If you make, sell, or even purchase products, you should know a thing or two about product liability. Product liability laws hold parties who make or sell any product responsible for injuries caused by the product. If you’ve been injured by a product and make a product liability claim, you might want to know what you will have to prove to make that claim. If you’re a manufacturer, you might want to know what claims can be made against you, so you can protect yourself and your business.
There is no federal product liability law, so legal procedures vary by jurisdiction. In Colorado, product liability actions are based on either negligence or strict liability. This means that the burden of proof typically lies with the plaintiff.
For a claim of negligence, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s duty, breach of duty, and cause of injury. For a claim of strict liability, the plaintiff only needs to prove that the product was defective, not that the manufacturer was negligent. With strict liability, the defendant is liable for injuries caused by the product regardless of intent or the care taken in manufacturing. A plaintiff can make claims for three types of injury-causing defects: design, manufacturing, and marketing.
A design defect means that from inception, a product is unduly and inherently dangerous. This is a problem with the specifications themselves, not with whether manufacturing met the specifications. This would apply to every product on the shelf, rather than a single defective product. If every lid at the coffee shop doesn’t fit your cup, and you scald your hand, that is a design defect.
Most product liability claims are based on manufacturing defects. A manufacturing defect occurs when errors are made in the making of the product. The product does not conform to the design, and it does not perform as intended by the design. In this case, the defective product is different from every other product on the shelf. If a wheel comes off of your new car because someone failed to attach it properly in the factory, that’s a manufacturing defect.
These defects usually mean that the seller or manufacturer failed to properly warn the customer of the hazards of the product on the packaging, in the instructions, or in other marketing materials. For example, drain cleaner is an inherently dangerous product. If the maker of a drain cleaner failed to include a warning label, and if you use it incorrectly and get injured as a result, the manufacturer would be liable for the marketing defect.
Whether you’ve been injured by a product and would like to make a claim, or you need defense from a claim, you’ll need a expert product liability lawyer on your side. Contact Bachus & Schanker today for a free case evaluation.