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Product liability: Who’s at fault?

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2021 | Products Liability

Product liability protects consumers in New York and across the country by requiring manufacturers to follow standards that help prevent injuries. The law holds manufacturers responsible for product defects, giving the consumer a right to sue if they get injured. An attorney may help an injured consumer find who could be held responsible for their losses.

Types of product liability

Defective designs often occur in the creating stage before the manufacturer makes the product. This may make the whole line of products dangerous, even with perfect construction. Examples of a defective design include an office chair that tips too easily or the seat design on a wheelchair that doesn’t securely support the user.

Some product defects happen at the manufacturing stage and likely go unnoticed. For example, if a bicycle with a missing brake or a car seat with a missing latch caused injuries, the buyer may have a case.

Sometimes, the maker of a product does not warn users of potential risks not obvious to them. For example, makers of medications must include warnings of side effects that may occur if used with another drug.

Proving liability

A plaintiff commonly has the burden of proof to show that the product caused injury, but several rules and tests may apply. In some cases, a court could apply res ipsa loquitur, meaning “it speaks for itself.” This commonly implies that the injury obviously would not have occurred without negligence, and the defendant has to show they didn’t act negligently.

The rule of strict liability focuses on the defective product regardless of the maker’s intention. A consumer expectation test analyzes whether a reasonable consumer would expect the flaw under the same circumstances for that product. This could get tricky since everyone will have different expectations.

An alternative design offers a more objective approach by analyzing if the manufacturer could improve the design without hefty cost, such as making a stronger chain to hold up a swing. The risk-utility test determines if a product could be made safer without rendering it useless, such as dulling a blade.

Product liability cases vary, and the presence of flaws does not always make the manufacturer guilty of negligence. A plaintiff who thinks that negligence caused their injuries should seek legal assistance to see if they have a valid claim.