What is Product Liability?
Product liability cases are filed when an inherently defective product causes harm to a consumer. Although products are generally thought of as tangible personal property, some cases have defined houses, pets and even human blood as products. In many product liability cases, any party who contributed to the distribution of a defective product can be considered liable. For example, the manufacturer of a product’s parts, the store owner who sells the product or the wholesaler may all be held liable in a product liability case.
Types of Product Defects
Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute lists three different types of product defects: marketing defects, design defects and manufacturing defects. A defect in marketing may occur when the instructions included with the product were faulty or did not include a warning of a potential risk or danger associated with the product. For example, if a pharmaceutical company does not provide adequate labeling to warn consumers of a serious side effect caused by a medication it produces, the company could be found responsible for any harm consumers may experience while taking the drug.
A design defect is an intrinsic flaw in the overall design of a product, making it dangerous to use even when used for its intended purpose. Drop-side cribs are an example of products with a design defect, as the way the cribs are built can cause serious injury or even death, should an infant become stuck when the side that lowers comes loose, leaving a gap. This design defect led the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to release a safety warning in 2010, as well as recalls on thousands of cribs across the country.
A manufacturing defect typically occurs during the process of making a product, and only a few items in a large batch may be flawed, or an entire batch may be defective, depending on whether a manufacturing error is random or widespread. An important part left out of the manufacturing of one vehicle on the assembly line or a batch of medication that becomes contaminated with an unintended toxin are both examples of how a manufacturing defect can impact consumers.
What Are Product Liability Claims Based On?
Claims of product liability are based on either strict liability, negligence or a breach of warranty of fitness. In Virginia, torts laws are in place for both negligence and breach of warranty, but strict liability laws have not been adopted. In most other states, statutes are in place for comprehensive product liability, giving attorneys the ability to attempt to prove strict liability and claim that a manufacturer acted carelessly.
In order for strict liability to apply, the consumer must have used the product for its intended purpose, the product must not have changed from the time it was sold to the time it was used and the product must contain a defect obtained at some point between design and when the product was used.
Types of Compensation a Virginia Product Liability Attorney May Seek
Those who are injured by defective products may be eligible for compensation to make up for any losses they have experienced. There are two types of compensation that can be awarded in product liability cases: compensatory damages and punitive damages. According to the Cornell University Law School, compensatory damages are meant to make up for the economic or non-economic losses caused by the injury, be they medical expenses or emotional distress.
In addition to compensatory damages, a plaintiff may also be awarded punitive damages if it is determined that a manufacturer’s actions were malicious or egregious. This type of compensation can be likened to a fine that the defendant is required to pay as punishment.
How a Virginia Product Liability Attorney Can Help
Product makers have a duty to provide safe products. If there are risks of harm associated with their products, they also must provide adequate warnings. If a product maker fails to fulfill this duty, it could be held liable in lawsuits for injuries that may result.
People injured by the fault of others may be eligible to recover money for:
- Medical Expenses
- Lost Wages
- Pain and Suffering
The families of those killed may be eligible to recover money for funeral expenses and the pain that comes with losing a loved one.