Product liability laws hold one or more parties liable for the damages a dangerous product might cause. For example, if a defective drug causes you injury, you can use product liability laws to seek compensation from the drug’s manufacturer, distributor, supplier, and other parties involved in the chain of distribution of the drug.
You can instigate a product liability claim via these legal theories: negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. Many people are familiar with negligent laws that hold one party liable for the damages their negligent action or inaction might have caused. However, many people don’t understand strict liability and warranty claims. Below is an overview of these two forms of product liability.
With negligence, you have to prove that the liable party did or failed to do something, and the manufacturer’s action or inaction caused your injuries. With strict liability, you don’t have to prove the negligence of the manufacturer.
Here are the elements of strict liability you need to prove when you file a claim:
• The defendant sold you a product in an unreasonably dangerous state.
• The defendant meant for you or expected you to use the product without alterations.
• You used the product as the defendant expected or intended.
• The product caused your injuries.
Take a case where your car unexpectedly accelerates and hits the car in front because your car has defective brakes. With negligence, you must prove that your car’s manufacturer did something or failed to do something and their action or inaction caused the accident.
With strict liability, you don’t need to prove the origin or cause of the defect. Your claim is valid as long as you can prove that you (or anyone else) didn’t modify the car and you used it as the manufacturer intended.
A warranty is like a guarantee. When someone sells you something, they guarantee to you that the product will work as they claim. For example, if a car dealer sells you a racing car, the manufacturer guarantees that you can drive the car at high speeds without danger. The dealer breaches their warranty if the car catches fire at high speeds.
You get either of these two forms of warranty when you buy a product:
• Express warranty – the manufacturer, usually in writing but also in words, states that the product will perform in a certain way.
• Implied warranty – the manufacturer doesn’t state the warranty, but an average person would expect the product to perform in a certain way.
For example, a roofing manufacturer may give you an express warranty (in writing) that their product will last at least ten years. The manufacturer is in breach of their express warranty if the roofing product fails in less than ten years.
If you buy a car, the dealer doesn’t have to guarantee you that the car will move. The average person, including the law, expects a car to move (the primary function of a car is to get people and goods from point to point). Thus, the dealer is in breach of their implied warranty if the car fails to move.
As usual, the law won’t just take your word as proof if you lodge a breach of warranty claim. You need to prove that:
• You bought the product from the defendant.
• The product had a warranty (either express or implied).
• You did not modify or alter the product in any way.
• You used the product as the manufacturer intended.
• The product caused your injuries.
Note that for express warranty, you can only raise a claim if a defect arises before the warranty expires. Also, the statute of limitations determines how long you have to file a claim after the injury. Thus, both the term of the warranty and the statute of limitations may bar your claim if you delay.
Talk to Gelman Gelman Wiskow & McCarthy LLC if you have a product liability case. We will analyze the circumstances of your injury and help you pursue your damages.