As Louisville Kentucky Product Liability Lawyers, we recognize that defective or dangerous products are a common cause of thousands of injuries every year in the United States. Product liability laws are legal rules concerning the responsible party for defective or dangerous products. It is different from ordinary injury law, and these sets of rules sometimes makes it easier for an injured person to recover damages.
Product liability refers to a manufacturer or product seller held liable for putting a defective product into the supply chain for a consumer. Responsibility for a defective product that causes injury is placed with all sellers of the product who are in the distribution chain. In general terms, law requires a product meet the ordinary expectations of the consumer. If a product has an unexpected defect or danger, naturally a product cannot be said to meet the ordinary expectations of a consumer.
There is no federal product liability law, therefore product liability claims are often based on state laws. These laws are brought under the theories of negligence, strict liability, or even breach of warranty. In addition, a set of commercial statutes in each state, modeled upon the Uniform Commercial Code, will contain warranty rules affecting product liability.
Common Defenses to Product Liability Claims
In a product liability case, the defense will often argue that the plaintiff has not sufficiently identified the supplier of the product that allegedly caused the injury. It is true that plaintiff must be able to connect the product with the party responsible for manufacturing or supplying it. One exception to this rule, known as the “market share liability” exception, applied in cases involving defective medications. Where a plaintiff often cannot identify which of the pharmaceutical companies that supply a respective drug supplied the drug consumed, each manufacturer will be held liable according to its percentage of sales in the area where the injury occurred.
Another defense a manufacturer might raise is that the plaintiff substantially altered the product after it left the manufacturer’s control, and this alteration caused the plaintiff’s injury. A related defense is that the plaintiff misused the product in an unforeseeable way, and that his/her misuse of the product cause the injuries alleged.
In order for product liability to arise, at some point a product must have been sold through marketplace. In the past, a contractual relationship, known as “privity of contract,” had to exist between the person injured by a product and the supplier of the product in order for the injured person to recover. In many states today, though, that requirement no longer exists. Often the injured person does not have to be the purchaser of the product in order to recover. Any person who foreseeably could have been injured by a defective product can recover for his or her injuries, as long as the product was sold to someone.
Liability for a product defect could rest with any party in the product’s chain of distribution, such as:
- Product manufacturer;
- Party that assembles or installs the product;
- Manufacturer of component parts;
- Wholesaler; and
- Retail store selling product to consumer.
In order for strict liability to apply, sale of a product must be made in regular course of the supplier’s business. Thus, someone who sells a product at a garage sale would probably not be liable in a product liability action.
The doctrine known as “res ipsa loquitur” shifts the burden of proof in some product liability cases to the defendant(s). Translated, this Latin phrase means “the thing speaks for itself.” It indicates that the defect would not exist unless someone was negligent. If the doctrine is successfully invoked, the plaintiff is no longer required to prove how the defendant was negligent; rather, the defendant is required to prove that it was not negligent.
The second rule that helps plaintiffs in product liability cases is that of strict liability. If strict liability is applicable, the plaintiff does not need to prove that a manufacturer was negligent, but only that the product was defective. By removing the issue of manufacturer fault, the concept of no-fault, or “strict” liability allows plaintiffs to recover where they otherwise might not.
Types of Product Defects
Under any theory of liability, a plaintiff in a product liability case must prove that the product that caused injury was defective, and that the defect made the product unreasonably dangerous. There are three types of defects that might cause injury and give rise to manufacturer or supplier liability:
- Manufacturing Defects – occurs in the course of a product’s manufacture or assembly.
- Design Defects – Present in a product from the beginning, even before it is manufactured, in that something in the design of the product is inherently unsafe.
- Marketing Defects – Flaws in the way a product is marketed, such as incorrect labeling, improper instructions, or incomplete safety warnings.
Unavoidably Unsafe Products
By nature, some products cannot be made safer without losing their usefulness. Take as an example, an electric knife. Imagine if that were too dull to injure anyone, it would also be useless for its intended purpose. It is generally believed that, as to such products, users and consumers are the best equipped to minimize risk.
The Shelton Law Group practices Kentucky Product Liability Law. We will finance your legal battle. You only pay if you win. That’s because we work on a contingency fee basis. We believe this is the fairest approach. Why should you pay for something that doesn’t benefit you? We believe your needs should come first. Put your trust in a Louisville, Kentucky personal injury lawyer who puts people in Kentucky first. Contact the Shelton Law Group today. Call 1-888-761-7204 and schedule a free consultation. We offer all potential clients free time to meet with us. We realize you probably have a lot of important questions that just can’t wait. Meeting with us also provides you with the opportunity to decide if we’re the right law firm you. Give your case the attention it deserves. Contact us today. The Shelton Law Group – we take your case personally.