When you buy something from the aisles of your local store, you have the presumption that they are safe. But that is not always the case. In fact, thousands of injuries and deaths result from defective products every year. When something goes wrong with a product, who is at fault? Product liability law is the specific legal area that deals with dangerous or defective products purchased by unwitting consumers. It is different from other areas of law and in how those who are injured are compensated.
Product Liability Laws
In legal terms, product liability is when you hold a seller or manufacturer liable for a defective product and distributing it to consumers. If a product harms or injures a consumer, then it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to pay for the injuries, but there is a chain of responsibility that lies with the seller. The law requires that any product that is distributed and sold to the consumer has the expectation that the average user will not be harmed. If the product causes injury to a consumer, then an argument can be made that the consumer’s expectation of not being harmed was not met.
Currently, product liability is a state’s right issue. There are no legal standards at the federal level. There are theories that states use to guide their product liability specifications, and they are either a breach of warranty, negligence, or strict liability. Each state has their own version of the Uniform Commercial Code which dictates their statues.
Who are the responsible parties?
If someone wants to initiate a product liability case, then the product in question has to have been in the marketplace for consumers to purchase. It is an unwritten “contract” legally termed “privity of contract” that exists between the injured person and the supplier who sold it to the consumer.
For most states the requirement may no longer exist, and the individual who initiates the product liability suit does not have to be the original purchaser of the product to receive compensation for damages. If someone could have foreseeably been injured by a defective product, then whoever is injured has the right to sue for their damages if the product was sold to anyone, first-, second- or twentieth-hand.
For a product liability case to be initiated, the defect can lie at any point of distribution of the product including:
- The manufacturer of the parts of the product
- The party who is responsible for installing the product
- Any wholesaler responsible for distribution
- Any retail store that sold the product
- The product manufacturer directly
For any person to use the strict liability clause for a product liability case, the sale must have been made in the supplier’s course of business. If someone sells the product via a different route like a garage sale, then they will most likely not be held liable for product liability.
Who is responsible for product liability issues?
There is a doctrine in product liability law called “res ipsa loquitur.” It means that the burden of product liability cases lies with the defendant. Translated into English, it means “The thing speaks for itself,” which means that a defect does not exist unless someone who uses the product is negligent in doing so. In a court of law, the responsibility is not on the product manufacturer to prove that a defect of the product was not the cause of the injury, but rather the plaintiff has to prove that it was a defect that caused their injury.
Product liability follows the justice system in America: innocent until proven guilty. If you are injured by a product defect, it is important to have a professional on your side to plead your case. When it comes to product liability cases, the law of strict liability is typically the precursor. That means that the plaintiff does not have to plead that the manufacturer was negligent in any way, but merely that the product was defective.
When you are hurt by something you bought, then there is a good likelihood that someone along the chain of supply is responsible. Hiring a defective products lawyer is the best way to determine who is responsible for your damages and injuries.
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