What to Know About Defective Product Claims

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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A defective product is a term used to describe any consumer product that is unreasonably dangerous. A defective product may involve medication, hardware, toys, furniture, and any other form of personal property.

Under product liability law, a product can be defective in its design, marketing, or manufacturing. If you are harmed by a defective product, you only need to show that the product is unreasonably dangerous to hold the manufacturer, designer, distributor, or retailer liable. This is called a “strict liability” standard. To show that the product was defective in its manufacturing, design, or marketing, you must prove that you followed the directions or were otherwise using the product in the manner it was intended; the product contained an unreasonably dangerous defect in its design, manufacturing, or it failed to properly give instructions or warn of the defect; the product had not been changed substantially from the time it was sold to the time it injured you; and that this dangerous defect was the direct cause of your injuries.

Defenses to Product Liability Lawsuits

Even if a defective product is dangerous, there are defenses to a product liability lawsuit. If you know about the defect and decide to use the defective product anyway, you will probably not be able to hold the manufacturer, designer, distributor, or retailer of the product liable for your injuries.

Further, it is important to remember that you must be able to show that the product is unreasonably dangerous. This means that the possibility of injury while using the product does not necessarily make the product unreasonably dangerous. A designer or manufacturer does not have a duty to make an accident-proof product, nor is a designer or manufacturer bound by law to use the absolute safest or most modern method in designing or manufacturing the product. They are only bound by law to prevent the product from being or becoming unreasonably dangerous.

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Types of Defective Product Issues

A marketing defect is also known as a failure to warn, or a failure to give proper instructions. This is called a “marketing defect” because often these improper instructions or warnings are found on the label of the product. A marketing defect is found when the product is dangerous in a way that is not obvious to the user, and the label or instructions fails to warn them of this fact. A product may also have a marketing defect when it requires special care or precautions in its use, and the label does not give the consumer notice of this.

A design defect occurs when the entire product line was created dangerously. While the designer of the defective product may not have realized that the product was designed dangerously, they are responsible for any product they create that is unreasonably dangerous. A product is “unreasonably dangerous” when it contains an unexpected defect or danger in its intended use. This means that if you are injured after you use a product in a way that is contrary to the intended use of the product, then you will have a harder time showing that the product was unreasonably dangerous. A design defect may also be shown by a risk-utility balance test. That is, if the risks of using the product outweigh the utility of the product, then there is a design defect.

A manufacturing defect occurs when a defective product that is designed properly is assembled or manufactured abnormally. Unlike a design defect, this type of defect is not the norm for this product; it is an exception to the rule. However, the manufacturer or seller of this defective product can still be held strictly liable for this mistake.

Suppose you bought a gallon of bleach at the supermarket, and as you were taking it to your car, the bottom of the gallon burst open and the bleach spilled out all over you, burning your skin. Suppose also that you have been buying this type of bleach for years, and this has never happened to you before. Chances are this is a manufacturing defect. This particular bleach container was perhaps made too thin, or it was somehow punctured or weakened during its transport to the supermarket. Because it is often impossible to determine the direct source of the defect, or how it actually happened, several parties may be held strictly liable for the defective product. This means that the manufacturer, the seller, and the transporter may all be responsible for your injuries.

Filing a Product Liability Lawsuit

If you have been injured by a defective product, it is important to preserve the evidence (the defective product itself), and contact an attorney right away. Product liability lawsuits can often become complex. There are usually several parties involved, as it is often impossible to impute liability to any one party. An experienced attorney will be able to help you navigate through the product liability suit, preserve all of your claims, and identify all potential parties to the action.

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