What is the basis for product liability?
While laws applicable to defective products vary from state to state, there are three legal theories common to all jurisdictions which may form the basis of a successful product liability case:
(1) Manufacturing defect. In such cases the injury was caused as a result of defect in the manufacture of the product. An example would be a bicycle which was built with a small crack in the frame, which breaks when used, causing an injury to the rider.
(2) Design defect. In these cases the injury was caused by a poor design (even though there may be no defect in the individual product itself). A common example would be a piece of industrial machinery which was built without a proper safety or protection devices, and as a result a worker is injured while using the machine.
(3) Failure to warn or inadequate warning. This refers to injuries caused as a result of a product known to be potentially dangerous which was sold without a proper warning to the consumer. An example would be an over-the-counter drug sold lacking a warning on the hazards of use with certain other drugs, excessive consumption, or possible side effects from its use.
What is meant by the term ‘defective product’?
A “defective product” is one that causes some injury or damage to person as a result of some flaw or weakness in the product, its labeling, or the way the product was used. The manufacturer of the product that caused the injury, as well as those involved in the chain of commerce, are often liable for injuries caused by defective products.
Who might be responsible for a defective product that causes injury?
A repairer, seller or manufacturer of defective goods is liable for injuries sustained by the persons using them. Liability may also extend to persons who did not purchase the product, but were using the product in a “foreseeable” manner when the injury occurred. Also, people injured as a result of someone else using a defective product may be able to recover if their injuries were caused by the product’s defect.
Everyone between the manufacturer and retailer, who are considered to be in the “chain of commerce,” such as wholesalers or distributors, may be liable even though they did not “cause” the defect.
What is “strict liability”?
Strict liability is a tort law concept that imposes liability for harm suffered without requiring proof of negligence. It is commonly used in product liability law. State statutes also may impose strict liability in other contexts, such as conditions or activities that are abnormally dangerous. Transporting explosives might be an example of such an activity for which strict liability is imposed. A few states have passed special statutes that impose strict liability for harm caused by domestic animals with no known dangerous propensities.
Products liability claims can be based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness depending on the jurisdiction within which the claim is based. In a strict liability theory of liability, the degree of care exercised by the manufacturer is irrelevant. As long as the product is proven to be defective, the manufacturer will be held liable for the harm resulting from the defect.