If someone is seriously injured or killed by a dangerous or defective product, there may be a viable action for product liability.
Broadly stated, a products liability claim is any legal claim which alleges that the victim was killed, injured, or otherwise suffered damages due to a product her or she purchased and used. Although every case is unique, generally speaking there are three types of products liability claims: defective manufacture, defective design, and failure to provide adequate warnings (or, in some cases, instructions). Regardless of the type of products liability claim, the victim must demonstrate that the product was defective, that she suffered injury or damage, and that this defect caused her injuries or damages.
This type of product liability action is well ingrained in the public consciousness. A claim for defective manufacture arises when there is some error or problem when the product is being made, leading to a flaw in a single product or a batch or batches of the product. But whatever the details, the product which injured the plaintiff is different from the products that are usually on the shelf.
Examples of defective manufacture include:
- stroller with a crack in the frame, leading to collapse with a child inside
- batch of pain killers (such as ibuprofen) tainted with a hazardous chemical
- car or truck with missing brake pads
- Plane crash due to negligently installed wing
In each case, not every customer who purchased the product or brand suffered any injury – only the customer who purchased the specific item with the defect.
The second type of products liability claim, a claim of defective design, is also well-recognized. In a defective design case, it is not one specific item which is defective, but the entire inventory. This is because defective design claims center on the design, composition, or plan for the product, which is then used to manufacture each one. In these claims, there is no problem in the manufacturing process – the product which caused the injury is made exactly as the manufacturer intends. Yet the product is still dangerous: something in the product is inherently dangerous.
Examples of defective design include:
- model of vehicle which tends to roll over on sharp corners
- brand of sunscreen that does not actually block UV rays
- line of blenders that can electrocute the user when placed on a particular setting
The final broad category of product liability claims comes into play when a product is dangerous, usually in a way that is not immediately obvious, and the manufacturer fails to warn the customer about that danger. This can also be true if the danger can easily be avoided by taking a simple precaution, or using the product only in specified ways, and the manufacturer fails to provide this information to the customer.
Situations involving defective manufacture include:
- electric tea kettle with a steam vent in an unusual location, with no warning on the package
- Pharmaceutical drug with no warning label stating that it can be dangerous if taken in combination with certain allergy medications
- cleaning product packaged without a warning that it can produce dangerous fumes if used in an enclosed space and not immediately rinsed
Any product could potentially give rise to any of these three types of claims. Take, for example, an outdoor playset. If the playset is designed so that children on the swings can swing backward and hit their head on the platform above and suffer a brain injury, a child injured in such an accident could have a defective design claim.
If, however, a particular playset was built using a rotted piece of wood on the platform, and that wood gives way under a child, causing him to fall and break his leg, then that child could have a defective manufacture claim.
Finally, if the playset comes with two slides, each with the same connector at the top, but if they are connected in the wrong places a child using the slide exits directly in the path of the swings, and the manufacturer provides no warning or instructions as to which slide goes where, then an injured child could have a claim for inadequate warnings (note that this could also give rise to a defective design claim).
Passen & Powell represents individuals and families in product liability actions in a variety of contexts, and with record results. For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago products liability lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.