Products are everywhere and take every form, function, and shape. Generally, these products are safe. But sometimes things malfunction and people get hurt. Sometimes it’s the underlying design of the product that caused the injury. Sometimes it came off the assembly line incorrect. Regardless, if a product harms a person, they should consult with a product liability attorney like Sean Reis to evaluate their legal rights.
A manufacturer, distributor, or retailer is liable in tort if a defect in the manufacture or design of its product causes injury while the product is being used in a reasonably foreseeable way. Soule v. General Motors Corp.
What Makes a Product “Defective?”
In California, three types of product defects are recognized: manufacturing defect, design defect, and a defect in failing to warn or instruct the consumer to avoid danger. A simple explanation of each is as follows:
The Supreme Court of California defined a “manufacturing defect” as a product that differs from the manufacturer’s intended result or from identical units of the same product line. Barker v. Lull Engineering Co.
For example, you go online and customize a car to be received at your local car dealership. When it arrives, you drive it off the lot, but your brakes suddenly fail resulting in a car accident. Upon inspection you discover that the manufacturer put the brakes on wrong, and that is what caused the accident. The incorrect installation of the brakes is a manufacturing defect.
The California Supreme Court states that a product has a design defect if either (1) the product has failed to perform as safely as an ordinary customer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner, or (2) if the benefits of the design do not outweigh the inherent danger of such design.
Suppose Cindy is using packing tape with the built-in razor. Not matter how careful Cindy is when she uses the packing tape, she severs her finger. Upon investigation, it is discovered that 20% of users of that product suffer serious injuries. This may be an example of a design defect if safer designs were possible.
A product may be legally “defective” if a suitable warning about its dangerous propensities is not given to the customer. Or if the manufacturer failed to provide appropriate instructions to ensure safe use of the product. Now manufacturers do not need to warn of dangers that are generally known and recognized. Obviously, a knife is dangerous. But a less obvious example is baby powder has been linked to ovarian cancer.
Why Should You Contact a Product Liability Attorney?
In addition to determining the type of defect, your product liability attorney can help you sort out who is liable along the chain of distribution. Was it defective when it came out of the factory or did it develop the defect at the place of distribution? Is there recovery only for medical injury, or injury to property as well? What type of compensation is available to those injured by a defective product? What if you cannot work because of this injury?
Once your product liability attorney has figured out these critical pieces of information, he will be able to pursue your claim with the insurance company, or in court. You must have a lawyer to do this. Attempting to pursue a claim like this on you own is a recipe for disaster.
Product Defects and Strict Liability in California
California established itself as a strict liability state with respect to defective products in Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. In this case, the California Supreme Court said,
A manufacturer is strictly liable in tort when an article he places on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects, proves to have a defect that causes injury to a human being . . .. The purpose of such liability is to insure that the costs of injuries resulting from defective products are borne by the manufacturers that put such products on the market rather than by the injured persons who are powerless to protect themselves.
In order to prove this, your products defect lawyer must prove that you were harmed by a product that was distributed, manufactured, and/or sold by the defendant and that one of the abovementioned defects existed.
The California Supreme Court has adopted the principles of “pure comparative fault.” What is this? It means that if you are injured and the jury decides that you contributed to the injury through actions you have made, your recovery may be reduced accordingly.
What does this mean for product defects liability? Let’s say that you have an electric tea kettle and you heat up water and put it in the bath tub. The warnings on the tea kettle do not explicitly say you should no use the heated water for bathing purposes, but it does mention that the water can be scalding. Needless to say, unfortunately, you burn yourself in your bathing endeavors, contact your product liability attorney, and take the manufacturer to court. Your damages come out to be $10,000, but the jury determines that you are responsible for 25% of the blame. You can expect your recovery to be around $7500.
Exceptions to Comparative Fault
If all of the legalese above has not convinced you that you need a product liability attorney to wade through this murky water that is products liability, we will complicate things further. In Christian v. Goodwin, the Court said that a child under the age of five was “incapable of contributory negligence.”
This means that California understand that children under the age of five are not able to understand the consequences of their actions, and, not capable of comprehending the danger they are putting themselves in. So, if your child is under the age of five and is involved in a product defects claim, full compensation is still available.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for product defects is two years. California’s Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1. We caution you, however, you should contact a product liability attorney immediately after your injury. It is critically important.
How can you protect yourself from defective products? While there is no guarantee or surefire way to prevent all injuries, you can stay up-to-date on government recalls by visiting the website for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
If you believe you were injured by a defective product, contact our San Diego personal injury lawyer immediately. The attorney will provide hope for seriously injured people. View our blog regarding product safety laws concerning children toys, seatbelts, and prescription drugs.