Q: What is Product Liability?
A: Product liability refers to the liability of any or all parties the chain of manufacture of any product for damage caused by that product. This includes the manufacturer of components parts (at the top of the chain), an assembling manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retail store owner (at the bottom of the chain). Products containing inherent defects that cause harm to a consumer of the product, or someone to whom the product was loaned, given, etc., are the subjects of products liability suits. While products are generally thought of as tangible personal property, products liability has stretched that definition to include intangibles (gas), naturals (pets), real estate (house), and writings (navigational charts).
Products liability claims can be based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness depending on the jurisdiction within which claim is based. Many states have enacted comprehensive product liability statutes. These statutory provisions can be very diverse such that the United States Department of Commerce has promulgated a Model Uniform Products Liability Act (MUPLA) for voluntary use by the states. There is no federal products liability law.
In any jurisdiction one must prove that the product is defective. There are three types of product defects that incur liability in manufacturers and suppliers: design defects, manufacturing defects, and defects in marketing. Design defects are inherent; they exist before the product is manufactured. While the item might serve its purpose well, it can be unreasonably dangerous to use due to a design flaw. On the other hand, manufacturing defects occur during the construction of production of the item. Only a few out of many products of the same type are flawed in this case. Defects in marketing deal with improper instructions and failures to warn consumers of latent dangers in the product.
Products Liability is generally considered a strict liability offense. Strict liability wrongs do not depend on the degree of carefulness by the defendant. Translated to products liability terms, a defendant is liable when it is show that the product is defective. It is irrelevant whether the manufacturer or supplier exercised great care; if there is a defect in the product that causes harm, he or she will be liable for it.
The law of products liability is found mainly in common law (state judge-made-law) and in the Uniform Commercial Code. Article 2 of the UCC deals with the sales of goods and it has been adopted by most states. In it, the most important products liability sections are the implied and express warranties of merchantability in the sales of goods && 2-314 and 2-315. Products liability is derived mainly from Torts law.
When someone has been injured by a commercial product, it is easier to look at the condition of the product as it was sold to determine what is wrong with it than to try to reconstruct where, in the design, manufacture or labeling of that product, the manufacturer acted negligently. This shift in focus from the reasonableness of the manufacturer’s actions to the condition of the product itself is known as products liability. In New Jersey, a product is defective if it is not fit, suitable or safe for its intended or foreseeable purpose. Ordinarily, an expert is needed to compare the product to industry standards and alternative available designs in order to help a jury to determine whether the product is defective.
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Q: What are some examples of Product Liability Cases?
A: They can be:
Automotive related defects – Such as, defective air bags, seatbelts, car doors, poorly designed seat and head restraints, those that cause vehicle rollovers which can result in paraplegia, quadriplegia or spinal cord injuries.
Defective Tires – Poor materials or manufacturing processed that result in tire blowouts or tire recalls that cause or result in paraplegia, quadriplegia or spinal cord injuries.
Unsafe child equipment – These include defective baby car seats, swings, cribs and playpens, lead based toys, etc.
Defective Mechanical Equipment – Conveyor belts, elevators, boilers, forklifts, bulldozers, valves, and other defective machine and equipment that does not function properly.
Defective safety equipment – Unsafe filtration systems that can cause asbestos, silicosis, welding rod accidents, and other life-threatening health hazards.
Defective Tools – Such as, saws, sanders and lathes that do not function properly. Or any commercial tool that is defective and causes bodily harm or serious injuries to the operator or user.
Drugs or Pharmaceutical products – Such as Ace Inhibitors, and other pharmaceutical drug products which cause harm, serious injuries or death to the persons using them.
Food Products – Chemically or biologically tainted, food products which causes harm and or death to the persons that ingest them.
Recreational Vehicles – Such as defective watercraft (jet skis), ATV’s, snowmobiles, motorcycles etc. which cause harm, serious injuries and or death to their users.