Defective Design

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Design defects are problems with a product that can cause serious injuries to the people who end up buying that product and using it. Defective designs are especially problematic because the finished product will look as if there is nothing wrong with it. Design defects present a serious and often hidden risk to the consumer rather than just a few particular outliers.

The products liability lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian strive to legally represent anyone who has been hurt by a defectively designed product in Philadelphia.

What are Design Defects?

A design defect is something that is wrong and potentially dangerous with how a particular product is supposed to be made. When that product is manufactured in compliance with every facet of the design and is then used exactly as it is supposed to be used, the result is still something that imperils unsuspecting consumers.

While they are less common than other types of product defects, like manufacturing defects or advertising defects, design defects can cause lots of serious injuries because they flood the market with dangerous products that look like they are defect-free.

Some examples of defectively designed products include:

  • Clothes dressers for children that cannot be anchored to the wall to keep them from tipping over onto toddlers.
  • Prescription drugs that carry life-threatening side effects.
  • Airbags that use materials that depreciate and weaken over time until they can explode without warning.

Design defects like these often lead to class action lawsuits or multidistrict litigation because there are so many victims who have been hurt in similar ways.

Who is Responsible for a Design Defect?

While the person who is ultimately responsible for a defectively designed product is whoever came up with the idea for the particular product and created the design that was used to make it, Pennsylvania law allows victims of a defectively designed product to recover compensation from several other companies.

While the facts of the case are important, the manufacturer and even the company that ended up selling the defective product to the consumer can be held liable for the victim’s injuries. When this happens, the seller, manufacturer, and designer can fight amongst themselves for indemnification once a victim has been compensated for their injuries. This is why most defective design lawsuits are filed against anyone who was involved in the supply chain that brought the product from its initial design to its final sale to the eventual victim.

Strict Liability After a Design Defect

Victims who have been hurt after a design defect can hold the defendants that they sue strictly liable if they are able to show that:

  • The product was in a defective condition,
  • The defect was present even though the product was manufactured according to the designs, and 
  • The defect caused the victim’s injuries and other losses.

If a victim can prove these three things, they do not have to prove that the defendants were negligent. Instead, they will be held strictly liable for the victim’s losses, even if the defendants had taken all appropriate steps to keep the victim out of harm’s way.

Importantly, a “defective condition,” in Pennsylvania, means anything that either:

  • Carried an unknowable and unacceptable danger to the average consumer, or
  • It was so dangerous that the risk of harm it carried outweighed the costs of protecting people against that harm.

Proving either of these alternatives, known as the “consumer expectations test” and the “risk-utility test,” has been necessary in Pennsylvania since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted these tests in the 2014 case Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc.

The Consumer Expectations Test for Design Defects

One way to prove that a product was defectively designed is to show that it was dangerous in a way that an average consumer would not have expected it to be. To satisfy this test, the defect in the design cannot result in a danger that is clearly obvious.

The Risk-Utility Test for Design Defects

The other way to prove that a product was defectively designed is to show that the risks that are inherent in the product’s design outweigh the costs of eliminating or reducing those risks. When this is the case, the designs were defective because they failed to take appropriate precautions and protect people from something that was more dangerous than they could have been.

Defendants Can Also Be Held Liable for Negligence

While many design defect cases try to show that the defendant should be held strictly liable for causing the victim’s injuries, some argue that the defendant acted negligently when they designed the product. These cases can be more difficult because they require proving that the defendant acted with negligence in order to hold them accountable. This requires proving four factors:

  1. The defendant had a legal duty to not harm the victim,
  2. The defendant breached that duty,
  3. That breach caused the victim’s injuries, and
  4. The victim was, in fact, hurt.

The Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Lawsuits in Pennsylvania

Victims who have been hurt by a defectively designed product have to abide by Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations when they file their claims for compensation. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524 requires all products liability lawsuits to be filed within two years of the victim’s injuries.

Initiating a lawsuit after those two years have elapsed can lead to a quick and abrupt dismissal.

Gilman & Bedigian: Products Liability Lawyers Serving Victims in Philadelphia

If you or a loved one has been hurt by a defectively designed product in the Philadelphia area, you deserve to be compensated by the people and the corporations that were responsible for the product hitting the shelves in such a dangerous condition. The products liability lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help. Contact them online today to get started on your case.

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