What Is Product Liability? Who Is Responsible for Defective Consumer Products?
The simple definition for “product liability” means that a manufacturer or trader is held responsible when selling a faulty product. An example is a used car salesman who sells a consumer a ‘lemon car.’ The term ‘lemon car’ is American English slang for a vehicle that looks good on the outside, but actually has manufacturing defects or hidden damages that undercut its utility, value, or safety.
There are so many potential ‘lemon’ products out there that the law has a phrase for them as well. Namely, a ‘lemon law’ refers to statutes adopted in various states that make it easier for a car-buyer “to sue for damages or replacement if the dealer or manufacturer cannot make the car run properly.”
Lemon laws may apply to other consumer products in addition to cars. When a lawsuit is allowed, it’s often a product liability lawyer’s task to investigate and help identify the responsible party. So who might be responsible for product liability?
While they can often overlap, there are three main areas of product liability/responsibility:
The designer of a product may be responsible if there’s a design flaw that makes the item unsafe when assembled just as they specified.
For example, if a cabinet of drawers has a base so small that you cannot open the top drawer without it overbalancing and falling over, it may not be the manufacturer’s fault. If the designer and manufacturer are separate entities, bad schematics are likely the designer’s error, rather than an assembly issue.
If the design is good but there’s an issue with the making of a product, the manufacturer may be held liable.
This may happen if the machines that make a product are flawed, such as a stamp that cracks or weakens a product. Another example is if an isolated batch is made incorrectly, causing dangerous contamination. Similarly, food products made with spoiled ingredients could lead to poisoning or injury.
A distributor is responsible for properly selling a product. Sellers have an obligation to honestly inform consumers of an item’s limitations, and to resist overpromising via advertising.
For example, promoting an ‘indestructible’ helmet that cracks on impact could lead to serious consumer injury. In this scenario, it may not be the designer or the manufacturer who is responsible for misinforming the customer, but instead the distributor/seller/marketer if they acted independently, and are not associated with the production company.
You may be aware that the product you purchased is defective, but who exactly is responsible for the failure may not be clear. Fortunately, strict product liability law may apply, which lowers the standard of proof for a consumer to a level playing field.
What Is Strict Product Liability?
In strict product liability cases, instead of proving negligence, a consumer and their lawyer need only prove that:
The product was unsafe or dangerous by design, manufacture, or distribution
The good was intended to meet the customer without alteration between design/manufacture and sale
The product caused injury
In negligence cases, intention matters, but under strict product liability law, it may not. The product liability lawyers at Osborne & Francis are equipped to investigate defective consumer products on your behalf, and can help gather the evidence required for full consideration of your rights under the law.
Are Defective Medical Devices Consumer Products?
The office of Osborne & Francis has extensive experience in representing patients injured by defective medical devices such as knee replacement implants, hip replacements, and vena cava (heart vein) implants. These devices are not classified as consumer products because a person cannot buy and implant such a device without a doctor or surgeon.
However, there are consumer medical devices on the market, and they can be dangerous if they are defective, or sold without proper warning and instruction. This includes microneedling kits, home testing supplies for diabetes, and electronic stimulators that could lead to injuries like scarring, infections, or burns.
We at Osborne & Francis are passionate in our advocacy for consumers who have been let down or lied to regarding both consumer products and defective medical devices. If you have questions about a harmful item that has impacted you, call us at (561) 293-2600 for a free consultation regarding your rights.
What Does a Settlement or Damages Award Mean for Consumers?
If you were sold a defective or dangerous consumer good that caused you injury, a successful verdict or settlement could mean:
- A refund for the defective item you were sold.
- Financial support for medical bills due to hospitalization, doctor’s visits, physical therapy, or medication necessary after a defective product injury.
- Payment for lost wages or employment opportunities if your injury interrupted your work or career.
- Monetary acknowledgement for pain and suffering due to the damage and stress caused by a defective consumer product.
- Wrongful death damage awards if the defective product caused or contributed to a loved one’s death.
- Industry improvements such as a product recall, a change in design safety or manufacturing quality, or life-saving warnings on products.
Industry improvements such as a product recall, a change in design safety or manufacturing quality, or life-saving warnings on products.
Seeking legal amends for your situation could help change industry standards, and make the world safer for those around you. Call Osborne & Francis at (561) 293-2600 for dedicated representation.