Product Liability Overview

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Product liability is the branch of law that governs the liability of any or all parties that have to do with the manufacturing of any product for damage that has been caused by that product. Damages caused by defective products can include damage to personal property, public property, injury and sometimes even death. Product liability can be placed upon the manufacturer of the product, the marketer of the product, the wholesaler of the product and the retailer of the product. Product liability not only includes tangible products but also pets, writings, gas and housing. Cases involving product liability can include negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability. There are no federal acts that define product liability law but each state has formed their own product liability statutes to govern product liability. The United States Department of Commerce has developed the Model Uniform Products Liability Act, which can be used on a voluntary basis by the states of the country. In any jurisdiction of the law, a person filing a product liability lawsuit must prove that the product is defective. The three areas of product liability that a lawsuit must prove are defects in manufacturing, defects in marketing, or defects in design. A defendant in a product liability case is going to be held liable no matter what if it is found that their product is defective. It doesn’t matter how much care the defendant exercised. If the product is defective, the defendant is liable.

Products liability law falls under common law and is found in the Uniform Commercial Code and it has been adopted by almost all 50 states. The majority of product liability lawsuits are based on strict liability and not negligence for the most part. It does not matter if a manufacturer acted negligently to be held liable for a defective product. Lawsuits involving product liability can help consumers acquire compensation for lost wages, injuries incurred, medical bills from injuries, emotional distress and much more. A product liability lawsuit includes:

  • a duty owed
  • a breach of that duty
  • an injury
  • that the breach proximately caused the plaintiff's injury

Do product recalls help to diminish the number of product liability cases each year? The answer to that question can be yes and it can be no. There will always be products sold on the market that will have some type of defect causing injury or even death to the consumer but safety recalls do help warn the consumer. Safety recalls occur approximately 200-300 times per year according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. The majority of these recalls involve children’s toys and products but the recalls also include automobiles, tires, furniture, household appliances, tools, smoke detectors and fire alarms. Injuries incurred from defective products are spinal cord injuries, brain damage, paralysis, blindness, scarring, pain, suffering and sometimes even death. Product liability cases can be fought in the court system against manufacturers, marketers, or designers. Sometimes lawsuits can even be filed against all three parties.