbehave
Christmas has become the season for gifting friends and relatives a wide array of digital and electronic devices that mark the technological age in which we live. These devices offer users convenience and connectivity that make navigating the world an easier endeavor. When these products work as advertised, the benefits are numerous, but not all products sold on the consumer market work so well or reliably, with some malfunctioning so severely that injury and even death have occurred. Consumers harmed by a poorly designed or defective product may have grounds to file a product liability lawsuit and collect compensation. Manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure their products are safe for reasonable use by consumers, and failure to do so can expose them to legal liability if someone is injured. Consumers typically learn of issues with product safety when recalls are issued by the company or ordered by the federal government via the authority of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. A recent recall of fire extinguishers, a product with a relatively simple design and function, shows that even long-standing designs and technology are susceptible to safety issues if the manufacturer does not employ adequate oversight. A discussion of the bases of product liability claims, and some defenses companies use to escape responsibility for an injury, will follow below.
Grounds for a Lawsuit and Who Is Potentially Liable
Product liability cases are based on one of the following defects:
- by design;
- by manufacture; or
- by improper marketing.
A design defect means every unit produced will have the defect because the problem lies with an inherent flaw in the device design. Manufacturing defects occur during assembly or manufacture, and are usually limited to a select group of products that were put together incorrectly. Finally, marketing defects arise out of improper marketing of a product through insufficient labels, instructions or safety warnings. State law governs these cases, and they are typically pursued under negligence (actions of the manufacturer, seller and/or distributer) and strict liability (unreasonably dangerous, i.e., nature of the product) claims.
If a defective product is released into the marketplace, anyone along the chain of distribution may potentially be liable, including:
- the manufacturer;
- a manufacturer of component parts;
- an assembler or installer;
- the wholesaler; and
- the retail store that sold the product to the consumer.
Note that some products are inherently unsafe and cannot be altered without destroying the product’s usefulness. Knives are a prime example. However, manufacturers do have a duty to include sufficient warnings about the danger, and if such warnings are lacking, the manufacturer may be responsible for an injury.
Defendants in product liability cases commonly assert two defenses to avoid liability for a consumer’s injury: the consumer modified the product after it left the defendant’s control, or the consumer misused the product in an unforeseeable manner. Further, in cases involving claims of a defective design, which is evaluated by whether the product performed as safely as a reasonable consumer would expect, the court can only consider the state of technical knowledge at the time the product was made. Thus, if later advancements or research showed a defect in the product the manufacturer did not know about when the product was made, injuries that occurred after this new information is discovered are still evaluated by what the manufacturer originally knew.
Get Legal Advice
Consumers should be able to trust in the safety of the products they buy in stores. If you suffered an injury from a defective product, contact the Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado to learn if you may be entitled to compensation. We are experienced injury attorneys who will fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact the office for a free consultation.