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What is a Product Liability Case?

Q. What is a product liability case?

A. A Product Liability case is when an injured consumer looks to hold a manufacturer or supplier responsible for a product defect or for a failure to warn.

Q. What is a defective product?

A. A defective product is one that causes injury or damage to the user. There are three types of defective products:

  • Design Defects – There is a flaw in the development or design of the product (prior to manufacturing) that makes it unreasonably dangerous to consumers
  • Manufacturing Defects – There is a flaw during the production of the product that makes a product unreasonably dangerous to consumers. This is a defect that in the way a product is built or made (as opposed to how it was designed)
  • Failure to Warn – Seller/Manufacturer does not give directions for safe use of the product or the product/packaging does not warn of potential harm if product is not used correctly or the seller/manufacturer does not warn of unavoidable dangers of using product.

Q. What do we need to prove in a product liability case?

A. There are three types of claims in a product liability case. The case can involve any one, two or all three of these types of claims.

  • Strict Liability – A seller or manufacturer is responsible for any product that causes injury/damage to the consumer or the consumer’s property. The injured consumer does not have to prove that the seller/manufacturer was negligent.
  • Negligence – When the seller/manufacturer does not exercise a standard of reasonable care in anticipating harm arising from the design, manufacturing or instructions and warnings of a product. The manufacturer needs to consider all reasonably forseeable uses of the product.
  • Breach of Warranty – The product did not work properly or perform as the manufacturer/seller marketed.

What is causation in product liability?

A. The plaintiff (consumer) needs to show that the product was defective at the time of purchase or delivery and that the defective product was a substantial factor in causing the injury or damage.

Q. What are damages in a product liability case?

A. Damages will vary substantially based on the losses/injuries suffered. There are essentially four types of damages to consider:

  • Compensatory Damages – The expenses associated with medical bills/treatment, loss of income, property damages associated with the defective product. Compensatory damages are also called "economic damages."
  • Pain and Suffering – These types of damages compensate for physical pain and mental anguish caused by a defective product. Often damages are considered not only for the time period from the injury thru the time the case is being valued, but also into the future ("future pain and suffering"). These damages are more subjective and may be classified as "noneconomic damages."
  • Loss of Consortium – Damages that are given as compensation for the losses a spouse suffers when their partner is injured by a defective product. Loss of consortium (or loss of love and affection) can also be claimed for the death of a parent or a minor child in certain circumstances
  • Punitive Damages - These types of damages are awarded not to compensate the consumer, but as a deterrent or punishment for reckless or grossly negligent behavior on the part of the manufacturer or seller of the defective product.

Q. What are the different types of product liability cases?

A. Nearly any manufactured goods could be included, but many product liability cases involve:

  • Drugs/Medications
  • Vehicles and Vehicle parts (tires, brakes, airbags, etc)
  • Medical devices
  • Defective baby products or children’s toys
  • Industrial equipment
  • Appliances
  • Power tools

Q. What should I do if I think I have a product liability case?

A. If you believe you have suffered an injury or loss as the result of a defective product, you should contact an attorney. One such attorney is Brett H. Oppenheimer. Brett’s office phone number is (502) 242-8877. You can also email brett at: