411: Defective Products

Our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg most frequently represent those who have been injured due to the negligence of another in an accident such as a a car crash, boat crash, slip-and-fall, etc. However, an important area of tort law is that of products liability, which governs how, when, and to what degree companies can be held liable for injuries caused by the products they release into the marketplace.

The first thing to know is that if you’ve been injured due to a defective retail product, you generally (with some important exceptions) have a claim against each entity which was involved in the sale of the product (usually the original manufacturer, the wholesale distributor, and/or the retailer). Next, it’s important to note that there are three (3) types of product defects which can give an injured plaintiff a cause of action against a company who made and/or sold the product.

  1. Manufacturing Defect (where the manufacturing process deviated from the intended design);
  2. Design Defect (where the product was designed in a way that does not make it as safe as it reasonably could have been); and
  3. Warning or Marketing Defect (where the product fails to have an adequate warning label alerting the consumer to non-obvious risks).

Here are some examples of each of the above:

  1. An example of a manufacturing defect might be a poorly-secured latch on a ladder which was supposed to be attached with superglue but which was, because of a problem with the glue dispenser at the factory, attached by a much-less secure glue. If you are using the ladder and it breaks (causing injury to you) because of the poorly-secured latch, which would not have broken if superglue had been used, you might very well have a manufacturing defect case against the manufacturer (and wholesale distributor and retailer) of the ladder.
  2. An example of a design defect, would be the latter from above having been designed to use very weak glue instead of stronger glue such as superglue. If the latch broke, the ladder fell and the plaintiff was injured as a result, the plaintiff could bring a claim of design defect assuming that there was a reasonable alternative design available (i.e., using superglue instead of weak, watered-down glue).
  3. An example of a warning or manufacturing defect would be where a ladder, for instance, had sharp spikes which shot out of the bottom of the ladder when the sides of the ladder were pulled apart. Presumably, the spikes would help the ladder stick into the ground but were in no way obvious to the consumer. Because the risk was non-obvious, a ladder without a conspicuous warning that, upon being opened, sharp spikes would be thrust downward from the ladder, might very well be defective in warning. If someone is injured by those spikes, absent a sufficient warning, they might have a claim for defective warning.
  4. (Note: not all things which can cause injury require warning. For example, a sharp kitchen knife is not required to contain a warning on the handle or blade which warns consumers of the risk of being cut by the sharp edge of the blade; that is an obvious risk.)

With standard negligence, as our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers know, a plaintiff must prove four things: 1) that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, 2) that the defendant breached that duty, 3) that the breach was the proximate cause of the harm and 4) damages.

But in a vast majority of states (including the State of Florida), products liability is now governed by a theory of strict liability, under which the victim need only prove two things: 1) that the defendant engaged in the act or activity which falls in the category of strict liability and 2) that the act or activity caused the injuries. So, as our personal injury lawyers at Aronberg & Aronberg know, for strict products liability, the plaintiff must show that the defendant (presumably the company being sued) engaged in the certain act (the act of selling a defective product) and that the defect in the product caused the injury. This theory makes a plaintiff’s case much easier and represents the public policy behind holding manufacturers and other sellers of defective products accountable for the products they put into the stream of commerce.

This has been a very brief overview of products liability, the area of law which governs defective products. If you have any questions about this or any other personal injury-related issue, please do not hesitate to contact our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg by calling 561-266-9191 or by emailing us at daronberg@build.simple.biz. We look forward to hearing from you!

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