What is Product Liability?
Big businesses earn profit by cutting corners in the design and manufacture of their products. Consumers often pay the price when such defective products cause serious injury and even death. If a consumer product you purchased and used caused injury, it may be a good idea to speak with a qualified Ohio product liability lawyer. He or she can review your case and help you decide whether to seek compensation from the manufacturer or other responsible parties.
Thousands of Dangerous Products Recalled Every Year
Product-related injuries are more commonplace than you might think. Even though the United States and the State of Ohio maintain comprehensive safety regulations for most consumer products, there are plenty of companies who still manage to get dangerous or defective products onto the market. Here is just a sampling of recent dangerous product notices issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- 2,500 La-Z-Boy lift chairs had defective power supplies that posed a “shock hazard to users”;
- 3,000 children’s night lights sold by Walt Disney theme parks were subject to chemical leaks that caused at least one electrical fire;
- 147,000 power adapters used by Barnes & Noble’s popular “Nook” devices were prone to breakage and posed a shock hazard;
- PetSmart paid the CPSC almost $4.25 million after failing to properly recall more than 80,000 glass fish bowls that were prone to breakage and posed a “laceration hazard” to consumers.
Now, while government recalls are effective in getting known dangerous products off the market, they do little to help consumers who have already suffered serious injuries as the result of a manufacturer’s negligence. For that reason, individual consumers must often turn to the courts to seek compensation.
How Product Liability Works in Ohio
Product liability is a type of personal injury claim. To establish a defendant’s liability, the plaintiff must generally establish four things:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty;
- The defendant breached that duty;
- The defendant’s breach was the “proximate cause” of some type of injury to the plaintiff; and
- The plaintiff suffered actual damages because of the injury.
In the context of product liability, there are three broad classes of duties a manufacturer may breach. First, there is a duty to exercise ordinary care in the manufacture of the product. In other words, the manufacturer makes some sort of mistake during the actual production–e.g., a missing or broken part–that leads to a consumer getting hurt.
Second, there is a duty to keep a product reasonably free of design defects. Unlike a manufacturing error, a design defect is not the result of a single mistake but indicates a fundamental flaw that renders an entire line of products unreasonably dangerous for consumer use. Design defect claims are common in cases involving automobiles, where a manufacturer knew (or should have known) of a design problem that renders the care unsafe.
Finally, there is a duty to warn consumers about the known risks and proper use of a product. This comes up quite often when dealing with dangerous or defective drugs. A pharmaceutical company releases a new medication but the warning label fails to disclose all of the potential side effects, especially when taken in combination with other products.
In addition to product liability claims based on breach of duty, you can hold a manufacturer liable for breach of an express or implied warranty. The Uniform Commercial Code governs warranties. The Code is a set of laws adopted by all 50 states. A warranty represents the manufacturer’s promise that a product is fit for its stated use.
Beyond a warranty, there are also federal and state laws governing false and misleading advertising. If a company sells a product that substantially differs from how it is advertised–i.e., there is a “bait and switch,” a consumer may have a cause of action.
How Manufacturers Try to Avoid Responsibility
Product liability cases are often the most difficult kind of personal injury claims to win.
This is because they often involve highly technical and fact-specific issues. For instance, if you sue an automobile manufacturer for defective design, you need to provide adequate testimony from experts who know how manufacturers desing and build cars. This is not something the average person–i.e., the typical juror–can figure out on their own.
Manufacturers are also not in the business of settling every product liability claim that comes their way. For most big companies, litigation over defective products is part of the cost of doing business. Their attorneys are aggressive in defending against consumer lawsuits.
Many times, the manufacturer will attempt to shift blame for a dangerous product onto the consumer. Defense attorneys frequently argue the consumer was negligent or did not use a product in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. In other cases, such as lawsuits alleging design defects, the manufacturer will argue they were no reasonably safer alternatives for the product.
Getting Help from an Ohio Product Liability Lawyer
Product liability claims usually fall under state law. This means you need an attorney who understands Ohio laws and judicial procedures. You win or lose a product liability case on hundreds of little details. Many cases never even get to trial because of a legal or factual problem. In short, a product liability case is not a project you could–or should–handle on your own.
An experienced Cleveland product liability attorney can review your case and help you determine the best course of action. An individual case may involve multiple claims. For instance, a defectively designed product that failed to contain proper warning labels. You may also pursue certain warranty rights.
In many cases, you are not the only person who has a particular defective product injured. Our firm often handles class actions brought on behalf of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of consumers injured due to a manufacturer’s negligence. A class action is often the best means of holding big business accountable for its actions.
If you have suffered any kind of injury and suspect a defective product was the cause, contact Tittle & Perlmuter today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.