Product liability is a vast and complex area of the law. Liability for an injury caused by a defective product may lie with anyone involved in its design, manufacture, distribution or sale. Nonetheless, if you have evidence that a product caused or contributed to your injury, you have the right to file a lawsuit and recover monetary damages from those who are liable.
Product liability cases require experienced attorneys who are familiar with all aspects of this area of law, not only because of the complicated nature of such cases. If you were injured by a defective product, whether an appliance, a motor vehicle, a piece of sporting equipment or even food or medication, chances are many other people were as well. There is always the possibility that your injury lawsuit could be consolidated with others into what is known as a mass tort.
Although mass torts and individual lawsuits are a frequent staple for courtroom dramas, the fact is that 95 percent of injury lawsuits are settled before the cases go to trial—so it is unlikely that you will need to go to court.
Establishing a Product Liability Claim
In many ways, a product liability claim is similar to any other injury lawsuit. You must be able to prove that you suffered an injury (including economic harm), and that said injury was the direct consequence of the defective product. If you weren’t actually hurt in some manner, you don’t have a case.
In a product liability claim, you must also prove that the product in question was the proximate or direct cause of your injury. For example, if you were using a device that exploded while you were actually using it, you would have a valid case. If on the other hand, you injured yourself by dropping it on your foot because you stumbled over something, there is no cause of action.
Finally, you must demonstrate that you were using the product for its designed purpose and following all safety instructions. If you were using it improperly (for an extreme example, using a blow torch to light a cigarette), your case would be dismissed.
Legally, a manufacturer must warn the end user of any possible hazards posed when using the product in a manner inconsistent with its intended purpose. These are considered “foreseeable dangers.” On the other hand, if the defendant in a product liability case can prove there was no way to predict how someone might misuse the product or what dangers might arise, they might escape liability.
There are situations in which a product was mislabeled, or instructions were unclear to the consumer. The product may also fail to perform to the manufacturer’s promises. Either of these could be the basis of a product liability claim, even if there was no problem with its design and manufacture. The product may also fail to perform to the manufacturer’s promises.
Aside from the issue of inadequate warnings or poorly-communicated safety instructions, there are two essential types of defects that be the basis of an injury claim.
The product was unsafe from the moment it was on the drawing board. This affects the entire production run, so hundreds of thousands of consumers are at risk. This is the type of claim that can turn into multi-district litigation and has in the past. A famous example is the asbestos industry for several decades, asbestos manufacturers were aware that their products were toxic, yet continued to market them to consumers and other industries. In the late 1970s, the discovery of the “Sumner Simpson Papers” revealed a 40-year coverup, leading to the most massive litigation in legal history.
Another infamous example was that of the Ford Pinto, a small economy vehicle manufactured briefly during the 1970s. It turned out that because of the location of the gasoline tank, the vehicle was prone to explosions when hit from behind.
In other cases, there was nothing inherently wrong with the design. Instead, there was a problem on the assembly line or a weak component or material that causes the product to fail. A recent example involved the Bosch CP4 high-pressure fuel-injection pump used in the Duramax diesel engines installed in a number of General Motors trucks and vans. Although nobody was injured, vehicle owners incurred major repair bills because the pump had been designed for Europe, where diesel fuel is “oilier”. The low-sulfur diesel used in the U.S. has less lubricity, which causes the pumps to fail at around 100,000 miles.
Who is Liable?
Determining liability is one of the aspects of product liability that makes it so complex. Any party who is part of the chain of production could be at fault, from the original designers to the merchant who sold it to the consumer. This also includes the manufacturer, the distributor, the shipper, a reseller or anyone who might have carried out repairs or modifications on the product. Sellers can be anyone along the commerce chain, including a supplier of raw materials. They may bear liability regardless of whether or not they were aware of the problem or even caused it.
This is because the standard of proof in the case of a defective product is based on strict liability as opposed to negligence. In an injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove to the court that the defendant was at fault; either they knew, or should have known about a danger or have been in a position to prevent the plaintiff’s injuries.
Under strict liability, proving the plaintiff is at fault is unnecessary. The only questions are:
- Was the product defective?
- Did the product cause the plaintiff’s injuries?
- Did the defect cause the accident?
If the answer to these questions is “yes,” the defendant is liable. The next question then, is to what extent?
Who Can Bring Suit
The plaintiff in a product liability case does not need to be the party who purchased or acquired it new. As long as the plaintiff was using the product as directed for its intended purpose, they have the standing to bring suit. The same applies if the plaintiff was simply in the vicinity of someone using the product and was injured when it malfunctioned.
Damages the plaintiff may be able to recover in a defective products lawsuit fall into two broad categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are easily calculated from the plaintiff’s own records, and include:
- medical and rehabilitation expenses
- loss of wages and earning capacity
- property loss or damage
Non-economic damages are at the discretion of the jury. Except for medical malpractice cases, there is no cap on non-economic damages in Utah.
Over the past three decades, Siegfried and Jensen has recovered more than $1.2 billion for plaintiffs. There is no fee or obligation to have an attorney evaluate your case, and clients pay nothing upfront—we get paid only after we secure a settlement. It is highly unlikely that you will need to go to court since most lawsuits are settled before trial.
Be aware that under Utah’s statute of limitations, you have a four-year time window in which to sue if you have been injured by a defective product. Call the law firm of Siegfried and Jensen today.
Finding the Right Utah Defective Products Attorney For You
Siegfried and Jensen’s experienced defective product lawyers will fight to hold wrongdoers accountable.
Victims of product liability have a right to monetary compensation (a settlement) for medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, diminished earning capacity, property damage, lost income, and other costs and losses.
In principle, anyone injured or otherwise harmed by a defectively designed, manufactured, or labeled product may have a product liability claim. In practice, product liability claims can be very complex given the number of people and businesses involved in bringing a product to market and selling it.
It takes specialized legal expertise to unravel and pursue product liability claims. Our attorneys know what to do. When you work with us you can expect the best:
- We’ll answer your questions and address your concerns throughout the entire process.
- We’ll pull together the information needed to build your case, including medical records, insurance policies, expert testimony, etc.
- We’ll make sure that everybody plays by the rules and treats you fairly.
- We’ll help you get what you need to recover your old life or adapt to a new one.
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a defective product, contact Siegfried and Jensen today for a free, no pressure consultation or for more information.