When you walk into a store to buy a product, you have certain expectations about how that product will perform. You may not expect the product to be perfect or to last forever but you at least expect the product to be safe to handle. Unfortunately, there are countless products on the market that carry a risk of injury or even death to the consumers who use them. If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective product, talk to an experienced product liability attorney about getting compensation for your injuries.
What is Product Liability?
When manufacturers, producers, distributors, suppliers, or sellers make a product available to consumers, then under product liability law, they can be held responsible for injuries caused by the use of those products. Product liability generally falls under the category of a manufacturing defect, design defect, or failure to warn.
A manufacturing defect is a defect that occurs in the production process. With a manufacturing defect, the product departs from its intended design and is put out on the market in a way it was not intended that makes it more dangerous that a reasonable consumer would expect. This could be due to poor quality control, poor workmanship, use of cheap or substitute materials, or poor oversight of the manufacturing process.
An example of a manufacturing defect could involve a defective medicine or pharmaceutical product. Production of an approved drug should contain specific materials to work as intended. However, if a factory is not sanitary, replaces ingredients with cheaper and untested products, and the drugs are not properly checked for quality, the drug may end up defective when put out on the market. This could result in a drug that has a higher or lower dosage than intended, is contaminated with bacteria, or contains particulate matter.
When a consumer takes the drug, they expect it to be safe and contain the dosage as expressed on the label. A defective drug may have a higher or lower dose, failing to properly treat an ailment, or causing unintended side effects. A defective drug could also cause an infection if it is contaminated with bacteria or other harmful unintended ingredient.
In contrast to a manufacturing defect, a design defect is a problem that makes the product inherently dangerous as designed. Even if the manufacturing is done perfectly, and the best materials are used, a design defect could result in injury or harm to anyone who uses the product as intended.
An example of a design defect could include a poorly designed emergency brake system. If the design of the emergency brake allowed the car to roll even when the emergency brake was engaged, it could cause harm to the driver or other bystanders who were in the way of the rolling vehicle. This could lead to injury or death as the heavy rolling vehicle hit the victim.
Failure to Warn
Some products may have some inherent danger based on the nature of the product. For example, a lawnmower can be dangerous because, by its very nature, it has fast spinning metal blades. Similarly, a chainsaw could be dangerous because of the spinning chain used to saw through trees. Manufacturers may not have to warn consumers of these obvious dangers; however, manufacturers may have a duty to warn consumers about hidden dangers or ensure safe usage of the product.
An example of a failure to warn defect may involve a product like silly string or aerosol string. This string is used for all types of celebrations, including for birthday parties. Birthday parties regularly involve a birthday cake with candles. It is a foreseeable use that someone could use silly string at a birthday party where a birthday cake was lit with candles. However, if that string or the aerosol propellant is flammable, it could cause a fireball or set fire to whoever was in the way of the spray. Consumers may not be aware of the flammable nature of the product, and not be aware of the danger.
Without a warning about how flammable the product is, use of the silly string could cause a fire or burning injuries. Without the warning, the manufacturer of the company may be liable for the damages caused. However, if the product contained a conspicuous warning that the product was flammable and should not be used around an open flame, the manufacturer may be able to avoid liability.
Even if a product defect does not fall within these categories of product liability claims, a traditional negligence claim could be pursued. Similar to personal injury cases, this requires a showing that the defendant owed a duty to the injured plaintiff, they breached that duty by some course of action or omission, and the breach caused the plaintiff harm. If the victim can show negligence, they may be able to hold the defendant liable for damages.
Common Product Defects
Any type of product can be subject to a product defect claim. However, the most serious product defect cases generally result in injury or death. Some common product defect cases involve motor vehicle defects, battery defects, or drug and medical device defects.
One of the product liability categories of greatest concern involves automobile defects. Driving already carries a certain risk of injury or accident, even when a car is operating perfectly. However, when a car malfunctions or a car part is defective, a simple accident can result in a serious injury. This includes brake defects, seat belt defects, airbag defects, seat recline malfunctions, self-driving function defects, and tire defects.
Even as automobile technology advances, automobile design, and manufacturing still send faulty vehicles out on the road. However, it may take months or even years before automobile companies acknowledge the problem and institute a recall. This can result in millions of relatively new cars being brought back into the shop to repair a dangerous defect.
However, some vehicle manufacturers deny there is a problem, and only after government regulators file lawsuits against the company will they admit there is a problem. In recent years, these types of recalls have recently involved airbag recalls, brake and accelerator problems, and seatbelt defects.
Cars and trucks, including millions of Fords, Mercurys, and Toyotas, have been recalled for braking or acceleration problems. In one case, the hydraulic system for the vehicle's Antilock Braking System (ABS) may have had a defect which left vehicles stopped in the middle of an intersection when they were supposed to stop at the traffic signal. In another recall, problems with the floor mat left vehicles accelerating even when the driver's foot was taken off the pedal. A number of these defects resulted in injury accidents for drivers and passengers.
Other defects involved seat belts that could wear and snap in the event of an accident and seat recline mechanisms that would cause the seat to drop back in an accident. When seats and seat belts malfunction in an accident, a driver or passenger could be left unrestrained, hitting the interior of the vehicle in an accident, resulting in serious injury. Under product liability law, the automobile manufacturer may be liable for the damages and injuries involved.
As more and more products rely on rechargeable batteries as a source of power, it is not surprising that exploding batteries are increasingly becoming a cause for concern in product defect cases. Devices like electronic cigarettes, hoverboards, tablets, and mobile phones have all experienced exploding battery problems. This has even resulted in some brands of phones being prohibited on flights in the U.S.
An exploding battery can result in facial or eye injury, ear damage, burns, starting fires, and other injuries. Even after a company recalls some of their products or issues replacements, the new product may suffer from the same problems. Such injuries are often the result of a design or manufacturing defect, and the manufacturer may be liable for any injuries or damage.
Product Defects Causing Death
In Pennsylvania, most wrongful death claims have a two-year statute of limitations, including claims related to the death of another caused by a product defect. This means that a claim has to be filed within two years or the surviving family members may lose out on their ability to seek compensation. However, in some cases the statute of limitations may be longer or shorter, depending on the situation. Talk to your Philadelphia attorney to make sure your claim is filed in time.
Philadelphia Product Liability Attorneys
A defective product injury can be devastating for individuals and their family members. Product defects can result in permanent injury or even death. The process of recovery and healing can impose an emotional and financial burden on individuals and their families. The Gilman & Bedigian team is fully equipped to handle the complex process of bringing a defective product claim against those who were responsible for the injury. We have decades of product defect litigation experience in Philadelphia. We will focus on getting you the compensation you deserve so you can focus on healing and move forward.