When you purchase a product, such as car brakes, a space heater, a crib, or a pharmaceutical drug, you expect the product to perform a certain way. If you or a loved one has been injured by a consumer product failing to act as expected, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit.
So what are the types of product defects that prompt liability lawsuits? In California, there are three main types of product defects: manufacturing, design, and labeling defects. In this article, we will help you to better understand the types of defective product liability claims and what you can do to protect yourself.
What Types of Product Defects Prompt Liability Lawsuits?
In California, a defective product is any product that poses an unreasonable risk to consumers when used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner. The types of product defects that prompt liability lawsuits include defective design, defective manufacturing, and failure to warn.
Design defects are inherent flaws in a product’s design that make it unreasonably dangerous even when manufactured as intended. An example could be a children’s toy with small parts that pose choking hazards.
Courts in California use two tests to determine whether a design defect will result in legal liability. These tests include:
- The “consumer expectation” test. Under this test, a design is defective if the product has failed to perform as safely as an ordinary human would expect when using it in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner.
- The “risk/benefit” test. For this test, all you need to show is that the defendant designed a product and the product caused your injury. Once you prove this, the defendant must show that the benefits of the design outweigh the risk of danger inherent in such a design.
If you are injured by a product with a defective design, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit.
Manufacturing defects occur when a product departs from its intended design due to errors or issues during the manufacturing process. For instance, if a car has a faulty brake system due to a manufacturing error, the defect may lead to a liability lawsuit.
According to California law, a manufacturing or production defect is one that causes a product to differ from:
- The design or specifications of the manufacturer, or
- Other seemingly identical units of the same product line.
A manufacturing defect can be present in just one unit of a product shipment or in several or all units of a product shipment.
Failure to Warn
In California, manufacturers have a duty to provide clear warnings and instructions for the safe use of their products. If a product lacks adequate warnings or instructions and this leads to harm, it can prompt a liability lawsuit. For example, pharmaceutical companies must warn consumers of potential side effects of their drugs.
For a failure to warn claim, the risks of the product must have been known or knowable by the defendant at the time of the product’s manufacturing, distribution, or sale. You will also need to prove that:
- An ordinary customer wouldn’t have recognized the potential risks;
- The defendant failed to adequately warn against the risk; and
- The lack of sufficient warnings or instructions was a substantial factor in why you were injured.
If a product does not come with adequate warning and you suffer injury as a result, you may be able to pursue a product liability claim.
What Are the Elements of a Product Liability Claim?
To pursue a successful product liability claim in California, you must establish the following elements:
- The defendant designed, manufactured, distributed, or sold the product;
- The product was defective when it left the defendant’s control;
- You used the product in a reasonably foreseeable manner; and
- You suffered injury as a direct result of the defect.
“Reasonably foreseeable” use means that manufacturers in California must anticipate how a consumer might use a product. This includes how you may reasonably use or misuse the product. But the manufacturer does not have to anticipate every misuse. It is up to the jury to determine if the product was defective and whether you used the product in a reasonably foreseeable way.
What Is Strict Liability?
In California, a manufacturer may be held strictly liable for any damages caused by the defective product. Typically in personal injury cases, a defendant must have acted, or failed to act, with negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, or intent to cause harm. Under strict liability, you don’t have to prove the manufacturer was negligent, just that you suffered injury when using the product as intended or anticipated.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Lawsuits?
A statute of limitations is a statutory limit on the time a person has to file a lawsuit. Generally, if the statute of limitations has expired when someone files a claim, the court will dismiss it. California law states that you have two years from the date you knew or should have known about your injury or its relation to the product for you to file a lawsuit. In some product liability cases, such as choking cases, you will know right away that your injury was caused by a defective product. Other times, such as illnesses caused by a household product, you may not know immediately that your injury was caused by a defective product. It is important to consult with an experienced product liability attorney so that you can file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations.
Contact an Attorney
Getting injured as a result of a defective consumer product can cause serious health complications. If you or a loved one has been injured by a consumer product that doesn’t act how you would expect it to, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit. The Frederick Law Firm is a California-based law firm with decades of experience in personal injury and product liability. We have won millions of dollars in compensation for our clients and are not afraid to go to trial to protect your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.