When manufacturers bring their products to market, there’s an expectation that due care has been taken to ensure that the item is free of defects and safe to use. However, in some cases, devices, compounds and systems are insufficiently tested and injuries to the public result. Product liability is an area of the law that deals with problems of harm done by products in the marketplace.
Understanding Product Liability Lawsuits
Product liability laws involve hazards to the public caused by negligent or harmful actions caused by manufacturers and producers of items we purchase every day. There are no federal product liability laws. The lawsuits are based on state laws that deal with strict liability, negligence or breach of warranty. State commercial statutes may also apply in product liability cases. Liability for an injury caused by a product does not just apply to the manufacturer of the product. Anyone in the chain of distribution of the product can be held liable, such as the manufacturer of component parts of the product, the company that installs or assembles the product, as well as retail outlets that sell the product. This broad standard of liability extends to anyone who is involved in producing the product in the normal course of business.
Types of Defects
The law recognizes three basic types of defects that may be involved in a liability case:
• Design defects – This condition occurs when problems are apparent in the initial design of a product that should have been changed in the initial steps of creating it.
• Manufacturing defects – This condition occurs during the manufacturing or assembly process.
• Marketing defects – Improper labeling, inadequate instructions or insufficient safety warnings may have caused an injury or death.
Determining Responsibility for the Injury
Although the manufacturer is generally required to defend itself against a liability claim, attorneys can also turn responsibility onto the plaintiff in the case. They may claim that the product was misused, damaged during use or was not properly operated. A legal doctrine known as “res ipsa loquitur” is invoked in these cases, which means “the thing speaks for itself,” meaning that the product would not have caused an injury except for the actions of the user. In this case, the plaintiff is required to defend his or her actions in the product incident.
Breach of Warranty
Warranty is a term used to denote promises made by the manufacturer when bringing the product to market for the consumer. A warranty is either “express” or “implied.” Express warranties include wording used in marketing, packaging or instructional materials included with the product. Implied warranty is used to denote the reasonable expectations of an individual purchasing the product. For example, an electric knife for carving turkey implies safe use in a kitchen or on a common dinner table. If the knife were to be so erratic as to easily cut through a counter or tabletop when in use, it would be in violation of the consumer’s reasonable expectations. Breach of warranty covers issues of fitness for common use.
Negligence on the part of a manufacturer can include failure of action in design, composition of materials, the manufacturing process, in the testing of a product or in the communications regarding its safe use. Any aspect that affects the product’s safe use can be considered as negligence on the part of the manufacturer.
Requirements For A Product Liability Lawsuit
In order to file a successful product liability, the injured party should take a number of specific actions that will be important to the case:
• Stop using the product immediately, but save the product or any pieces.
• Consult a physician about injuries and inform him or her about the product’s role in the incident.
• Retain all packing, manuals and other materials supplied with the product.
• Gather witnesses to the incident.
• Research your state’s statute of limitations on product liability cases and other requirements.
• Consult with an attorney experienced in product liability law.
Product Liability Legislation in Arizona
Recent changes in Arizona law require that cases of product liability involving negligence and strict liability be brought within two years of the when the consumer is injured or learns of an injury caused by a product. When breach of warranty is involved, which involves contract law, the consumer must file within six years of the injury or of learning the cause of the injury.
Settlement of Your Case
Product liability cases can vary widely in how long before settlement occurs. Some cases involve simple strict liability and may settle in as little as two to three months. Others may involve study by expert witnesses and analysis of exchanged documents that take up to two or three years. Amounts of settlement also vary depending on the severity of injury. Limits on personal injury settlements are forbidden by the Arizona state constitution. However, fault in misuse of a product can reduce the amount of a product liability settlement in Arizona.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury from a defective product, contact an experienced product liability attorney in Mesa, Arizona for information on your legal rights.
Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.